Now through April 29, the public is invited to view the Stitch Their Names Memorial Project on display at Luther College on the Center For the Arts Gregerson Gallery Wall. The Stitch Their Names Memorial consists of two large quilts featuring 116 cross-stitched portraits of Black people who died as a result of racially motivated attacks. The portraits were stitched by close to 100 volunteers, then compiled into the two beautiful quilts.
One of those creators is Nori Hadley '97, alumna and C-Store manager at Luther. She contributed her talents to the memorial by stitching two of the portraits included in the quilts.
"Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, I saw a fellow crafter call for volunteers on Instagram to help her stitch the portraits of people of color who were victims of police brutality, institutional racism and hate crimes," said Hadley. "I was told these portraits would then be combined and crafted into a quilt, which really resonated with me and so I decided to get involved."
The exhibit includes those whose stories are well known, but it also features portraits of lesser-known victims including Randy Evans, a ninth-grader from Brooklyn who was shot by a police officer in 1976, and Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old who was lynched outside of the Palmdale City Hall in California in June 2020. Fuller's half-brother, Terron Boone, was shot and killed a week later in a deputy-involved shooting. The inclusion of these names serves to memorialize and honor every victim of race-related violence.
"I stitched the portraits of Keaton Otis and James Chaney. Each crafter was sent a biography of the person they were to stitch and basic dimensional guidelines, but the rest was left up to the artist's creativity. For me, this was really the first time I was able to use my crafting talents for a bigger purpose, and I am really proud of what my fellow crafters and I were able to accomplish," said Hadley.
Since the quilts were completed, they have traveled around the country to be displayed in various museums, activist organizations and colleges. It was Hadley's idea to bring the quilts to Luther, so she reached out to the Center for Intercultural Engagement and Student Success and the Black Student Union on campus. Guy Nave, faculty advisor of the BSU, took a position of support in getting this memorial to campus.
"In the Black community, quilting has often functioned as a way of 'documenting' history. These quilts do a powerful job of humanizing and honoring the legacy of Black individuals killed as a result of racism and racialized violence," said Nave.
Following the display at Luther, the quilts will be in Hadley's possession and she plans to display them in downtown Decorah.
"I hope that this project will spark community engagement and activism, and inspire the students of Luther and people of Decorah to participate in various methods of social justice activism," said Hadley.
To view the list of people being honored on these quilts, along with their biographies, photographs and a picture of their stitched portrait visit the Stitch Their Names Memorial Project website.
About Luther College
Luther College is home to about 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu.