By Jannette J. Witmyer
Special to the AFRO
Art and history will converge in Cambridge, MD, when the National African American Quilt Guild (NAAQG) launches its inaugural national convention at the Dorchester Center for the Arts (321 High Street), November 12-13. As if beckoned by the outstretched hand of Harriett Tubman depicted in the mural located at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center (424 Race Street), additional convention-related events and exhibits will also be presented at that location, effectively reinforcing the role played by quilts in mapping the way for those traversing the perils of the Underground Railroad in their quest for freedom.
Co-founded by Texans Rhonda Masters, Sharon Mooney and Laura Casmore, NAAQG was created to preserve and promote the history and legacy of African- American quilting and quilters, while embracing a mission of celebration, education, and service to honor and elevate the legacy. Longtime members of a private Facebook group, “African American Sampler Quilt (Sew-Along),” of which Masters is an administrator, the trio of avid quilters decided to form the non-profit organization, after recognizing a pattern of issues that plagued members, nationally, while working on various quilting projects.
“We saw the need for representation of African-American quilting in the national space because we could see that quilters across the country were experiencing many of the same challenges.” Masters explains. “That was part of the impetus to unite and lift our voices together and celebrate ourselves and celebrate our art.”
Inspired by the story of “We Walk with Harriet,” organizer Linda Harris, the quilting group undertook a fabric postcard challenge, which resulted in Masters and Mooney traveling to Cambridge to deliver 156 postcards, created by African-American quilters from 20 states, in solidarity with the campaign. They also delivered flags made in recognition of the African-American ship captains who sailed the Choptank River as part of the journey. Masters attributes that chain of events with having set plans in motion for NAAQG’s first national meeting and convention.
She says, “What emerged from all of that and our prior conversations was that the museum wanted to also do things related to African-American quilting. They also wanted to bring part of that legacy and heritage into the museum. So, we seized that moment.”
Featured highlights included on the convention’s activity-filled, two-day calendar are: a studio tour and discussion with Cambridge muralist Michael Rosato (www.michaelrosato.com), whose murals can be seen along Dorchester County’s Chesapeake Country Mural Trail; tour of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center; JazzItUp: Meet and Greet with the Terry Koger Quintet; and panel discussion, “NAAQG, a Foundation for the Uplift of African American Quilting.” Registrants will have the option to attend in-person or virtually.
Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to attend the formal opening of the exhibition, “Celebration of African American Quilts and Fiber Arts,” at the Dorchester Center for the Arts, which features the works of African American quilters throughout the U.S. The exhibition of quilts will remain on view through December 11, 2021.
While the convention will include lots of serious business, NAAQG will also host a “Community in the Arts Day,” for the Cambridge community, which they say welcomed them graciously.
NAAQG’s founders hope to reach as many people as possible and say that anyone interested in African American quilts and quilters is welcome. Sharing the knowledge and beauty of African American quilts and quilters is paramount to preserving the history.
“We’re an open group. We’re open to everyone. And we just encourage folks to come out, see what we’re about, Masters explains. “We’re just trying to find those avenues to tell our stories. Because… When our stories are not heard, we’re missing an important part of the American story. So, we’re trying to speak out and help everybody lift up their voices.”
For additional information about the National African American Quilt Guild, visit https://naaqg.org/.
Membership (Inaugural Meeting Special Rate) can be found at https://www.simpletix.com/e/membership-tickets-80916.
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