I am Yafet Aklilu and I am part of Vision Quilt’s Teen Council in Oakland, California. I attend Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland California, and I will be talking about what it feels like being an African American in America. As a young black man, I wonder what encounters with the police and racist people will be like. I wonder if I’ll end up another statistic along with #sayhisname. I wonder if I’ll ever be held at gunpoint for a non-legitimate reason. Lastly, I wonder if things will change in America or my future children have to worry about these same fears.
America was built on systematic racism/oppression and wasn’t made for black people to succeed. I believe that black people in America face oppression and unfair treatment because of racist laws that have been implemented before and after Jim Crow. As many black Americans will tell you, being black means you're already a criminal in some police officers’ eyes. It’s sad that Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and many more black people died fighting for equal rights but systematic racism and police brutality is still a problem.
For my Vision Quilt panel that I created in 7th grade (2019), my image is a picture of a black man putting his hands up and a quote from Malcolm X. The hands up sign and the quote from Malcolm X are related to police brutality. I chose the Malcolm X quote because it sends a strong message about police brutality. “If someone puts their hands on you make sure that they never put their hands on anybody else again.” The image also has years of when innocent black people were killed by cops which are also related to police brutality. The words I chose was to show the number of black people who are yearly killed by cops for no reason. I want someone to know that a lot of innocent black people are getting killed by cops for no reason. There should be stricter gun laws for the police and communities because neither cops nor community members need guns.
My Vision Quilt panel means a lot to me because it sends a strong message about police brutality. We can prevent police brutality by better training and police must be randomly tested for illegal drugs. We can also prevent police brutality by regularly testing police for racial bias and banning violence usage based on their imagination of a threat. This ban would look like questioning the threat as any other civilian unless there is clear evidence they are a threat.
I hope that my Vision Quilt panel can raise awareness about police brutality. I also hope that my Vision Quilt panel can impact police and people who are against police brutality.
In conclusion, not all police officers are racist or kill innocent black people, I’ve seen multiple acts of kindness from police officers towards black people. I also hope that all of the peaceful protests cause change because many black people (including me) are tired of the injustice we're still receiving.
Last week our partners Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC) launched their stunning online exhibition "Planting the Seeds of Change," featuring artwork from Oakland youth and families.
Vision Quilt collaborated with ArtEsteem and the Khadafy Washington Foundation on two of the exhibition's gallery rooms.
It is powerful to see Oakland youth depicting themselves as Super Heroes; Black families honoring loved ones lost to gun violence; and West Oakland Middle School youth responding to gun violence in their communities.
The ArtEsteem Vision Quilt Gallery
Included in AHC's online exhibition "Planting the Seeds of Change" is the ArtEsteem Vision Quilt Gallery, online now through July 13th.
The ArtEsteem Vision Quilt room also features a video introduction from Kenneth Johnson, a co-teacher in the ArtEsteem Vision Quilt program. "I hope," Kenneth says to viewers, "you will be moved, transformed, and motivated as you feel the spirit of these Oakland youth. "
Double-click on videos to view their contents. The virtual exhibition is best viewed on a computer or laptop. For further instructions on viewing, click here.
Vision Quilt panels from West Oakland Middle School students: "Innocents Die" by Susana Calmo and "Stopping Killing Families" by Malaki Tubby.
The Khadafy Washington Foundation Gallery
The work in the second Vision Quilt Gallery was facilitated by Marilyn Washington Harris and the Khadafy Washington Foundation.
Vision Quilt and the Khadafay Washington Foundation received grants from Oakland Unite and the Akonadi Foundation to work with gun violence survivors in West Oakland and beyond.
Although our original plans were changed due to COVID-19, Marilyn Washington Harris was able to host a panel making workshop for twelve families who had lost their sons and daughters to gun violence.
We are honored to work with Marilyn Washington Harris. After losing her own son, Khadafy Washington, Mrs. Marilyn dedicated her life to supporting families who had lost a loved one to gun violence.
“At the time of Khadafy’s death, I realized that the city of Oakland was missing something — because I was missing something," explains Mrs. Marilyn.
"Not only was I missing my son, I was missing the fact that nobody came to my rescue... So I began to do for mothers and fathers what no one had done for me. I began to reach out to help them.”
At a time when our country is crying out for Black Lives, the Khadafy Gallery honors these families and their stories.
Vision Quilt panel created by Anita Cole to honor her daughter Anika Crane.
"Planting the Seeds of Change" exemplifies the creativity, resilience, and heartbreak that runs through Oakland. We urge you to visit the exhibition, and share it with your friends.
Vision Quilt is honored by our partnerships with AHC, the Khadafy Washington Foundation, and the youth and families creating art and telling their stories. We are grateful to our volunteers and staff supporting this work.
After the conclusion of the exhibition, Vision Quilt will continue to display the panels in workshops, galleries, exhibition spaces, and through our online Virtual Quilt. Share this newsletter with friends and make a donation to support our work. As described by Andrew Vega, one of the Youth Ambassador curating the exhibition, the gallery “showcases textile art pieces created by students that express the awareness, loss, and passion that surrounds the issue of gun violence in their homes, families, and communities.
Note: This blog is the second of two entries about Vision Quilt’s experiences in working with students at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California. In the first entry, Founder Cathy DeForest shared her thoughts on working with students in the classroom. In this blog, Board Member Jack Harbaugh shares what it was like at the student exhibition.
By Jack Harbaugh,
Vision Quilt Board Member
What an inspiring day. The eighth graders from Lighthouse Community Charter School were hosting an exhibition at E 14, a cool, new art gallery in Oakland. You could see and hear their excitement as they set up for the event that evening. The exhibition was the culmination of their three-month learning expedition on gun violence. Vision Quilt had been an important part of this journey, and many of the panels created by the students would be on display.
Families and friends of the students were invited to attend so there was a lot of pride and energy as they went about their tasks of getting the various booths constructed, the musical instruments set up and tuned, and the information tables organized.
The students were curating the exhibition themselves, and while the teachers were there to give direction and lend a hand, the eighth graders were responsible for getting everything ready for the event.
They also prepared themselves to be docents for that evening, rehearsing what they would say to each guest as they viewed each exhibit.
By Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt Founder
Sometimes there is a moment when you realize the work you are doing matters. It is making a difference. You can see it, feel it, hear it in the voices of those around you. This is happening for me every time I walk into Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California.
Over the past couple months, Vision Quilt has been working with 7th and 8th grade students and teachers at the school as they study gun violence. It is an extraordinary three-month expeditionary learning program, and Vision Quilt is honored to be a part of it.
We are sharing the mission of Vision Quilt with these young students and we are working with them as they made their own panels. Many of these students are exposed to gun violence on a regular basis and to hear them talk about it is powerful and sobering.
We have exciting news to share! The Vision Quilt team has added a new tools section to our website and we believe this will help us reach many more people much more quickly. The online toolkit has many of the elements of our boxed toolkit in an easy to download format.
The online tools are organized in the same way our folders are set up in our regular VQ kit.
Create Powerful Panels which includes workshop plans and handout materials.
Engage Your Community features guidelines, strategies and information on volunteers.
As 2016 comes to a close, we'd like to share a few accomplishments from our first full year. We are so grateful you have chosen to support Vision Quilt and we are honored to do this work. We are looking ahead to 2017 with strength and optimism. But first, here are some of the things we are proud to share from 2016.
Let us begin by saying we now have more than 300 Vision Quilt panels created by people ages 3 to 96 including students, survivors, veterans, grandmothers, gun owners and incarcerated youth.
News, events and announcements from Vision Quilt