My home, probably like many areas across the United States, still suffers from the effects of a long loathsome legacy of racism. Back in 2009, I started collecting statements people said to me and particular online posts that in my opinion reflected the typical racist sentiment heaped upon the neighborhood in which I live (a small suburb in North County, St. Louis). While I had heard a lot of this rhetoric all my life and knew it made me uncomfortable, I was an adult before I developed a language and a voice to express how I felt about the things being said. Basically I’ve come to view much of this sentiment like the bizarre repetitive hypnopaedia played to the children characters in Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, which they come to accept as truth without really questioning why they believe it; the white flight hypnopaedia song. Some might view the act collecting such hateful words and then carrying them on one’s person so that they could be read at least once a day as some kind of act of self-torture. I did it to try to deprogram myself from the years hypnopaedia I grew up hearing. In doing this, I came to realize just how sick the society in which I find myself had become and just how much repetitive and unimaginative much my part of the world’s hypnopaedia turned out to be.
I collected the last statement on my running list the Wednesday before Mike Brown was shot by Darren Wilson.
“all the normal people moved out of Riverview and Glasgow, typical s*** that happens when trash moves in!!!!! Just sayin”
I saw this statement on a friend’s Facebook page. While my friend had not posted it, she also didn’t speak out against it . . . Rather, she agreed with it.
When you live in an area and you hear something like this, you hear it differently. . . Because you are the shit. You are the abnormal one. You are the trash about which this stranger is running his mouth. It was this kind of collective verbal abuse with which I was struggling when I found out what happened a few exits down the highway in Ferguson. The very thing that made me suffer so as I tried to wrap my mind about it became amplified a thousand times over in the following months. That’s when I started putting the quilt together. It was my means of maintaining some level of sanity as the society around me began to see just how bad things had gotten.
I finished the quilt which I call “Bedtime Stories for Privileged Children” at the beginning of November 2014. I then entered it to be an art exhibition, but the juror did not see fit to include my quilt in the show. I planned to enter it in another exhibit in which my work fit the theme better, but after some of the work by the artist/juror who was curating the exhibit was found too controversial for the venue, that exhibition was cancelled entirely. I entered it into a third exhibit half-heatedly because entering two works cost the same as entering the one work I hoped would get in the show, but I was unsuccessful for a third time.
Currently my masterpiece sits in a drawer in my bedroom. It’s ok though. . . I had something to work on when I really needed something to work on. Also the fact that I was able to make this thing in a couple of months reminded me just how much I could get done when I applied myself to a project. And if only in my mind, the thing is still a masterpiece.