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Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) Quilts Made With Fabric From Britex

July 18, 2016 by Britex Fabrics 0 comments

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Much like the stitch that is sewn into the fabric (fabric provided by Britex Fabrics) of each quilt, the binding force that gives fabric meaning and life, each student has a history upon which their reality is vested.

 

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However, history as it is taught in our public education system is not inclusive, ostracizing hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown people whose history lies outside of the dominant American narrative. A history that only hints at the endless suffrage, exploitation and violence incurred by minority populations; today’s social, educational and economic inequality remnants of that history. - Sara Trail

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SJSA is an opportunity for students to see themselves reflected in a curriculum that values the stories of their ancestors and the legacy they have yet to realize. The curriculum itself is multidisciplinary drawing on concepts taught in ethnic studies, gender/women studies, education and sociology. The main objective of SJSA is to give young people a safe space and tools to develop a critical lens allowing understanding of the social issues that plague their communities.

 

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SJSA is a social process using art as both a learning environment and a sewing studio for young people. While sewing has become a gendered activity that is often thought of as outdated or exclusively female, the hope is that in introducing young women to the practice of sewing, they will see just how powerful it is to breath life into a simple piece of fabric. Quilting is more than just a hobby; it is a revolutionary practice of resistance.

 

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The Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is an opportunity for students to see themselves reflected in a curriculum that values the stories of their ancestors and the legacy they have yet to realize. The curriculum itself is draws on concepts taught in ethnic studies, gender/women studies, education and sociology.

 

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The main objective of SJSA is to give young women a safe space and the tools to develop a critical lens to understand the social issues that plague their communities. SJSA is both a learning environment and a sewing studio for young women.

 

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Sewing can be a political expression of freedom or an avenue to economic independence. As young women, it is important they find their voice and more importantly, a platform of expression. Young women of color in particular often struggle to find a safe place given societal and familial pressures to remain docile and hidden behind the image of the ideal woman.

 

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On the other end, I hope to challenge gendered perceptions of sewing by inviting young men to explore sewing and design. By establishing SJSA, I hope to dismantle this discourse giving these young men and women an opportunity to grow as students and designers.

 

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While I have chosen sewing as the primary medium of artistic expression, the course also introduces students to other creative expressions including poetry, oral storytelling, and sketching.

 

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After completing the social justice art quilt project, I will then teach fashion design and construction. Students will then apply these concepts and design pajamas, dresses, pillowcases, among other garments. These items will then be donated to community group homes and foster youth agencies. The social justice quilts will be donated to local children hospitals.  - Sara Trail, Founder

 

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The SJSA provides and opportunity for a young person to tap into their innermost self and express concerns through art quilting. SJSA is not concerned with GPAs, rather, we are concerned with what is on the inside of a teen's heart and head. We want to help a teen develop passion for society and express it beautifully in art quilting. Quilts have been valued for hundreds of years and are respected and loved by people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Once a teen develops his/her sewing talents, like a riding a bicycle- it will never be unlearned!

 
The SJSA is a place where young people can come together is a safe and nonjudgmental atmosphere to discuss current events, social justice and becoming agents of change in their daily lives. The sewing instruction is a valuable skill that once learned can provide a young person with a way to earn a living. Clothing design, quilting, upholstery, drapery making and many other sewing related trades pay well. College is a good way to go for many teens but not everyone wants to or is able to attend college. 
 
SJSA is grounded in social justice with a focus on building community. The summer program also has a course reader (bound spiral book of scanned PDF readings) ranging from topics of intersectionality, educational and income inequality, and Paulo Friere's pedagogy of the oppressed- readings that are otherwise inaccessible to students in high school. While I have chosen sewing as the primary medium of artistic expression, the course also introduces students to other creative expressions including poetry, oral storytelling, and sketching and self authoring. All together, this program helps to build critically conscious individuals utilizing classroom and studio techniques. Students will read, do homework, produce research papers, write poems etc. while simultaneously learning to sew. A key aspect to the program is the study of topics they may never learn in a traditional high school.

 

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Sara, the only child of Eddie and Katrinka Trail, began sewing when she was four-years-old; she was taught by her mother, grandmother and aunt. Sara wrote a nationally published book, “Sew with Sara” and starred in a DVD entitled “Cool Stuff to Sew with Sara,” created two signature fabric collections, and designed a pattern line for Simplicity. Trayvon Martin was 14 days older than Sara, and in 2012 his murder inspired her to create an art quilt memorial featuring his face shrouded by a grey hoodie. At that moment, Sara’s love for sewing and passion for social justice intertwined.  She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 and as of May 2016 has set out to create the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) birthed by two current pilot programs based in Berkeley and Chicago.

Sara Trail
University of California, Berkeley
Class of 2015

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