“People have the nerve to question if we should wear masks.
It’s not an option; it’s a necessity.
We must weave it into our daily tasks.
As if breathing in others’ coughs is worth the cost.”
These poignant lines are part of a powerful poem written and recited by Liana Parrish, during the first of three youth conferences, held on Zoom on November 17, 2020. It was hosted in partnership with youth leaders and a Coalition of a community-based organization called the Oakland Frontline Healers. Liana is a student at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland and was one of several charismatic and creative teens steering this conference with their messages on COVID awareness and resilience.
And leading they did. Their message to other youth and adults was clear and direct: please take COVID seriously. When adults argue, defend, and wordsmith, our teen leaders are miles ahead of us. They know what needs to be done and they tell us, in their language, in their paintings, collages with their favorite movie characters, via written words like Liana’s poem, and even with their own music and videos:
Former Oakland High School student Chuyi Fang shares a video she made that should be shown daily on national television, it’s that good. And funny: “chin warmer” doesn’t protect against the virus. Only teenagers can say it so candidly.
It is often through art that young people express their deepest concerns, and at them same time cope with them. And while the outlook of this pandemic during the time of this conference was rather grim, the messages these kids have for us is one of hope.
Sariyah Shabazz, another poised student from Bishop O’Dowd, shares tips on self-care that some of us adults could really use. The first one – unexpected, yet powerful, and spot-on:
These creative young leaders and their messages demonstrate their resilience, and thereby set an example for all of us who may feel lost, hopeless, or even confused at times. They remind us, in their unique way, that while this pandemic may seem overwhelming, we all have only very little we need to do in order to stay safe.
By Janine Grossmann @ Quest For You
The following blog post is written by Carlos Rodriguez, a member of the Vision Quilt/Lighthouse Teen Council and our internship program. As a seventh grader at Lighthouse Charter School, Carlos completed the three-month learning expedition focused on gun violence. His piece focuses on his perspectives on gun violence, then and now.
It’s pretty wonderful seeing how my mindset hasn’t really changed since seventh grade to tweflth grade. I still hold loyalty, respect, and agency as the highest values a person can have for others and themselves. These values elevate one onto a different plane from those who go around disrespecting, backstabbing, and being complacent with where they are.
Although I have matured and some of my ideas are more refined, I would say that my main understanding of gun violence and how to deal with it has stayed relatively the same. When I went through the Lighthouse/Vision Quilt expedition in seventh grade, I was still pretty young and couldn’t properly express exactly how I felt about gun violence. But I still believe that the best way to improve the situation with gun violence is to have more education, and social and mental checks to whoever owns a firearm.
Now I am an twelfth grader. I am more articulate, and I’m able to express myself as an educated person and a critical thinker. Although this wasn’t always the case, I feel that my experiences of gun violence, and other personal and family issues, helped me to mature at a young age.
Most of the arguments people have about gun control are caused by people being unable to see or imagine the bigger picture. This comes from ignorance and being close-minded. When I started studying gun violence in the seventh grade, I was still pretty sensitive about the topic. Although I had experienced it multiple times in my life, I didn’t really have a thick s be kin to able to deal with it. One example I can easily think of is when I used to live in West Oakland and three people were gunned down in front of the apartment complex where I lived. It was the first time I had experienced gun violence so close to where I lived. I knew that it happened in all of Oakland -- and the world -- but it had never had it happened so close to home.
Gun violence is a big part of why my mom left Mexico. The majority of the people in her neighborhood have been killed or traumatized by guns. I have dealt with gun violence my entire life but now that I am a twelfth grader, I am able to process it in better and healthier ways..
VQ Interns Isabella Altamirano and Xitlalic Castro on "Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline"
A blog post written by Vision Quilt Teen Council member and youth intern Isabella Altamirano on Oakland City Hall's recent "Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline" Youth Town Hall. The town hall featured fellow Teen Council member and intern Xitlalic Castro.
On Thursday, July 23rd at Oakland City Hall there was a virtual youth-led meeting. Student leaders raised questions, shared testimonies, and moderated discussions on “Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” The Vision Quilt Teen Council had the honor of being a part of this impressive group of young leaders with intern Xitlalic Castro to represent them. She shared the mission of Vision Quilt, which is to empower communities to create solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue. Xitlalic also shared Vision Quilt’s proactive vision for alternatives to the school-to-prison pipeline:
I spoke with Xitlalic to get an understanding of what she thought about this opportunity to speak. She said it was really exciting, but nerve-racking. “Getting the chance to go to meetings to prepare and connect with the other youth speakers,” Xitlalic said, “was really great.” From this opportunity, Xitlalic has learned that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone because it’ll help you grow and get your voice out there, and having a great support system helps you to feel more prepared and less nervous.
You can watch a recording of the "Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline" Youth Town Hall here. The section with Xitlalic begins at 23 minutes, 50 seconds.
About the Lighthouse and Vision Quilt Curriculum
For the past four years, Lighthouse and Vision Quilt have been working together starting when two of our middle school teachers created a 3-month program to study the causes and potential solutions to gun violence. They decided to have the students interact with the Oakland community by inviting Vision Quilt to help us students get our voices and the issue of gun violence out there. We did this by holding an exhibition in the month of June (the end of the program) to showcase our panels and spread awareness to the public about gun violence.
With funding from the National Writing Project (NWP)’s LRNG Innovators Challenge Grant, Lighthouse and Vision Quilt are working on a digital toolkit to share our curriculum with other teachers and schools. Stay tuned for updates!
Invitation for Creative Young People — Supporting COVID-19 Awareness in Alameda County
Did you know that as of August 2, there were 11,4841 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 189 deaths in Alameda County? We want YOU to help change that! Vision Quilt is part of a county-wide initiative encouraging young people to wear masks.
We’re inviting young people ages 13-24 to submit original creative works focused on encouraging youth to wear masks.
The four categories for submissions are:
Youth can submit up to two submissions— once we receive your submission and evaluate it, you’ll receive a $30 Visa Gift Card!
Vision Quilt will share selected submissions on social media, and we will choose one submission in each category to compete in the Alameda County Public Health Department’s All Alameda County Mask On Campaign. The winners of the County Mask On Campaign will have their work used in public messaging throughout Alameda County!
Register here to participate in the contest: https://forms.gle/KJGV8AEZqPpQ7pAG6
Upon completing your registration, you must submit your piece(s) by September 10, 2020. Submissions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or texted to 541-690-6976.
Here is a powerful blog post from Samantha Pelayo, one of our Vision Quilt interns:
We hope everyone is doing well during these uncertain times. Since we aren’t certain whether we are going back to school this fall, Vision Quilt provided us with art kits that keep us learning and being creative. As students at one of the schools that received the art kits, we wanted to share our experience with the art kit. My name is Samantha and my brother’s name is Lorenzo, we both attend Lighthouse Community Charter Public School. I participate in the Vision Quilt Teen Council. My brother is currently participating in the project alongside his 7th grade classmates.
After completing his project, my brother reflected that the easiest part of the art kit was when he was brainstorming what his panel was going to look like. His brainstorming included what types of symbols and quotes would be best to represent the word he had chosen. The word he chose was "peace" because he thought it would be best to bring positivity to his panel, and to the idea of gun violence. The thing he enjoyed the most about this project was being able to share his message. At first, my brother was a bit confused and overwhelmed with all the papers he received, but with the help of Charlie’s video and myself, he was able to understand what he had to do in order to complete the project.
My brother also stated what his most helpful resource was: “The most helpful resource was my sister because she helped me with feedback. When I didn't understand something or I was confused she would clarify it for me. Finally, she both gave me inspiration and structure for my ideas.”
I believe the reason why I helped him so much was because he needed a reminder of his personal connection to gun violence. I was also present during the event he mentioned, where a man was shot by our home so I understand what he must have felt like, especially since I know him well. I believe every student should have a family member or teacher help out. This topic might be overwhelming or confusing but having someone else to be there with you helps -- especially if you are willing to share something personal you went through.
Overall, this experience was fun. The best part was the art kit, getting creative, and spending time with family. Although we did run into a bit of our dark past, we are still grateful that we got to share our experience.
The schools may be closed but we remain committed to working with students in Oakland. This video features Carlos Rodriguez, one of our youth interns from the Vision Quilt/Lighthouse School Teen Council. We are grateful to have Carlos working with Vision Quilt — bringing his creativity and thoughtfulness to our team.
As part of his internship, Carlos decided to create Vision Quilt panels with his sister Monserrat Morales. Carlos and Monserrat utilized the format of our Art Kits, which are designed to support socially distance at-home learning. The mini-panels from our Art Kits encourage youth to depict positive messages like hope, love, and courage.
Carlos and Monserrat created two powerful panels showing their visions of family and friendship.
We hope you enjoy this video from Carlos and Monserrat — stay tuned for more posts featuring our fantastic youth interns!
In these uncertain times, we hope you are taking care of yourself and your communities. As we struggle to find balance and keep our work moving in a positive and creative direction, the need calls for all of us to work together. Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC), Museum of Children's Art (MOCHA), Vision Quilt (VQ), and Junior Center of Art and Science (JCAS) are teaming up to show LOVE and to inspire learning through creativity.
Since students will not return to their schools until fall, we have identified unique ways to provide alternative options for children to access arts instruction. Our students represent the most vulnerable populations. AHC, MOCHA, VQ and JCAS understand that arts equity is an essential component to belonging, developing and thriving.
We are doing an art kit drive to deliver supplies to the youth in our communities. We hope you will support our efforts.
For only $20 you can give a child art supplies to help their creativity thrive. Accompanied by instructional guides and free videos, the kits will be sent to the students we serve.
Charli demonstrates the Vision Quilt process for the new art kits.
By April 30, 2020, we aim to partner with more arts organizations and give out 2,500 kits to children and youth at partnering schools.
Select schools and survivor families will be asked to create artwork to be launched on a national stage advocating against gun violence through Vision Quilt. Students will also have the option to submit their artwork to MOCHA for a video exhibition to thank our healthcare and emergency service providers.
We know these are difficult times, and we are grateful for your donation. Please be generous – no amount is too small! Every donation is tax deductible, and deeply appreciated.
You can also send checks to this address: Vision Quilt P.O. #3192 Ashland, OR 97520.
THANK YOU for helping Vision Quilt continue to strengthen communities, empower youth, and prevent gun violence!
Dr. Cathy DeForest
Vision Quilt Executive Director
AHC Executive Director
MOCHA Executive Director
Junior Center of Art and Science Executive Director
Vision Quilt is proud to share our newest video, "Amplifying Voices: Building Partnerships to End Gun Violence." The four minute video focuses on our partnerships with schools, grassroots organizations and community leaders in places like Oakland and Chicago.
Vision Quilt empowers communities to create their own solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue.
Partnerships are at the heart of our work. "Amplifying Voices" showcases some of our partners, including: Adamika Village, The Ark of St. Sabina, Catholic Charities East Bay, Lighthouse Community Charter School, MOMS Demand Action, Oakland Violence Prevention Coalition, Women in Need of Discovering Their Own Worth, Youth ALIVE!
Share this video with friends, and learn how you can support our work in 2020!
This fall has been a busy time for Vision Quilt. In addition to continuing our 2020-2021 programming with Lighthouse Charter School, we launched a new partnership with Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC) in Oakland, California. AHC is a kindred organization doing remarkable work; their inspiring community murals, found through the Oakland, celebrate the vibrancy and resiliency of Oakland and its residents.
Together with AHC's ArtEsteem program, we launched a new project working with students at West Oakland Middle School. As described by Nan Eastep of AHC:
Vision Quilt and ArtEsteem have come together because they believe that through the act of art-making and public expression Oakland youth can both heal from the trauma of gun violence and contribute to its prevention. Daytime art sessions are taught by seasoned artists with the aid of circles, talking pieces and the Principles of Attitudinal Healing. We have chosen the collaborative quilt as the form to follow, for its association with family, comfort, community, nurture, protection and recovery.
The ArtEsteem/Vision Quilt project, which is supported by the City of Oakland's Art-In-The-Schools program, runs throughout the fall and spring terms at West Oakland Middle School and Fricke Impact Academy. To learn more about this work, check out this blog post on the AHC website.
Guns: Loaded Conversations Exhibit Travels to Michigan and England
Vision Quilt is proud to be included in Guns: Loaded Conversations, the three-year traveling exhibition from Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA).
The intention of Guns: Loaded Conversations is to spark conversation and make bridges across an often polarized conversation. “Artists have been a catalyst for difficult societal conversations throughout history,” says the exhibition website. “Guns: Loaded Conversations seeks to engage viewers of differing opinions to listen to each other and to encourage community initiatives that may inspire action in seeking solutions.”
The newest dates for the exhibition include:
Vision Quilt’s short film focused on our work at Lighthouse Community Charter School is included in the exhibition. If you are in the area, check out this incredible show!
On July 22nd, Vision Quilt joined over 300 other Bay Area residents and activists at the Road to Change BBQ Rally, in Oakland, CA. Cathy DeForest and our team of Bay Area volunteers displayed Vision Quilt panels on the grass in DeFremery Park. People gathered around to ask questions about the artwork and many were eager to get involved, including the Bay Area alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas School.
Local artists and community leaders from Youth ALIVE!, the Burns Institute, and the Urban Peace Movement spoke at the rally. Afterwards, the students on the Road to Change bus answered questions on a panel and met with people in the crowd.
Parkland survivors David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, and Ryan Deitsch were in attendance, along with Alex King from St. Sabina in Chicago. Vision Quilt offered the students a kit and materials for panel making, along with handmade journals for their trip.
Alex Caulderon, a Parkland student and member of March for Our Lives #RoadtoChange tour said, “We all experienced something that should never have happened because of gun violence and because the laws that could have prevented it weren’t in place.”
They will continue their national campaign through mid-August. Vision Quilt looks forward to meeting again with the core members of this powerful youth-led movement this September for a Brady Campaign fundraiser.
News, events and announcements from Vision Quilt