Community of Makers: Social Justice Sewing Academy

Community of Makers: Social Justice Sewing Academy

Published on Thursday, April 15, 2021. This article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Caroline Kipp
Overhead shot of person ironing quilt

Empathy (2020) is part of Community Quilts, one of the Social Justice Sewing Academy’s longest-running intergenerational projects. Photo by Amy Daffin.

Social Justice Sewing Academy. For quilter and educator Sara Trail, the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, and the quilt world’s silence following it, was deafening beyond comprehension. Processing her grief and rage, she made a memorial quilt aptly titled Rest in Power Trayvon, which led to the creation of the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA). A grassroots, volunteer-run organization, SJSA facilitates projects aimed at building community and addressing the consequences of systemic oppression.

quilt of the face of trayvon martin

Rest in Power Trayvon (2012) by Sara Trail. Photo by Amy Daffin.

One of SJSA’s earliest and longest-running projects, Community Quilts, involves creating intergenerational, 21st-century quilting circles for students and youth to process their feelings and thoughts around issues of social and racial justice. They design, cut, and appliqué the pieces for their individual blocks, which are sent to volunteer embroiderers and quilters who bring them to exhibition-ready completion. Once finished, the quilts travel far and wide to communities around the country to be used as symbols of remembrance and tools of engagement and education.

person ironing a quilt

Bryan Robinson works on Blood, White and Blue (2018). Photo courtesy of Social Justice Sewing Academy.

In its courses and workshops across the country, SJSA fosters a welcoming and genuinely inclusive space where art, social justice, youth empowerment, and community are nurtured. Trail and the many SJSA volunteers firmly believe that empowering young people to voice their opinions will be the driving force to create a more equitable society. As anyone who has ever made a quilt will tell you, it’s better done in good company. For Trail, “the creation of an SJSA quilt is the living definition of the quilt itself: layers of community that come together to create.” | @sjsacademy

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Photo by Charmaine Vegas.