Cultural Center Quilt Project
Creating a safe space for men of color at UofL
On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, two dozen young men who are enrolled at UofL, entered the Cultural Center to take on an 8-week textile project. The students, identifying as Black or Hispanic/LatinX, were recruited via the Black Male Initiative, coordinated by Brandyn Bailey, and the Hispanic/LatinX Initiative, coordinated by Marcos Morales. World-renowned quilt maker, “Sunshine” Joe Mallard, taught the group how to sew original designs onto neckties, which would later be sewn together to make a single quilt.
Dr. Ahmad Washington led discussions around current events to question and challenge how males of color are seen in society. Likewise, Dr. Washington and group members challenged certain views of masculinity. The group developed bonds throughout the two months, which were recorded in audio files for research purposes by Dr. Ishwanzya Rivers.
At the start of the project, Morales and Bailey made arrangements for the group to visit the quilt display at the Smithsonian National Museum for African-American History in Washington D.C. in April 2020. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak changed those plans. Over the summer, Morales, Bailey and Dr. Washington held multiple Zoom meetings with quilt project group. In these virtual spaces, laughs and fond memories were shared as a relief to the new normal regarding the browbeaten times of the pandemic.
After the University of Louisville began operating in person and it was safe to resume the project,“Sunshine” Joe Mallard collected twelve neckties from Bailey in late September to be used for the project and began working on the quilt. On November 13, 2020 during a virtual meeting, the completed quilt was presented to the project’s participants and coordinators where they had their first look at the culmination of their work.
The research component of the project will be completed by Dr. Washington and Dr. Rivers in the coming months. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the trip to our nation’s capital, cut the final participation in half and prevented the group from celebrating in person. However, this quilting group of Black and LatinX young men, will always be sewn together from their bond before, and, during COVID-19.