We Are the Story

Minneapolis • September 10, 2020 – June 12, 2021

Co-presented by Textile Center and Women of Color Quilters and curated by Carolyn L. Mazloomi, We Are the Story was a series of quilt exhibitions created as a visual response to racism in American following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

When Minneapolis became the epicenter of the nationwide protest movement against police brutality and racism in America following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Textile Center and Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) joined forces to create We Are the Story, a multi-venue initiative in the Twin Cities, September 10, 2020, through June 12, 2021, curated by Carolyn L. Mazloomi.

Two juried exhibitions– Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality and Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist– served as a centerpiece for We Are the Story.

Given the urgency of these issues in America, quilters from around the nation worked under an extremely tight creative timeline. The calls were open in mid-June 2020 to all artists regardless of age, color, national origin, citizenship status, race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity in mid-June, and 423 quilts were submitted by the July 31, 2020 deadline. Mazloomi selected 89 quilts for the two exhibitions.

“George Floyd’s cry to his Mama for maternal help, mirrors a symbolic guttural cry for help from the belly of our nation. Our citizens are crying out for protection, comfort, and education. In response to that cry, and to help educate the public on brutality, inequities, and racism in America, Textile Center and the Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) and Friends, together, are sponsoring a series of art quilt exhibitions. Collectively the exhibition quilts will tell the unsung stories that affect our understanding and inspire our resolve to end this unholy trinity of societal ills. The series will be organized around the following themes: remembering those lost to police brutality, history of civil rights, and racism in America.”

– Curator Carolyn L. Mazloomi

We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism • Zoom Event Recording

This culminating We Are the Story event, hosted by Curator Carolyn L. Mazloomi and Textile Center Executive Director Karl Reichert, honored the release of the new book We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism by Paper Moon Publishing in partnership with Textile Center and WCQN. The following featured artists who created quilts for these exhibitions joined the conversation: Dorothy Burge, Ed Johnetta Miller, Michelle Flamer, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Sylvia Hernández, Maude Wallace Haeger, and Cynthia Lockhart.

We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism Book by Carolyn L. Mazloomi

We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism documents We Are the Story, a series of group and solo quilt exhibitions responding to the murder of George Floyd. Curated by Carolyn L. Mazloomi and co-presented by Textile Center and Women of Color Quilters Network, this book features more than 100 quilts in two juried exhibitions – Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality and Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist, as well as the solo shows I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free: Quilts by Dorothy Burge (Chicago, IL), Freedom Rising: I Am the Story: Quilts by L’Merchie Frazier (Boston, MA), Sacred Invocations: Quilts by Sylvia Hernández (Brooklyn, NY), and The Protest Series: Quilts by Penny Mateer (Pittsburgh, PA).
Get your copy of the book here

We Who Believe in Freedom / Quilts by WCQN members

American Swedish Institute, Osher Gallery 
September 10 November 1, 2020 

We Who Believe in Freedom was first presented in 2016 to honor the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, and it represents works by members of WCQN that tell the story of the African American Experience. This exhibition is free to the public — click here to get your free ticket to visit this exhibition. Select “We Are the Story: Quilt Exhibition”


Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality

Lanesboro Arts, February 13 April 1, 2021 • Selection of 21 quilts.

Premiere: Textile Center, Joan Mondale Gallery, September 15 December 24, 2020 

Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality is a national juried exhibition showcasing 26 quilts that honor those whose lives were violently ended due to police negligence and brutality and critiques the targeting and criminalization of Black bodies throughout history. 


I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free / Dorothy Burge

Textile Center, Community Gallery • September 29  December 24, 2020 

From artist Dorothy Burge: “I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free is a series of social justice art quilts that document and raise awareness on systemic criminal justice issues that restrict the lives of African Americans in this country. All people, regardless of race, religion, age, ability, gender, income, or sexual orientation are entitled to freedom.”


We Are the Story: The Protest Series / Penny Mateer

Weisman Art Museum October 15 – May 16, 2021

From artist Penny Mateer: “The Protest Series grew out of my love of protest music released in the 1960s and 70s – music that inspired people to think, question, and take action. After we entered into war with Iraq, I began to think about what have we learned as a country since Vietnam. Does history repeat itself? Do we need to revisit it? Over time, I’ve expanded into economic and social justice issues. I choose a popular traditional quilt block and pair it with a topic. I challenge myself to find commercial fabric relative to that topic in order to create a roadmap of symbols that prompt the viewer to think about the theme of the work.”

Freedom Rising: I Am the Story / L’Merchie Frazier

Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia)
January 28 – September 19, 2021

From artist L’Merchie Frazier: “Black and Indigenous people have a shared history of over 500 years in unwritten, unrecognized, and unacknowledged narrative about the spaces that they occupy physically, mentally, and spiritually. Freedom Rising: I Am the Story exhibition features selected moments that confront racism and the relationship dynamics of ownership, becoming property-less, of being deemed property, and the question of belonging.


Sacred Invocations / Sylvia Hernández

Premiere: Textile Center, Community Gallery January 12 – March 13, 2021

From artist Sylvia Hernández: “I create story quilts to continue to pass the story on to others. These quilts are created in my heart and soul before I make them visible. There are so many hateful, hurtful, and heartbreaking things happening in the world that I feel a need to make pieces that might show them in a beautiful, heartfelt way to take some of the ugliness away for a minute. I pray for a time that I might make only happy quilts.”


Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist

Textile Center, Joan Mondale Gallery, Mary Giles Gallery, Community Gallery 
March 26 June 12, 2021 

An international juried exhibition featuring 63 quiltsRacism: In the Face of Hate We Resist builds on these narratives by sharing the stories of resistance and fortitude that have been integral to the survival of Black people in America. During this time, quilts from the other We Are the Story exhibitions are intended to be exhibited at  venues to be determined as part of a community-wide outreach initiative, providing an opportunity for our community to have one last comprehensive viewing as our community observes the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.  

We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
July 2, 2021
September 24, 2021

An exhibition featuring 53 quilts from the We Are the Story initiative. The quilts present an alternative visual media to approach sensitive social issues embedded in American memory, such as race, class, gender and shared cultural trauma, in a way that emphasizes storytelling and encourages healing.



We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism

Thursday, May 20, 2021

This culminating We Are the Story event, hosted by Curator Carolyn L. Mazloomi and Textile Center Executive Director Karl Reichert, honored the release of the new book We Are the Story: A Visual Response to Racism by Paper Moon Publishing in partnership with Textile Center and WCQN. The following featured artists who created quilts for these exhibitions joined the conversation: Dorothy Burge, Ed Johnetta Miller, Michelle Flamer, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Sylvia Hernández, Maude Wallace Haeger, and Cynthia Lockhart.

Virtual Artist Talk: L’Merchie Frazier

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Minneapolis Institute of Art hosted a virtual talk with artist L’Merchie Frazier, who spoke about her intricate and detailed textile work in the special exhibition Freedom Rising: I Am the Story, which examines the lives and legacies of people of African-descent, and explores how art can be a powerful vehicle to address equity and justice.

Let’s Talk About Race: Sacred Invocations – A Conversation with Sylvia Hernández and Michelle Flamer

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hosted by Textile Center, artist Sylvia Hernández joined Michelle Flamer for a discussion on race and Hernández’s exhibition, which can be viewed virtually here.

Conversation with curator Carolyn Mazloomi and artist Penny Mateer

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Weisman Art Museum (WAM) hosted a virtual artist conversation with Penny Mateer and curator Carolyn Mazloomi. Mateer’s work was installed at WAM through March 14, 2021. View the exhibition online here.

Let’s Talk About Race: I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free – A Conversation with Carolyn Mazloomi and Dorothy Burge

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hosted by Textile Center, artist Dorothy Burge joined curator Carolyn Mazloomi for a discussion on race and Burge’s exhibition, which can be viewed virtually here.

We Are the Story Zoom Discussion with Quilt Alliance

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Textile Center Executive Director Karl Reichert and curator Carolyn Mazloomi joined the Quilt Alliance for a panel discussion, moderated by artist Michelle Flamer.


For African American women quilts have always been at the core of artistic expression, taking form in the social, economic, and spiritual lives of the women who make them. Founded by Carolyn Mazloomi in 1985, WCQN is a non-profit national organization whose mission is to educate, preserve, exhibit, promote and document quilts made by African Americans. WCQN showcases the work of its members through critically acclaimed traveling exhibitions that tour museums throughout the United States, including the Smithsonian. WCQN has exhibited quilts in Japan, England, South African, Italy and Australia as part of art programs sponsored by the United States Department of State. For more information, visit: wcqn.org. 


Historian, curator, author, lecturer, artist, mentor, founder, and facilitator — the remarkable and tireless Carolyn Mazloomi has left her mark on many lives. Trained as an aerospace engineer, she turned her sites and tireless efforts in the 1980s to bring the many unrecognized contributions of African American quilt artists to the attention of the American people as well as the international art communities. From the founding of the African-American Quilt Guild of Los Angles in 1981 to the 1985 founding of the WCQN, Carolyn has been at the forefront of educating the public about the diversity of interpretation, styles and techniques among African American quilters as well as educating a younger generation of African Americans about their own history through the quilts the WCQN members create.  

A major force as an artist in her own right, Carolyn’s quilts can be found in private collections around the world as well in distinguished museum collections in the United States. To date she has published 12 books highlighting African American-made quilts. Her artistic work, as well as her defense of solid research, has disrupted long-standing myths about African American quilts, myths much debated among quilt historians and quilters alike, and thus moved the conversation about African American quilt history forward to more a solid academic footing. For more information, visit: carolynmazloomi.com. 


Dorothy Burge, a member of WCQN, is a multimedia artist and community activist who is inspired by both historic and current social justice issues. She is one of the strongest voices in Chicago for police accountability and reparations for survivors of police torture. She amplifies the voices of survivors of police torture and of activists in the movement and was instrumental in designing curriculum for Chicago Public Schools to expose students to the problem of police violence. As part of a collective leadership model, she and others successfully advocated for the grandchildren of torture survivors to be recipients of free tuition at Chicago community colleges in addition to meticulously working out the forms of redress in the reparations package.


L’Merchie Frazier, a public fiber artist, quilter, historian, innovator, poet and holographer, has served the artistic community for more than 25 years nationally and internationally with visual and performance art residencies in Boston, Brazil, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Africa, France, and Cuba.  A public lecturer and community workshop presenter, her spatial and social justice artistic work activates youth and adults in a co-design model that reflects the participants as creative actors and their occupancy in democratizing the socio-economic political landscape. L’Merchie is a quilting member of WCQN.  Currently she is Director of Creative Engagement of Transformative Action Project/Violence Transformed for the Public Health Advocacy Institute initiative at Northeastern University. 


Sylvia Hernandez is a celebrated and self-taught master quilter, and she creates timeless, handcrafted works that address community and human right issues. Sylvia is currently the president of the Quilters of Color Network of NYC, co-president of the Brooklyn Quilters Guild, and she is a member of the WCQNShe teaches at El Puente Academy of Peace and Justice, MS 50 and has worked with AgitArte, a social justice group that has led community educational and art programs in marginalized communities in Puerto Rico and locally. She works out of her home studio in Brooklyn, NY, where she currently resides with her husband Miguel. 


Penny Mateer, artist/activist, works with textiles and recycled materials. Her art is rooted in quilting and embroidery, traditionally thought of as “women’s work.” Drawing from this rich history of creating functional objects intended to provide warmth and comfort, she chooses fabric as her primary material to establish connection through shared experience and spark discussion around current events. Her social practice centers on a community-made public art project to promote voting. Mateer lives in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, visit: pennymateer.com. 


Textile Center is unique as America’s national center for fiber art, with a mission to honor textile traditions, promote excellence and innovation, and inspire widespread participation in fiber arts. The Center’s resources include exceptional fiber art exhibitions, an artisan shop, a professional-grade dye lab, a natural dye plant garden, and one of the nation’s largest circulating textile libraries open to the public. Textile Center produces more than 200 classes a year for all ages and skill levels through its youth, adult, older adult, and outreach programs. A dynamic hub of fiber activity for 25 years, Textile Center brings people together in community to learn, create, share, and be inspired by fiber art. textilecentermn.org. 

We Are the Story feature in The New York Times:

Curator Carolyn Mazloomi and several artists a part of We Are the Story and Women of Color Quilters Network were featured in an article in The New York Times! Read the online article here.

View Textile Center’s latest press release here.

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