When witnessing inequity is like digging into an already numb wound and participating in surface-level social justice is as easy as recycling digital shares, the Social Justice Sewing Academy offers the power of touch. The organization works with kids and teens to make quilt blocks that express injustices in their lives, and Colossal contributor Gabrielle Lawrence recently sat down with program director Stephanie Valencia to discuss the project’s mission in a new interview supported by Colossal Members.
They speak about the work of honoring the victims of violence and their families through community art, supporting young entrepreneurs with creative or social justice-oriented businesses, and most importantly, giving people something to hold on to.
So often, when someone loses a loved one, you cherish their items for a while. And then eventually, their items end up in a box, in the back of a closet, or in an attic somewhere. This really does give the family something to hold on to and use every day. Beyond comfort, it’s reflection, as well as memory. Every time they see or touch that quilt, they can remember the good times.
Ultimately, SJSA empowers youth to use their voices and requires tactile processing of issues that often seem bigger than all of us. Every stitch is felt, and it is not a practice that participants must endure alone. From design to completion, each person is required to spend time sitting with these stories in a physical way, which creates room for grief, remembrance, education, and critique.
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