The Power of Cultural Work, Gees Bend Alabama

Sitting at the sides of quilters of Gees Bend Collective in rural Alabama, we return home with lessons for our daily lives. Together, the Collective members and many generations of their ancestors have assembled pieces of fabric, history and storytelling into quilts that keep culture, create unity and reflect something bigger than ourselves .

The Gee’s Bend quilters create art of profound and enduring beauty using their hands to bring together scraps of cloth that represent the inter-connected lives, work, faith and the resilience of community. Their centuries of artistry have turned the struggles of slavery, poverty and civil rights into objects of comfort, utility and beauty.

Our students worked with some of the quilters and each other to create our own quilt pieces. We have learned in our studies of non-violence, the importance of handwork in strengthening collectivity and growing our character.

We are grateful to the Gee’s Bend Collective and especially Mary Ann Pettway, China Pettway, and Ms. Julia for generously spending their time with us to share their stories and skills.