By Hanna Squire
Tonight, Feb. 3, is the opening reception for The Liberia’s Hope Quilting Initiative. The reception will include the display of Liberian quilts for purchase from 5:30-8 p.m. in the Union College Nott Memorial. All members of the Union College and Schenectady communities are invited to attend the event and see guest speaker Kyra Hicks, a well-known researcher of African-American quilts and quilt history.
The event is part of the celebration of Union College’s 40th anniversary of co-education to commemorate when women first enrolled at the college in 1970. Union College will be hosting this event and selling quilts in the Nott Memorial from Feb. 3 to March 11. Each quilt is hand-stitched by women who are members of the Liberian Hope Quilting Initiative. The quilts vary in size, pattern and price. All of the proceeds will benefit the Initiative and go directly back to the Liberian women and their families.
The Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CEO), which was founded by Joseph James III ‘69, is coordinating the event. The CEO is a non-profit economic development organization that helps disadvantaged individuals and communities reach their economic potential.
In 2004, a group of women who had fled an earlier civil crisis in Liberia moved back to their homes. When the women returned to Liberia, there was an 80% unemployment rate in the country due to the loss of male lives from the war. The women’s sole purpose was to make and sell quilts, and then use the profits to provide food and basic needs for their children. These women named their group Quageh, which comes from the Kpelle language meaning ‘we can make it.”
In the spring of 2007, CEO began to help the group of predominantly women quilters by providing materials and helping to develop markets for their hand-made work in the US and elsewhere, under the trademarked name of “Liberia’s Hope.”
Many of the quilts have American influences because after slavery was abolished in the United States, the freed slaves were sent back to Liberia. The Quageh members learned quilting skills from elder women in their society and it is believed that these women may have learned their skills directly from African-American women who were freed slaves after the Civil War.
“This display of quilts bridges American and African American history with people from Liberia. We invite the community to come see this unique show and learn about these connections with a presentation from Quilt historian Kyra Hicks,” said Senior Director of Campus Diversity and Quilt Show Coordinator Gretchel Hathaway.
In addition to Hathaway, several other members of the Union College community are coordinating the Quilt Show, including Director of Multicultural Affairs Karen Ferrer Muniz, Administrative Assistant President’s Office Sarah Iacobacci, and Director of Student Activities Matt Milless.
For more information regarding Liberia’s Hope Quilt Initiative, please search ‘Liberia’s Hope’ on facebook.com.