$8,300 Arts Grant received

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Lowndes County Community Life Center system received a grant in the amount of $8,300 to support their “Sew Their Names” Quilt Project. The quilt will consist of individual squares, embroidered with names of Alabama slaves.

At its September quarterly meeting in Jasper, the Alabama State Council on the Arts awarded 219 grants totaling more than $3.6 million to arts organizations in communities across the state. These grants are in response to applications submitted to the Alabama Arts Recovery Program and the Council on the Arts’ annual grant cycle. Distribution of this funding will begin Oct. 1 and must be expended by Sept. 20, 2022.

According to Dale Braxton, pastor at Snow Hill Disciples of Christ Christian Church in Mt. Willing, the long-term hope for this project is to transform Alabama’s commemorative landscape and to move forward acknowledgment of the state’s past and to further the process of reconciliation.

“The idea for this project began last year with the fact that young black men were getting killed all over America. We are behind the Black Lives Matter movement and the ‘say their names’ slogan. We want to “sew the names” of enslaved persons on individual quilt blocks.”

“We are hoping that this will be a long-term educational project where we can make this into a mobile exhibit. We want to take it to schools and talk about the history of slavery and the history of these people. We do not want these names, these people, to be forgotten. If we forget our history, we are doomed to repeat it,” Braxton said.

“We are not trying to harbor any bad feelings, or any animosity, but as long as systematic racism is still an issue, our nation and our world will always have problems. We want to help bridge that gap, work together as Christians, and end the separation by letting people know that even though we may have had to sit up in the balcony, the slave gallery, at church, that we too are children of God. We all are.”

Braxton and others involved in the project are excited to work with renowned quilter Yvonne Wells from Tuscaloosa. She will be helping frame the quilt and will be educating those involved on exactly how to construct the quilt. Gail Andrews, director emerita of the Birmingham Museum of Art, will also be working with the group.

Judge Susan Walker from Montgomery, whose great-grandfather was the founding pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Mt. Willing, is also involved with the project. The Hopewell Church, built in 1832, now belongs to Snow Hill Christian church and Braxton has big plans for the building.

“I would like to see it renovated and restored, with slave galleries. We want it to be a teaching place, a place where children and adults can come in and learn about the past. Slavery is an ugly and painful part of Alabama history, but these stories have to be told,” Braxton said.

Braxton is working with Samford University in Birmingham and their archive department to obtain names of slaves to be used on the quilt. He is working to connect descendants of slaves including those from Snow Hill Christian Church, with descendants of slaveholders so more names and information may be obtained.

“We have church members that remember the names of their enslaved ancestors. My great-great grandmother, Bessie Gray, was a slave. We are working with and asking people from all over to obtain names for the quilt,” Braxton said.

Braxton invites anyone that would like to contribute names or be involved in the project in any way to contact his office at 334-227-0011 or to email him at braxtondalesr@gmail.com