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a gorgeous new book, with Respect (no. 7!)

After a sad spell, I return with good news, energy, and curiosity alight, thanks to the fabulous new book by art historian Samantha Noël which just arrived today. I made Respect quilt no. 7 for her, in fact, in memory of our time together during the years at Notre Dame and in admiration for her work. She works on Black artists and culture-creators of the Caribbean and the USA, and shows how their creations are interwoven with real aesthetic merit and political intention, despite being misunderstood or written off by the authorities. I’ve been waiting for my copy of the book so that I could pose the quilt with it, and the combination is even better than I imagined. I love the way the quilt’s vibe matches the message of the book! dancing people, tropical landscapes, a jaunty air of subversion–they are soulmates. Knowing it was destined to Samantha, I made this quilt particularly bright and cheerful. Do you see the visual reminder of the year it was made?*

A couple passages will show you why I’m such a fan of the book. It’s Samantha Noël’s ability to bring you right into the scene, to take the reader on a sensory journey to Trinidad or Cuba, to jangling cities and noisy jungles, where a luscious tropical heat shields a whole different world of smells, sights, and sounds and people with deep customs and histories linking them to Africa and the islands. Or to the glamorous world of Josephine Baker in the 1920s, when she took Paris by storm. (It is still sickening to remember that despite amazing talent, Baker was rebuffed at home in the USA, and that some part of her success was due to her concession to perform in the nude, with a male partner, a titillating danse des sauvages for white audiences). Noël’s focus on Black culture, island diasporas, and Southern histories is also a breath of new air into my Northwestern life, and one I’m eager to take in. Plus there’s a very intriguing photo of Maya Angelou on an album cover, as “Miss Calypso,” that I’m dying to explore!

Samantha Noël paints a complicated picture of the jamettes, or women who belonged to the poor of urban Trinidad, whose male counterparts were called badjohns. Instead of consigning them to the toxic influences that dominated their daily lives (abuse, sex work, poverty), she also notes the feisty, flamboyant style they embraced and the important role they played in the neighborhood. Famous jamettes–Yvonne “Bubulups” Smith and Gateway Elaine, for example–could be seen during street happenings of all kinds, from political protests to Carnival carousing. The consequences were sometimes dire, as the author notes:

“When Bubulups initiated a battle with her opponents, policemen arrested a naked and wounded Bubulups. … The difficulty of a jamette’s life is best summed up in Jean’s words: ‘Listen to me Dinah. … The road I walk had nothing. It didn’t have no money, no food. I didn’t have no mother. I didn’t have no father. All I ever wanted in my life was money and that is the only way I know how to do it. And that is how I am going down.’ … society branded them vulgar. As uncouth spectacles, their physiques gestured indiscretion against the repressive colonial order. Vulgar now became the pejorative agent in the sociocultural framing of these Black working-class women.

… she captures the attention of onlookers. Her monumental presence captured in the photograph also highlights her explicit control of the domain around her as she literally makes space, transforming the tropical, colonial territory as she traverses it.

Their movements were akin to the steel bands, whose rhythmic and melodic sound also emitted an unruly flair as the steel pan voiced the Black masses’ desire for acknowledgment of their political, social, and creative presence. The jamettes thus reveled in the music in their costumes, oscillating their hips with their arms akimbo, some waving the flags of their affiliated steel bands and others simply moving to the music while singing refrains from popular calypsos. If the jamettes were indeed primitive, it is because they were appropriating primitivity in their performance as a means of challenging the colonial order.” (pp. 133-135 in Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism, Duke University Press, 2021).

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BIRTHDAY SALE!

Select Honey Girl quilts will be on sale for one day only, March 10, 2021. Check it out!

*****

photo of Maya Angelou album cover courtesy of: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36595496

*the ox on the green & yellow square is a symbol of 2021: Year of the Ox according to the Chinese zodiac.

Plate 1 of “Tropical Aesthetics of Black Modernism”, by Samantha A. Noël is juxtaposed here to a “Dancing Feet” star in Respect quilt no. 7, by yours truly, Honey Girl Books and Gifts, 2021.

On left above, an oil painting by Aaron Douglas, Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstruction, 1934, courtesy of the Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

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spring into hope!

Life can be sweet. Hard but with moments of grace. As I was writing this, Richie Havens, “Here Comes the Sun” came on the airwaves thanks to my favorite radio station KEXP, and reminded me of this flowering tree seen recently in Chinatown. Yes, let’s have some hope! Spring is coming, hate has lost, help is on the way. Tomorrow Trump has to leave the White House by noon, and we’ll have new leaders : President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris!

After four years of Trump, it is amazing to survive intact. And after all those years in the drear darkness and punishing snow and winds of Indiana winters, I am surprised by the light touch of winter in Seattle–it’s a damp darkness, slow-moving but livable. While we await vaccines and better times, I gave myself a task of capturing the rage and despair inspired by Trump, but now that “The Ten Days til Post-Trump” is done and published, I am ready to move on.

We persevere, holding book discussions while shivering at a picnic table, finding things to do at home, suspending judgment, just getting by. My sewing gives me hope and love; I hope the feeling comes across and gives you a little lift. Here is a sneak preview of “Respect” quilts no. 7 and 8, in progress.

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an unexpectedly happy outcome

Respect quilt no. 4, wrapped in a dry cleaning bag from Notre Dame

“Respect” quilt no. 4 produces an unexpected outcome in many ways! This photo underlines the incongruous combination: a hand-made quilt in honor of African-American friendship and love, with patches saying “One Love” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance,” is carefully tucked into a bag labeled Notre Dame.

Hmm!

How fitting, that an institution that has inflicted so much pain on people of color (beginning with the Potawatami and Pokagon peoples whose land it sits upon, to the many unhappy students of color I met during my 27 years there), is now being put into symbolic service as a wrapper for love. Furthermore, it is heading to Rwanda, to celebrate the union of a young white woman with an African man, in holy matrimony next spring. (Being an ND grad, she’ll get the joke for sure.) I hasten to add that ND has its good sides too! That is where we met and studied French together, in other times, times that look more innocent now….

Let the liberation continue! May you have loving spirits and soaring minds, as long as you all shall live.

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approved! by C. Mazloomi, no less

You heard it here first! The eminent scholar, author, curator, and expert quilter, Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, supports the “Respect” quilts I’m making; in fact she considers it “a very meaningful project.” Thank you Dr. Mazloomi!

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The “Respect” quilt project: Post-election Update and Jubilation!

The “Respect” quilt is a result of Black and white creators working together to honor Black women’s beauty, history, and resilience. It is also a timely product for this moment, when we celebrate that a Black woman, Kamala Harris, has become VP-Elect of the USA!

ORIGINS: The first “Respect” quilt was created by a former teacher, a white woman, for a former student of hers, a Black woman in South Bend, Indiana. When in her class at age 15, the young woman wrote and illustrated a short story, Overcoming Adversity, which stayed in the mind of her teacher all these years. (Discussions are afoot about revising it and publishing it with Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC.) “Respect” quilt no. 1 was delivered in October 2020; she loves it!

MATERIALS and IMAGERY:  The “Respect” quilts tell little stories, each one different, through fabrics such as the historical vignettes of antebellum Blacks in “Harlem Toile de Jouy” designed by Sheila Bridges, and the stunning black on white AphroChic silhouettes (both of Brooklyn, NY), African fabrics from Cultured Expressions (Rahway, NJ) and other fabrics purchased from African-American business women across the USA, including Our Fabric Stash in the Pike Place Market (Seattle).  The quilt backs are more overtly political: the red fabric is decorated with a swath of denim with a pocket, and three patches: a portrait in yellow and black of Malcolm X, “One Love,” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

TIMELINE and COMMITMENT: “Respect” quilt no. 3 is now available! No. 4 is already reserved. Nos. 5 and 6 are coming along nicely. The series will continue indefinitely. After an abrupt realization of my own many privileges (again) this past summer, as I remembered that Grandma D. was born and raised in Rhodesia–a British colony, what is now Zimbabwe–and Grandpa D.’s family emigrated from England to South Africa, yet I no one ever told us why, or whose lives they impacted, I have vowed to make “Respect” quilts a part of my legacy. Maybe someday others will join, and “Respect” quilts will cover the country! This is meant as a way to give back to Black women and girls the love and admiration they deserve, now, and from this generation forward.

TWO WAYS WE GIVE BACK:

1. Retail sales (online). At $779.99 each, the “Respect” quilts sold on the HGBG Etsy website (below) are a fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of St Joseph County, IN & King County, WA. For every “Respect” quilt sold, 50% of the proceeds, minus materials, are donated to the BGCA. 

2. Inner circle & non-profit offer (by invitation): At $250 each (cost of materials), a “Respect” quilt can be made for a church benefit, political fund-raiser or given to a well-deserving person of your choice.

Warm wishes,

Julia, Honey Girl Books and Gifts

https://www.etsy.com/shop/HoneyGirlBooksGifts

https://www.honeygirlbooks.com/

Seattle, WA

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African + American = beautiful

The bottom row of a Respect Quilt is coming together, as you see here. It features two very American items–the pocket from a flannel shirt and a jeans pocket from a pair of Levis–alongside two African fabrics we purchased from Cultured Expressions, a Black-owned fabric store in Rahway, NJ.

This is more proof, if any were needed, that African + American = beautiful!

Let us also give credit to the lustrous antique linens (the white accents) which I found at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ssanteaksGreatStuff, an antique shop in St Louis, MO!

From Rahway, St Louis, South Bend, Brooklyn, and Austin to me out here in Seattle: we’re all in this project together.

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Seattle Protests! face masks support ACLU and #BLM

 

These face masks celebrate the peaceful #Black Lives Matter protests which have marked 2020 in Seattle and ushered in hopes for a more equitable future.
– Available in Large, Adult, and Petite sizes
– Attached by black cotton ties printed with colorful peace symbols. Extra long ties for all hairstyles!
– The latest in retro-chic style (see the June 2020 Vogue!)
– Sold in sets of two masks
– 100% cotton front and back. The fronts are in bright orange and red batik, printed with a black silkscreen of the Seattle cityscape. The backs are made of tight-woven white cotton for superior protection.
– Created from New York Times pattern (April 1, 2020): page A15
– Lined with interfacing for a crisp look with no ironing required
– Include the adorable HGBG puppy dog logo
– Free shipping to anywhere in the USA.
– 50% of proceeds will be donated to the local arm of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier civil rights and civil liberties organization. Clients will receive a copy of the receipt from the ACLU when this fund-raiser is over.
– Your purchase supports a Seattle small business and promotes fair and equal civil rights for all!

-Limited availability; only 25 will be made. Order today from the Honey Girl Books and Gifts Etsy store.

Seattle Protests masks with books

Why? Because Black Lives Matter.

P.S. Wonder who that handsome smiling man is, in the background on the right? It’s Langston Hughes (1901-1967): a great African-American activist and writer, and judging from the touching voice of his poems, a beautiful human being.  Listen to him recite “I, Too Sing America.”

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day 79: follow his words–Chad Sanders, that is

Hey readers,

Exhausted, heart-sick, anxious and wretched? Me too. But we need to get over it. I got a surge of new energy–and humility–this morning from reading the powerful article in the New York Times Op-Ed section by Chad Sanders (author of the forthcoming book, Black Magic). The article is accompanied by the image above, by Hanna Barczyk, which says it all: hey white folks, stop drowning black people in your crocodile tears!

Basically, Sanders is here to chastise us–white people like me who’ve written to our black friends this week–and to explain why our messages are misguided and tiring. Black people are drowning in our smug letters and texts, he says. Moreover, he points out that us telling people, “Don’t feel the need to respond,” is wrong on all accounts: it is oppressive,  condescending and not appreciated by the recipient. (How would you like it if someone told you how to feel? or not to feel?)

Most usefully, he provides instructions on what we CAN do, if we want to do something meaningful.  As he writes, “please, stop sending #love. Stop sending positive vibes. Stop sending your thoughts. Here are three suggestions on more immediately impactful things to offer instead:

  1. Money: To funds that pay legal fees for black people who are unjustly arrested, imprisoned or killed or to black politicians running for office.
  2. Texts: To your relatives and loved ones telling them that you will not be visiting them or answering phone calls until they take significant action in supporting black lives either through protest or financial contributions.
  3. Protection: To fellow black protesters who are at greater risk of harm during demonstrations.”*

*Chad Sanders, “White Friends, Fight Anti-Blackness,” New York Times (6/6/20): A21.

Being a good student, I immediately got out my wallet and visited the link on Anti-Racist and Social Justice Resources of my favorite local public radio station, KEXP. After studying some options, I chose to donate $100 to National Bail Out. I like their slim organization–run by volunteers–and their clear mission: this is a “Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. We are people who have been impacted by cages — either by being in them ourselves or witnessing our families and loved ones be encaged. We are queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant.”  Learn more at www.nationalbailout.org.

national bail out

In conclusion, please excuse me, black friends, if I annoyed you or wasted your time with my emails this week. And I thank you, Chad Sanders, for helping me understand how I can help with funding organizations like National Bail Out. On a lighter note, I’m thrilled to see one of my clients wearing one of my face masks to a local demonstration!  (Looking good, Shep!)

Shep at protest with HG face mask on June 5 2020

p.s. I’m still moving forward on plans for the “Respect” quilt project, and the special offer of a Honey Girl quilt for only $100 is still good for one more day!  See day 73 for details.

Respectfully yours,

Julia

fyi: no face masks made yesterday, but production resumes today…

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day 78, a way forward: the Respect quilt

Hello readers,

I’m excited today to announce a new idea afoot and to request any feedback you may have to share about the “Respect” quilt project which was inspired by the many beautiful fabrics I’ve purchased from Black-owned businesses around the USA this week (above):

The “Respect” quilt project: allies at work

The “Respect” quilt is a result of Black and white creators working together to honor Black women’s beauty, history, and resilience.

The first one, underway, is being created by a former teacher, a white woman, for a former student of hers, a Black woman in South Bend, Indiana. When in her class at age 15, the young woman wrote and illustrated a short story, Overcoming Adversity, which stayed in the mind of her teacher all these years. (Discussions are afoot about revising it and publishing it with Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC.)

The “Respect” quilt features African fabrics (waxes and Ankara cottons), Afrocentric fabrics, such as Harlem Toile de Jouy designed by Sheila Bridges (NYC), and other fabrics purchased from African-American business women across the USA.  It is the intention to celebrate and honor black womanhood that we all share.

Ideas? email: juliawsea@gmail.com

And yesterdays’ face mask production fyi, the final batch for North Seattle College! (if you look carefully, you’ll see that all 45 masks made over the past days are uniquely different, to honor the diverse identities of the No. Sea. College faculty, staff and students!):

Face masks made on June 4 2020

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day 75, spending money is a form of activism too

Still overwhelmed, still eager to help, still confused and upset like you all. While walking about the hills this morning, however, I realized a way that I can help: I can purchase goods from African-American businesses. And so can you. This is a tangible way to tell our fellow citizens that we care.

I searched a bit online and found D’Iyanu (dee-ya-nu), a ready-to-wear bold print clothing line offering quality, trendy African inspired fashion at affordable prices, in Norristown, PA. I cannot wait to receive the gorgeous Kesi African print bag I just bought, maybe as a gift… but maybe not! (on sale now for just $44.99).

accessories-kesi-african-print-bag-with-embossed-vegan-leather-yellow-red-fans-1_1000x

Finding a black-owned fabric store was helped by this article: “Black Owned Businesses to Support Right Now” by Hadley Keller on HouseBeautiful.com . I found some fabulous Harlem Toile de Jouy fabric (below, right) from Sheila Bridges Design.  That will feature in the new “Respect” quilts I’m designing, alongside the “Respect existence” patches I bought yesterday from La Ciénaga, a feminist seller in Sevilla, Spain.

 

Also sort of useful was this article, “Etsy Makers to Support in Honor of Black History Month.”  That led me to xnasozi, seller of some beautiful pillows but not of fabric. And when I clicked the #blacklivesmatter tag, it sent me back to an article about Etsy’s corporate efforts but there was no way to mount a useful search for black-owned businesses on Etsy. Frustrating! Meanwhile a reply to my letter to D’IYANU, directed me to look for Ankara African fabrics which led to Cynthia O in Austin, TX and her store, Afriqueclothingstore.  Yay! Success at last!  I purchased some gorgeous Ankara fabric from her, below, and now I really must get back to those face masks orders that await.

Remember, the offer still holds:  this week people may order a personalized quilt to be made by me, including a “Respect” quilt, at Honey Girl quilts for only $100 (3-6 month lead time.)  Use the Contact form to reserve yours!

And yesterday’s face mask production fyi:

Face masks made June 1 2020

Moral of the story: spend some money at black-owned businesses and show them you care! spending money can be a form of activism, too.

 

 

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day 74, same as yesterday

Can’t think of anything better than to repeat myself, on this sad moment in American life.

Dear reader,

I know that you are suffering. That is why I’m writing. I want to remind you that your life matters, your mind matters, your potential matters. Your words and actions matter. All the people who have died matter, and we will remember them, and keep demanding an end to the violence. And if you would like a face mask to wear during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, or a quilt to celebrate a life, let me know. I can help with that. (Quilts $100 today only; lead time 3-6 months.)

Thank you.

With hope and solidarity,

Julia   (use the Contact form to communicate requests for masks or quilt information, or just to chat. I’ll check in frequently.)

p.s. sorry for such a minute response to what is really a shattering moment in American history, but apart from nothing—symbolic silence—I could not think of anything worth writing. It’s all out there in the news, I can only offer face masks or quilts, and a few words of comfort.

Honey Girl quilts, normally $499.99, just $100 this week only!

(That is Nick’s high school graduation quilt, June 2009; apologies for the out-of-focus photo)

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and fyi, yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks made on May 31 2020