Make it Very Black: Stacey Watson, National Quilt Museum

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:39:18 Make it Very Black: Stacey Watson, National Quilt Museum


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Stacey Watson

Stacey Watson is the Director of Equitable Partnerships at The National Quilt Museum. She has been an educator for nearly 17 years and specializes in African American history and culture. Watson has a Museum Studies certification from the University of West Georgia and a graduate degree in History from Fort Valley State University. One of Watson’s objectives is to uphold the museum’s mission of “bringing the work of today’s quilters to audiences” by creating opportunities and experiences that will display all voices of the community. Her overall goal is to collaborate and build partnerships within the community locally and regionally. In addition to engaging the community, Watson lends her expertise as a history professor to the museum by researching the past and helping audiences connect history to art. Watson is a member of the Association of African American Museums and Southeastern Museum Conference.

Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English, specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory, and American slavery. She is the founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

Insights from this Episode

  • Stacey’s academic background and her commitment to history
  • The importance behind knowing your history as a Black person
  • Lisa’s thoughts on Black people making history
  • What Stacey’s students are able to get when they visit the quilts museum
  • Stacey’s role at The National Quilt Museum
  • How does Stacey get the inspiration for the exhibitions at the museum
  • Stacey’s example of looking at a quilt that is teaching something different or in a more powerful way
  • How Stacey’s students apply the detective technique in order to understand quilts
  • Stacey’s advice to get our stitch together

Quotes from the Show: 

  • “We associate history with events and people from the past but we forget about the foundation of this history and they get lost and I think it’s important that we remember those who have been lost on history whether it was intentional or not” – Stacey Watson in “Stitch Please”
  • “[About the Watson Method] What was the motive for some of these events that happened, who were involved and not justo who are the victims and who are the suspects…What were the organizations, What they were doing, how they were supportive, so I want my students to think beyond what’s being presented” – Stacey Watson in “Stitch Please”
  • “[About getting the local Black community on good terms with the museum] Community conversations was a program that I created to allow the community to come in to meet the Quilt Museum and for the Quilt Museum to meet the local community ” – Stacey Watson in “Stitch Please”
  • “There’s no such thing as being too ambitious. You need to get your stitch together and know that everything can be done. Nothing is impossible. You don’t need a whole entire team for your one vision” – Stacey Watson in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Stacey Watson

LinkedIn: Stacey Watson

The National Quilt Museum:

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:00

Hey, friends, hey. We are on the road to QuiltCon. QuiltCon is the Modern Quilt Guild's annual conference, and this year it's being held in Atlanta, and Black Women Stitch is going. We will be there hosting an affinity space called Sew Black. But we got to get there first. And that is what The Road to QuiltCon: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles is all about. How are you getting to QuiltCon? Are you flying? Are you driving? Or are you taking the train? Black Women Stitch is taking the train, courtesy of our friends at Amtrak and with generous support from Bernina. We're taking an overnight sleeper car on the Amtrak to Atlanta, and we're bringing our sewing machines onboard for the ride. Tell us how you're getting to QuiltCon. Go to Black Women Stitch dot org. In the upper right corner, you'll see a button that says "talk to us." You tap that button and you can leave a voice note letting us know how you are getting to QuiltCon. And we might even use it in the podcast or on our social media. So stay tuned for The Road to QuiltCon, courtesy of Bernina and our friends at Amtrak.

Hello, stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than twenty years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Hello, everybody, and welcome. Welcome, welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. As I say every week, this is a very special episode because this episode is when worlds collide. Have you ever felt like you've met somebody out there in the world, in the internet, and you feel like you all have so much in common? And like, oh, this person would probably be a good friend. I do. And so if you are me, you then write to these people—you write an email and you say, "Hey, would you be on my podcast?" And then if you're Stacey Watson, who also happens to work at the National Quilt Museum and has curated a fantastic exhibition to name only one, you say, "Okay, I guess, girl." And so now here we are. Stacey, thank you so much for being with us here today. I am delighted to have you.

Stacey Watson 2:49

Thank you for having me so much, Lisa, and thank you so much for reaching out and contacting me. It's just an honor to be here with you today and share everything with the entire audience, subscribers, and listeners. Thank you.

Lisa Woolfork 3:01

Yes, I am so excited. Y'all, here we are at the start of twenty twenty-three, and we are getting ourselves ready for QuiltCon. Black Women Stitch is very excited about the Sew Black project that's going to be a part of QuiltCon for twenty twenty-three. And Stacey is going to be there as well. The National Quilt Museum is a sponsor of QuiltCon, and so she'll be coming down. And we'll be talking again, doing a live session at QuiltCon in the Sew Black space. And so this is a wonderful like preview interview to be talking with Stacey about her work at the National Quilt Museum. You'll also notice that the title of today's episode is Make it Very Black. That's the name of the episode—Make it Very Black: Stacey Watson and National Quilt Museum. This is why I thought we had to be friends because Stacey and I were talking, which, you know, one is prone to do when you stalk a new friend. And it came out that she said you know one of my goals is, you know, whatever I'm doing I want it to be very Black. And this idea of committing to a vision of Black excellence of Black presence, and Black being in the quilt field and beyond is something I am so excited to talk with Stacey about today. So, Stacey, welcome and thank you for all that you are doing and have done.

Stacey Watson 4:21

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Lisa Woolfork 4:23

Okay, so to begin, let's talk a little bit about your academic background. You are currently a professor at West Kentucky Community Technical College. Can you talk a little bit about some of the work that you do there, some of the teaching, some of the commitment to history that informs some of your quilt work as well?

Stacey Watson 4:41

Absolutely. So I teach African American history since eighteen sixty-five. And this was actually a course that I created for our college, and I have used this course to be more so interactive. I built the course to be available online as well as in person. What I like to make the course really hands on. So a lot of times I like to take my students to field trips, even though they're college students, they can definitely experience field trips. And so some of these field trips that I do take them on do consist of going to the quilt museum, where they can see some of the exhibits that correspond with what I'm teaching. And that has been used each semester. I mean, because where I live—Paducah—is known for the National Quilt Museum, so why not use it as a resource for a teaching tool? And I've been using it, and it's definitely been eye-opening for a lot of my students, simply based on the quilts that we've had there. Now, I will also say that in my role as a history professor, I'm very focused on making sure that we have live historical lessons and bringing people into the class. And so it's essential for me to make history three-D, make it something you can taste, something you can smell, something you can feel, something you can see, something you can hear. Lots of history for me is making sure that my students don't just hear me repeating history. They get to see it. They get to experience it. They get to find a sense of how to relate to it. So a couple of things that I've done, for instance, is I introduced Miss Sarah Collins Rudolph. She is this little girl from the nineteen sixty-three Birmingham bombing. She survived. The four little girls most people know, but they don't know that she survived. She's a living legend, historical icon. And as opposed to just speaking about her or mentioning her in a PowerPoint or textbook, I said, "Let's invite her into the class, let's have her speak for herself. And that way, you can ask her questions. And, you know, we can hear from her as a witness of what she experienced." And from that point, I brought her to campus so that we can have a bigger audience, she can reach a larger community, our campus community, and extend her story so that people can know about her, because a part of my teaching is focused on remembering the forgotten. I came up with this thought because I was thinking more so about oftentimes when we think about history is events from the past, and we associate history with events and people from the past.

Lisa Woolfork 4:52


Stacey Watson 5:01

But we forget about the foundation of this history.

Lisa Woolfork 7:44

That's right.

Stacey Watson 7:45

They get lost. And I think it's important that we remember those who have been lost in history, whether it's intentional or not. I think it's just really important to remember the forgotten, the first, the pioneers, the trailblazers, the survivors, you know, a lot of times survivors are punished because they survived.

Lisa Woolfork 8:08

Or they feel punished.

Stacey Watson 8:09


Lisa Woolfork 8:10

You know. And so what I appreciate about what you're sharing with us, Stacey, is this idea of turning history from a noun into a verb. The idea that history is not just a thing trapped between a dusty pages of a book. It's also a living, active process that we are making history every single day.

Stacey Watson 8:33

Every day. And I think when you ask me what I'm doing at my school, it is introducing methods of teaching that you can use in any curriculum, in any subject. And that's thinking like a detective. It's more so important for me to teach my students to think like a detective. And that's become my teaching technique I call the Watson method and teaching technique.

Lisa Woolfork 8:55

Yes, girl, like Watson. Like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Think like a detective. Say more.

Stacey Watson 9:02

So thinking like a detective history. Well, we can think about it as a mystery. What was the motive for some of these events that happened? Who were involved in not just who are the victims? Or who are the suspects? Who were the bystanders? Who were the accomplices? What were the organizations? What were they doing? How are they supportive? So I want my students to think beyond what's being presented and read the fine print, read between the lines, find what's missing, and then tell the story, solve the mystery, solve for Y, as opposed to solving for X. And so that has been how I've been teaching.

Lisa Woolfork 9:39

I love the structure that that provides, because it gives people a set of handy tools to ask themselves when they face historical facts, data, or stories. And another thing I really appreciate is when you were able to bring in the survivor of the bombing that, again, many folks know about this, it became, some saw it as, one of the galvanizing events that helped the later civil rights bills get passed, to white people watching. It was such a shocking thing. It kind of cut through the excuses politicians were making, et cetera, et cetera. But it's hard to kind of remember how difficult a battle that was. Things that seem to us like, I don't understand why that would even be a thing. It was absolutely a thing that was life changing. And it was this traumatic event that helped to propel, much like the first wave of the civil rights with Emmett Till's murder—that helped to propel another generation of activists. And what I love about what you're explaining to us is that so much of this is a lot closer than we think.

Stacey Watson 10:49


Lisa Woolfork 10:49

And I mentioned this because my own grandmother, who lived to be a hundred and four, she was born in nineteen thirteen, which is the same year that Harriet Tubman died. That overlap, the idea that my own grandmother was alive, just missed Harriet Tubman, you know, by a few months, that just shows you that so much of this is so close. I was just thinking the other day that I am part of one of the first generations in my family to be born with the legal right to vote. My mother didn't have the legal right to vote. My grandmother wasn't born with that right. How it feels like that is history, that we are making history just by the living and the breathing of us.

Stacey Watson 10:52


Lisa Woolfork 10:53

The way that you are able to attune your students into that. and I love to think like a detective.

Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please podcast are happy to announce Sew Black an affinity space creative oasis and live podcasting studio at the Modern Quilt Guild QuiltCon in Atlanta, Georgia, February twenty-third to twenty-sixth. Sew Black is made possible by major underwriting from Spoonflower. With over one million designs available on fabric, wallpaper, and home decor, every purchase supports a global community of independent artists. The Spoonflower community includes artists, makers, small business owners, interior designers, and you. Begin your next project with one or Spoonflower's independent designers or upload your own. Go to Spoonflower dot com and use the code Sew Black Q-C for twenty percent off your purchase. That's S-E-W B-L-A-C-K Q-C. We are thankful for the underwriting provided by Moda as well as the support of Bernina. If you'd like more information or to contribute to Sew Black, you can find the links to what you need in the show notes.

Can you talk a little bit about what the students were able to get from visiting the Quilt Museum? How can teachers, professors, scholars ask good questions about quilts that will facilitate student learning?

Stacey Watson 13:09

I usually provide an assignment. So I go to the Quilt Museum, I'm hunting for facts, letting them—I'm kind of doing like a scavenger hunt for them. And they have to look at the quilts a certain way. So they're looking for structure, they're looking for color, they're looking for the story that is, basically, it's a story that's ingrained, and through parts of the threads, parts of the blocks, all combined together. And they're looking for an idea. What is this quilt telling? What is the story behind this quilt? Why do you think this artist created this quilt? What story are they trying to tell? And is it something that is focused on memory? Are we trying to hold on to something? Are we letting it go? Is it a sense of therapeutic expression? Is this the way of we cope? How do we pull out the emotion that is attached to this? And what or how do we attach it to a historical event, person, place that has occurred? And so making all of those connections, so they're looking at it from a historical narrative eye. But they're also introduced to it as an art form where they have a better appreciation, not oh, well, I came here to do a history assignment. But now I can step back and say, oh, they used a color maybe to evoke emotion. Or maybe this speaks to a sense of depression that has occurred or things of that nature. So there's a lot that goes into what they're doing. They did view the quotes from the Nine-Eleven Memorial Museum. And actually all of my students have no idea—not that they didn't know what Nine-Eleven was, but they weren't living. So I had to re-create Nine-Eleven for them, and walk them through looking at the newspaper articles. We looked at the archives and collections at the museum. And then they went and looked at the quilts and they were able to identify, oh, that's the man that was in the newspaper article that was falling from the building. Or, oh, they use parts of the uniform from the flight attendants to create the quilt, and they were able to identify this. And then that did something to them. That is where they started to see themselves in this type of experience. And it wasn't just, I'm learning about Nine-Eleven. I'm learning about the people, the victims, Bin Laden. I'm learning about what in the world was the World Trade Center. I'm learning about how tall it was. I'm learning about what it is now.

Lisa Woolfork 15:56


Stacey Watson 15:57

And then the importance of oh, these people wrote letters, they were sending for help, they were trying to find people. And now it's, oh, okay, now how would you, if you were to create a quilt, you know, in this type of situation or during this time, what would your quilt say? What would you do? What would you create? So now they'll put themselves into this experience by now being a part of it. So yeah, my students give me great feedback. Sometimes I can't really tell in the moment. You know, they're walking around, and they're like, mmm, we're at the Quilt Museum. What is the Quilt Museum? When I start reading their assignments, and I'm grading their assignments, it's, oh, this was a moving experience, and I'm glad that we live here. Or, you know, we have this gem, and I appreciate you making this a part of our lesson.

Lisa Woolfork 16:47

And you've done that before with your Black Paducah exhibition, like the work that you've done on Black Paducah. Trying to like connect local history to kind of deepen the roots so that folks know that there is Black history in Paducah.

Stacey Watson 17:02


Lisa Woolfork 17:03

And that Black folks are making that history still every day. You know what I mean? Like, I think that you are doing that really powerful job of, as you said, making the invisible visible, of restoring that which has been either lost or erased. Can you talk a little bit about how that connection locally helped to form a bridge to your current work and your current role at the National Quilt Museum?

Stacey Watson 17:27

Absolutely. My role at the National Quilt Museum—I am the director of equitable partnerships. And in that role, as a director of equitable partnerships, we realize that we have a large following nationally, internationally. But it's kind of like when you live in a city and you have all these museums and these hidden gems and you don't go because you've lived there all your life and you just like, never see. Yeah, in Detroit, you never go to the Motown Museum. And in Paducah, the National Quilt Museum is a pretty much staple. I mean, it's the thing. And what we realize is that we don't have a large local community that comes in and visits. So my job has been to find a way to reach the local community. Find a way to reach the community of which lives there. We live there. So how do I reach the people who live there who may not necessarily be interested in quilts or may not necessarily be interested in the art form? How can we bring those people in? So Community Conversations was a program that I created to allow the community to come in to meet the Quilt Museum and for the Quilt Museum to meet the local community. And so that was the first thing I wanted to do was find a way to connect these two, I guess you can say people or communities.

Lisa Woolfork 18:57


Stacey Watson 18:58

Pretty much, yes, and find a way to find a relationship, an opportunity to create more opportunities. And so Community Conversations, even though it necessarily wasn't a quilting program, it was a program that allowed the local Black community to come in. And of course, we did this during Black History Month to kind of start this off. And I said, listen, a lot of people don't know that the school that I teach at was predominantly Black. It was basically an HBCU before it was an HBCU so people came to West Kentucky and went to school, and you had people coming to visit and having parades and all these wonderful things and celebrities coming to town. And when you start having the students that graduated from West Kentucky talk about oh, when I was in school, we did this, and, you know, Wilma Rudolph came to visit, and all these people came to West Kentucky. I said why I'm not sure this story?

Lisa Woolfork 20:01


Stacey Watson 20:01

Why are we not talking about this? Why don't people know this. And so let's have people come in, talk about their story, but let's have it at the Quilt Museum. And not only what we heard at the Quilt Museum, let's have a local cultures in our community come in and share their stories of their quilting experience and how that has pretty much become their hobby or career and what they have done. Because we need to recognize our local quilters. I wanted the local quilters to come in and be able to share their stories. I wanted the students who attended West Kentucky Community Technical College to share their stories. And I wanted the community to feel welcomed, to feel a warm environment, that the National Quilt Museum is supportive and is eager and engaged and is interested in hearing our story. So why not provide that space and safe space to share it?

Lisa Woolfork 20:58

I am so glad you mentioned the idea of telling our story because it goes back to the Make it Very Black. And this is a perfect segue to talk about the Say Your Piece. Black women, mothers, martyrs, and misunderstood. Y'all, I'm saying piece, and it sounds like P-E-A-C-E, but it's spelled P-I-E-C-E. And I want to talk about this exhibition, as well as its motivation from the sankofa bird, because every year to start the Stitch Please podcast, the first episode of the new year is always a sankofa episode. Because it's important, I believe, to go back to the past, look back to the past before you can progress to the future. Sankofa is the icon word for go back and get it or it is not bad to go back and pick up what you might have lost. And I always like to start the year by looking backward just to see where we've been and to some ways to kind of celebrate how we arrived here in our moment. So can you talk a little bit about the sankofa as a concept and how that helped you to build the Say Your Piece exhibition.

Stacey Watson 22:07

The sankofa bird, quilted by Nicole Blackwell, was basically the start. It is the foundation of the exhibit. I wanted to be able to go back. So working from the present, what issues when we think about Black women, mothers, martyrs, and often misunderstood, whether it's we're angry Black women, or is that to be confused with being passionate? Or we are ambitious, or is that more so driven? We're mothers in ways that we don't want to be because some of us end up being eternal mothers, because we lose our sons and our daughters due to violence, whether it's domestic violence or police brutality or lynching. There are so many aspects of who we are as Black women. And not all of us are mothers, not all of us are in the roles of where we have to always advocate and be these strong women. But when we are faced with these injustices or we are neglected or there's no accountability of the sense of privilege that puts us in these confined spaces, who speaks for us? So when I thought about speaking, of course, I could speak about all of this historical content, but we can put it in art form of which has seen to exclude us in certain aspects. So how do you exclude us from an art form of one that we can use as for tools of resistance? So when I think about the sankofa bird, it's how did we get to where we are, how did we get there? Let's take a look back. Let's take a look back and let me explain through a visual representation through quilts. And let's start at the auction block. Let's start at the auction block. And then as we go through the auction block from the sankofa bird, you know, have Harriet Tubman bring us through this aspect of what does freedom look like for us and why do we even have to have that? Why? She's pulling us in by Janda and Rebecca Lipker. You know, she's pulling us in to this freedom. She's helping us, she's conducting our futures.

Lisa Woolfork 22:39


Stacey Watson 22:40

And as I'm thinking about that, I want to use her to be the first quilt you see pulling us into this exhibit and drawing us in. But I also want you to look back to see how we got here. And then what happened since the auction block? Talking about maternal mortality, Black women in maternal mortality, Black women in healthcare, what has been done, what should be done, what's needed in order for us to move forward. And of course, like I said, I can speak to historical content. Well, why not let the quilt speak? Why not put provide historical content? Why not provide primary sources? And this is the part of me that is merging two passions—curating and being a history professor. So when I look at the exhibit, I wanted to make sure that I included primary sources that are factual, that people can go in and click on the QR code, go to the direct link of primary source that speak to the quilt. And this is not conjured up or false news or fake news—you have the source. So if you want to know what's going on with maternal mortality, let Serena Williams explain what happened to her. Or if you want to know what happened to women who were lynched in America, let's talk about Mary Turner.

Lisa Woolfork 25:44


Stacey Watson 25:45

Let's talk about Hayes, Turner. Let's talk about Laura Nelson. Let's talk about these women. If you want to know how mothers feel, let's ask Emmett Till's mother in her documentary, in her piece. Let's talk about that. And you have this information. So when that sankofa bird introduces how we look back, pretty much it's really how did we get here? How did we get to a point where we even have an exhibit about this? How did we get here? So I want to walk through those different phases of what speaks to most Black women, not all.

Lisa Woolfork 26:21


Stacey Watson 26:21

And even if it doesn't speak to all women or all Black women, now we've introduced a topic.

Lisa Woolfork 26:27

Exactly. It's a starting point. I think that most exhibitions don't launch themselves to be the only thing you're ever meant to see.

Stacey Watson 26:36


Lisa Woolfork 26:37

They're designed to like spark curiosity and to begin a conversation. And I keep thinking about the Harriet Tubman quilt and the way that Harriet's hand is extended. That it looks like she's reaching out like for an invitation. And so it feels like your work is offering a similar invitation.


You are inviting black Paducahns to remember their history. Black Kentuckians, all of Kentucky to remember Black Paducah. That people say Paducah all the time, and Paducah is for many people, at least in the quilt world, it's the synonym for the museum. Or going to Paducah, et cetera, means one thing. And you are inviting us to recognize that this one thing is not exclusively a white thing. And to look at it in this way is to have a completely false and distorted vision of what truly is.

Happy Black History Month. You know that Black Women Stitch is going to be at QuiltCon, and we have a space called Sew Black. But even if you're not coming to QuiltCon—and seriously, why are you not coming to QuiltCon? I think it's gonna be really fun. But if you're not coming to QuiltCon, you can still participate in Sew Black right from home. We are having a sew 'n' show, designed to amplify and elevate Black surface pattern designers who have created quilting fabrics. So in partnership with some folks in the Black Women Stitch community, we really bringing you amazing garments and projects from fabrics by E Bond from Free Spirit Fabrics; Jen Hewitt and Rashida Coleman-Hale from Ruby Star Society; and Nefertiti Griggs, and Janine Lecour from Spoonflower. You can participate in Sew Black by buying their fabrics and making garments from them. And, in partnership with Bernina, you can be entered to win a Burnett thirty-three when you use the hashtag Sew Black QC. Sew Black QC is also a discount code, giving you twenty percent off at Spoonflower and ten percent off at Crimson Tate. We look forward to seeing the way you Sew Black.

I wonder if you could talk a little bit...if you could give us an example of looking at a quilt. Something I like to try to do in my own classes is supplementing that which they've done traditionally. Traditionally, you know, you read articles, you read books, you read chapters, you know—you're meant to read. And it is also the case, I think, that these quilts are supplements as well as bodies of work all on their own, that they too, as you were describing, can be read, can be studied, can be examined, and have been. Do you have an example of a quilt that you see as—just by looking at it—it is teaching something different, or in a more powerful way, that students might get from just reading alone?

Stacey Watson 30:14

As in like the label content next to it or just being able to look at the quilt in...

Lisa Woolfork 30:18

Just looking at the quilt. At least for me, when I'm teaching, I have to sometimes try different ways. Like some people, they can get the reading, but then somebody else, they might watch a short video, or they look at a quilt block, and something kind of unlocks for them. I guess I was asking a little bit more...getting you to expound on how you take your detective technique of getting students to look deeper and ask good questions and how they can apply that to looking at quilts.

Stacey Watson 30:46

So a couple quilts, I would definitely say once again, Janda and Rebecca Lipker, "Mamie Till." Having that piece, it's a very simple quilt. And I mean, more so visually, simply because she has the tear dropping from her face as she's speaking about her son. And having my students focus on the pain that is carefully crafted and sewn right into the quilt. You can step back from it and see it, or you can get up close and see it. And then knowing it's in black and white. You know, we think about civil rights, you always see everything in black and white.

Lisa Woolfork 31:29

Yes, yes.

Stacey Watson 31:30

It's keeping it in that time period, because we think about black and white, oh, that's so long ago or, oh, or gives it an older appeal when we think about vision. But I will ask students, what do you think this will look like in color today? And what colors would you use? What would you use to tell this story? "Maternal Mortality-3x's Higher," Patra Jones. Once again, it is a quilt, machine-quilted stitching. It's a pregnant woman with an afro and an outline. Very simple design.

Lisa Woolfork 32:02


Stacey Watson 32:03

But very powerful. In her headband listing and showing all of the different issues that women deal with. So now my students have to read, okay, well, what is structural racism? Or...preeclampsia? What are these issues? And how do they relate? And why do you think the number three times is bigger on this entire board of the label? And what are you looking at? What are your eyes supposed to focus on? So if you're looking at a particular quilt, I would definitely say that Miss Till- Mobley is probably the one and "A Partial Listing" by LaShawnda Crowe Storm.

Lisa Woolfork 32:50


Stacey Watson 32:51

It speaks volumes, even though when we look at it, we don't really know. Once again, the question is: Why is this quote so large?

Lisa Woolfork 33:01


Stacey Watson 33:01

And then what does each block represent? Well, those are blocks representing bodies that have been lynched in America, expanding this entire wall. And it's a partial listing because the list is still being created.

Lisa Woolfork 33:17

That's right.

Stacey Watson 33:18

So we run out of space if we have to start adding new names of what's been going on.

Lisa Woolfork 33:24


Stacey Watson 33:24

Going back to eighteen eighty-three and you start and add all the people who've been lynched over this time.

Lisa Woolfork 33:31

Yeah, America has an ugly history and an ugly present and it has ways of hiding it. But at the same time, you cannot hide the truth from detectives.

Stacey Watson 33:41


Lisa Woolfork 33:42

And that is what you are training your students to do. And hopefully they will be strong thinkers about historical narratives and about how the truth is decided. And I think that that's a very powerful gift that you have given your students in the form of a critical thinking skill and a critical apparatus overall. I think that's just so beautiful, Stacey. I wanted to ask you: What are you looking forward to for QuiltCon? I am very excited. I've not been to a QuiltCon before, so I'm very excited to go to this one. So do you have an idea of what you're looking forward to?

Stacey Watson 34:17

First, I am definitely excited for Sew Black. I am excited for Sew Black to be just in the midst of Sew Black safe space, warm spaces and being around people who have shared in spaces similar to me. Not being alone, because I get that a lot. Well, you curated an exhibit, but you're a director at a museum. Are you a quilter? Do you quilt?

Lisa Woolfork 34:18

Don't let me have to find these people at the QuiltCon, Stacey, okay? Listen, Lisa, this person said something, and I have to go find the person and be like, "Who are you? May I see your quilt police badge because you seem to be up here credentialing people that nobody asked you for."

Stacey Watson 35:00

Right. [Giggles] So I am interested to learn a great deal about quilts. I mean, this is a time where I get to learn about what sparks interest, what keeps people going, what is their drive for telling these stories. Chawne Kimber has three quilts in my exhibition. And so I'm looking forward to hearing all about what keeps her going motivated, looking forward to actually meeting her in person.

Lisa Woolfork 35:27

Same! I am so excited. Listen, I have my ticket for her lecture. I think it's called "Pulling Loose Threads" or something like that maybe it's called? Y'all, if you are hearing this now, I'm sure there's still time for you to come and get your stuff and come to QuiltCon in Atlanta. It's in Atlanta, which already has a lot of great, fun stuff there already in addition to us! Like, really, what more do you need? Honestly,

Stacey Watson 35:51

What more do you need?

Lisa Woolfork 35:53

What more do you need?

Stacey Watson 35:54


Lisa Woolfork 35:55

I'm gonna ask you just one last question, Stacey, before we wrap up. The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. I'm going to ask you, for your opinion. There are no wrong answers. What advice do you have for our listeners to help us get our stitch together? What would you advise us? If someone came to you—and they are, it is me—and they were to say, "How can you help me get my stitch together? What advice do you have?" What would you tell us?

Stacey Watson 36:22

I would definitely tell you, and tell everyone, never feel that something cannot be done. When we think about being afraid, can I really accomplish something? Can I really do this? There's no such thing as being too ambitious. So you need to get your stitch together and know that everything can be done. Nothing is impossible. You don't need a whole entire team for your one vision. Just know that when you move forward through life, there are going to be challenges. They're going to be obstacles, there will be people that get in your way, but you just move around them. And you learn the ability to navigate, move, keep it moving, and get it together. And as you start putting those pieces together of navigating, of having a vision, of being ambitious, being passionate, you start putting those blocks together, then you are stitching it all together. And now you got your stitch together.

Lisa Woolfork 37:26

I love it. And on that note, we thank you, Stacey Watson, from the National Quilt Museum for those wise words. And we look forward to seeing you in real life at QuiltCon in February!

Stacey Watson 37:39

Super excited. I'm also super excited that before we get to QuiltCon, we would have wrapped up Say Your Piece exhibition, but before we wrap up, we have to go out in grand style with our open mic. And that's going to be Say Your Piece open mic. And it's open mic.

Lisa Woolfork 37:58

Listen, we will have the information, the links to this exhibition, the links to Stacey's work, the links to this close-out event for this wonderful, wonderful exhibition. That will be in the show notes of this episode. So you will be able to go and to click on it so you can see the fruits, the outcome of these wonderful questions and the challenges that Stacey has posed, and the beautiful curation she has done to make it very Black. Thank you, Stacey, thank you so much for being with us today. We're so grateful.

Stacey Watson 38:32

Thank you for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Woolfork 38:33

You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at five dollars a month. Your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and come back next week, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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Discount code SEWBLACKQC for 20% off at Spoonflower and 10% off at Crimson Tate.