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Bib & Tucker Sew-op to recognize Alabama’s unsung heroines

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Every year since the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 2015, members of the Bib and Tucker Sew-Op have selected a human-or civil-rights theme around which they design quilts and foster open discussion. This year commemorates Alabama’s bicentennial, and the group will spend the year recognizing the state’s unsung heroines through its March Quilts project.

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By Erica Wright

Every year since the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 2015, members of the Bib and Tucker Sew-Op have selected a human-or civil-rights theme around which they design quilts and foster open discussion. This year commemorates Alabama’s bicentennial, and the group will spend the year recognizing the state’s unsung heroines through its March Quilts project.

“Bib and Tucker started the March Quilts five years ago … to celebrate the [Selma to Montgomery marches]. … We wanted to do it through our art form, which is quilting,” said sew-op cofounder Lillis Taylor.

The group has stitched quilts that shed light on various issues, including gender pay equity, the 50th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court ruling, environmental justice, and others. So far, the group has sewn seven quilts from more than 850 submitted blocks, the components of quilt designs.

Bib & Tucker Sew-Op is a nonprofit organization that promotes sewing and quilting whose mission is to cultivate skills for those who like to sew and serve as a place where everyone can be both a student and a teacher.

Its sewing sessions are held at venues like the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA), where participants are taught how to make quilt blocks on seven-inch pieces of fabric that are used in quilts put together by sew-op members. Each block serves a vehicle through which a person can express feelings about a particular theme—this year is a celebration of Alabama’s unsung heroines.

“For example, everyone knows Rosa Parks, but we’re trying to shed light on those people may not know were part of movements or did things to move the state forward,” Taylor said.

“Claudette Colvin, the 15-year-old who didn’t give up her seat, kind of sparked the movement of Rosa Parks not getting up and . . .  that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.”

On Sunday, April 28, a group of multigenerational, multiracial, multicultural Birminghamians gathered at the BMA to begin work on this year’s theme. Past sewing sessions have lasted three or four months, but because of the state’s bicentennial sewing sessions will last through October, Taylor said. Participants are paying homage to exceptional Alabama women—including Colvin, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, and many others—who have helped shape the state and the nation.

Sew-op member Wilhelmina Thomas plans to design a quilt block in honor of African-American educator, philanthropist, and social activist Carrie A. Tuggle.

“She started the Tuggle Institute, which is now Tuggle Elementary School, but she was an educator for black children,” said Thomas. “When there was no one to educate black children and start a school for them, she decided to do that in Birmingham. The students were mostly orphans, but she gave them an opportunity to learn and to better themselves.”

Edwina Taylor plans to pay tribute to Parks and Colvin with a quilt block centered with a woman sitting on a bus: “I think it would be fun if I did a bus on a block with a little face on the bus,” she said.

The March Quilts project brings people together, Lillis Taylor said, pointing out that she and Bib and Tucker co-founder Annie Bryant come from different generations and different backgrounds.

“She is African-American, and I’m white, so the first year we did the project we really wanted to honor the fact that we could sit in a room and have this relationship,” Taylor said. “That was really the impetus for the project, celebrating the Civil Rights Movement, but we feel like sewing is a great vehicle for having conversations.

“We figure if we can get you to sit down and make quilt blocks, then we can start talking about things and finding out about our similarities, [which are more important] than our differences.”

For a detailed list of upcoming open sewing sessions, visit www.bibandtuckersewop.org or www.bibandtuckersewop.org/march-quilt-sewing-sessions.

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Art

Mayor London Breed Announces Over $12 Million In Funding for Arts Organizations

Grants for the Arts funding priorities the City’s commitment to economic recovery and community activation by supporting local parades and festivals

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Female Artist Works on Abstract Oil Painting, Moving Paint Brush Energetically She Creates Modern Masterpiece. Dark Creative Studio where Large Canvas Stands on Easel Illuminated. Low Angle Close-up

Mayor London N. Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu announced on Monday over $12 million in general operating support grants to fund arts and cultural organizations. This year’s Grants for the Arts (GFTA) funding is primarily dedicated to the general operating support for arts organizations and also aims to support community parades and festivals to help restore the City’s cultural vibrancy and drive its economic recovery.

“We know that the pandemic has been hard on all of us, but it has been especially difficult for our city’s artists and cultural organizations,” said Breed. “The arts are part of what makes San Francisco so special and create an inclusive atmosphere for all who live in and visit our city. During this critical time in our economic recovery, we need to do everything we can to bring back our community festivals that are loved by so many, and support those who contribute to our city’s vibrant culture.”

As president of the Board of Supervisors, Breed spearheaded Proposition E, which was passed by voters in 2018 and allocated 1.5% of hotel tax revenue to the arts. Due to the loss of hotel tax revenues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Breed allocated funding from the General Fund to backfill losses during this year’s budget cycle. Breed’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 also includes $12 million for GFTA to support arts organizations, as well as parades and festivals.

“Cultural festivals and arts have always been an essential part of San Francisco’s vibrant community. They draw people to San Francisco, bring communities together, and in many ways, define our experiences here,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “Supporting our arts organizations during these challenging times is key to our City’s recovery.”

The City Administrator manages GFTA, a program that has provided a stable and dependable source for general operating costs to support the City’s arts and cultural organizations since 1961. Since its inception, GFTA has distributed over $400 million to hundreds of arts non-profits and cultural organizations. GFTA funds over 250 arts organizations each fiscal year, including those organizing and supporting parades and festivals throughout the City.

Committed to serving San Francisco’s diverse communities, this is the first year GFTA implemented a funding process that used a strong equity lens to focus on art organizations deeply rooted in and serving diverse populations.

“Having art and cultural events around every corner in the City is why people live here and it’s why people from all over the world visit San Francisco. Art and culture is the soul of San Francisco,” said Vallie Brown, director of Grants for the Arts. “As San Francisco slowly comes out of our long COVID nap, it’s vital that we support our arts organizations and our community’s parades and festivals.”

“Cultural live music and dance has been missing from our community throughout the pandemic,” says Roberto Hernandez, CEO of Carnaval San Francisco. “We appreciate Mayor Breed and Grants for the Arts for providing funding for all communities as we begin to recover and heal.”

In addition to parades and festivals, GFTA funds other essential arts activities, specifically those that capture and reflect the experiences of the City’s diverse communities, including BIPOC and LGBTQ communities and cross-cultural collaborations.

“We are blessed to live in one of the best cities in the world that cares about BIPOC stories, artists, and arts organizations by putting actionable effort into funding them,” says Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., artistic director of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO). SFBATCO is a Black, Latin, Asian-led non-profit organization producing compelling theater that builds community, fosters cross-cultural dialogue, and promotes social justice.

A complete list of GFTA’s Fiscal Year 2022 grants can be found here.

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Healing Through Art at West Oakland’s Alena Museum

The Alena Museum is a Black-led, 501(c) 3 non-profit that provides services in health and wellness through experience installations, Black sanctuary gardens, community space access, and an Art Residency (mentorship).

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The Alena Museum/Photo Courtesy of Alena Museum Facebook

Development has come at the cost of Black health, land ownership and belonging.

The Alena Museum in Oakland gives African American residents a way to heal through the medium of art “by providing critical, safe spaces for the African diaspora the Black community can express and cultivate their cultural identity in the face of gentrification. 

The Alena Museum is a Black-led, 501(c) 3 non-profit that provides services in health and wellness through experience installations, Black sanctuary gardens, community space access, and an Art Residency (mentorship).

Through the group’s public art activism, they teach cultural preservation and cultivation with an Afrofuturism ownership model to promote cultural equity with the goal to reclaim urban landscape and gain creative control in real estate development. Through restorative justice art, the Alena Museum educates the community on urban planning; how it works and how to become involved. 

The Alena Museum’s most recent project, “Magnolia Street” began in March of 2020. According to the website, “Magnolia Street is an experiential installation following Alena Museum’s land libration journey. From holding space for African Diaspora creatives, to confronting gentrification in practice, the story of Magnolia Street channels the spirit of Oakland’s Black Resistance movement into the present through Alena Museum’s eyes. Our story roots Black Power into any land we activate, including this one.”

The Alena Museum was evicted from their 8th Street site in West Oakland and is now located at 2725 Magnolia St, Oakland, CA 94607. 

If you would like to reach out to the Alena Museum you can email them at info@alenamuseum.org. To check out the latest, visit them on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to support their vision, visit the support page.

Information in this article was sourced from the Alena Museum website. 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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David Drake: A Potter Who Inscribed His Work With Poetry

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”

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A pot created by David Drake. Wikipedia photo.

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”
According to some collectors and scholars, this message demonstrates “Drake questioning his heritage and personal history … signifies [his] positivity despite facing the many brutalities of slavery, including the loss of personal identity.” Further, by etching what is clearly a personal expression, Drake defied a South Carolina law forbidding Blacks to read and write.
South Carolina’s Negro Act of 1740, prohibited educating enslaved Africans, punishable by a fine of 100 pounds and six months in prison. Most Southern states in the early 1800s restricted Black literacy.
Drake’s date of birth is unclear. It is said that it was during the first half of 1800. The first legal record of him (June 13, 1818) describes “a boy about 17 years old country born … mortgaged to Eldrid Simkins by Harvey Drake.”
The (Harvey) Drake family owned a plantation in Edgefield, S.C. The term “country born” refers to enslaved Blacks born in the United States rather than Africa. David Drake lived and worked in Edgefield’s pottery factories for almost all his life.
David Drake was first enslaved by Harvey Drake, who alongside Abner Landrum, owned a large pottery business. Known to be a religious man, Landrum was the publisher of a local newspaper, The Edgefield Hive. Scholars speculate that he taught Drake to read the Bible, even if doing so was a punishable offense.
After Harvey Drake’s death, David Drake was enslaved by Landrum. In 1846, Landrum passed away. Drake was then purchased and enslaved by Landrum’s son Franklin, who was abusive. While owned by Franklin, Drake never inscribed his works. But Drake’s life, his works, blossomed in 1849, when he was sold to Lewis Miles.
Miles owned the pottery factory, Stony Bluff. There Drake created his best works once again inscribed with poetry. The number of pieces produced increased from one every few years to seven in 1859. Having produced alkaline-glazed stoneware jugs between the 1820s and the 1870s, Drake is recognized as the first enslaved potter to inscribe his work. He became a free man when the Civil War closed (1865).
According to Drake scholar Jill Beute Koverman, Drake created “more than 40,000 pieces over his lifetime.”
When Drake was alive, his pots sold for around 50 cents. Today they fetch as much as $50,000 and have auctioned for as much as $369,000. A butter churn with the inscription “This is a noble churn / fill it up it will never turn,” sold for $130,000.
Various collections including his work can be viewed at museums including the Smithsonian collection of the National Museum of American History in Wash., D.C.
It is thought that Drake died in the 1870s because according to scholars, “he is not found in the 1880 census.”

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