[00:00:00] Lisa Woolfork: Hello, stitchers. Welcome to stitch, please. The official podcast of black women's stitch, the sewing group where black lives matter. I'm your host Lisa woo fork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.
[00:00:55] Lisa Woolfork: Hello everyone. And welcome to the stitch place podcast. I'm your host Lisa [00:01:00] Wolf fork. Joining you from Charlottesville, Virginia. Last week. You might remember. It had the privilege and the delight of having Rashida Coleman Haile on the program. She was the first person that we talked to here in March for national quilting month.
[00:01:15] Lisa Woolfork: And we had such a good time. Have you ever talked with a friend and you're talking, and as you get to the end of the conversation, you say something or she says something and then a whole switch gets flipped and here's a whole nother conversation. Rash. She did. I were talking and we were having a really great time and the episode was wrapping up and I just happened to mention, Hey, I wanted to ask you about your experience specifically as a black woman in this industry.
[00:01:42] Lisa Woolfork: And we just started talking. All over again. So here is a very special and enjoyable bonus episode. Part two of my conversation with Rashida Coleman Hale. Last week, we talked about her growth in the industry, what it meant to discover [00:02:00] the power of her own voice and the way her deep commitment to her art meant that she wasn't going to compromise.
[00:02:07] Lisa Woolfork: Things that she did not want. We also learned that Rashida is one of the most productive people I have managed to meet because she had a baby. And while she was having a baby, she wrote a book and she launched a pattern line and just amazing. So we had a really great time with that chat. So please do go back and listen to it.
[00:02:25] Lisa Woolfork: If you did not get a chance to catch Rashida Coleman Hale and I having a great conversation. Now today, we are gonna transition to talk more about her experience specifically as a black woman in the professional quilting industry, and some of the challenges that come along with that. So stay tuned and enjoy this bonus episode with Rashida Coleman Hale.
[00:02:48] Lisa Woolfork: Thanks.[00:03:00]
[00:03:01] Lisa Woolfork: I've heard stories from, um, folks that I follow on Instagram. One that was the most striking to me was someone mentioned this a few years ago. She was at some sewing event, had on a badge or whatever. I think she was working for a sewing machine company or doing demos. And people came up to her and asked her for her ID.
[00:03:19] Lisa Woolfork: They wanted to make sure that she was supposed to be there and it could have been because she was young, she says, but it was likely because she was brown mm-hmm and she was like, what kind of board person has to sneak into sewing expo? Like who's gonna sneak in. Right. So the idea of the gatekeeping, we get a lot of gatekeeping.
[00:03:41] Lisa Woolfork: It sounds like what you were describing about some fabric companies being very resistant to your fabric is about gatekeeping. It's about who's fabric is acceptable and what they want to see is what should be seen and the things that they don't see. don't matter. [00:04:00] Very strong sense of myopia happens in the way that the industry thinks about its representation, the way that it thinks about who matters and even way they think about their consumer.
[00:04:12] Lisa Woolfork: It's so shortsighted because they can't continue to think that the only people worth marketing to are upper middle class, middle class, white woman. over a certain age. Yeah. I think that's what they're pitching to. Yes. It's as the like, but that, but where's the future in that it seems so narrow. Even from a greedy capitalist business stance.
[00:04:39] Lisa Woolfork: What did you wanna get money from everybody , you know, and so I would love to hear more about your experience. I talked with some other folks who have been to quilt mark and other black women who end up being confused. This happens to me like at work, like some people call me my colleagues names and I'm like, we, we look nothing.
[00:04:57] Lisa Woolfork: Like, why would you think that? So tell me [00:05:00] about some of your experiences of just being confused for other folks. You had an experience at quit market one year that was. What's I've had several
[00:05:08] Rashida Coleman Hale: experiences at quilt market. Um, one, yeah, I was, I went in to go set up my booth and this woman stopped me and she was looking for a book I was like, what you really, why do you think I would know where she's, because you're part of that network.
[00:05:24] Lisa Woolfork: We're part of Nero. It's like, it's like a nervous system. We're all connected to each other. Yes. I was like, I'm
[00:05:31] Rashida Coleman Hale: sorry. I, I, what,
[00:05:35] Lisa Woolfork: a black person. She must know all the blacks. Yes. I know all
[00:05:38] Rashida Coleman Hale: the blacks, but then another show I had been in my booth all morning, but I had three people come up to me and say, I really enjoyed your talk this morning.
[00:05:49] Lisa Woolfork: Now you were your booth all morning, so you all morning. OK. So just to be clear, you don't have a. I don't have a twin. Don't have a twin. You mentioned several times that you were an only [00:06:00] child, so don't have a, and you don't have a secret twin who just like you, who, who designs? Fabric?
[00:06:07] Rashida Coleman Hale: I just wanna make sure there's nobody in market who looks like me. just checking.
[00:06:13] Rashida Coleman Hale: So three of them, one woman had her daughter with her and the daughter even was like, um, she elbowed her. She was like, that's not that's. He's like, that's what she had called me. anyhow, they, those people thought that I was Ebony love who had just done a talk that morning. I had had it because I had already had some other incidents on that trip that just was like, what am I even in this industry?
[00:06:42] Rashida Coleman Hale: What am I doing here? I was just, I was feeling very done. So I told the girls, I was like, I'm gonna go take a walk. I'm gonna walk the floor. Cause I need to get outta this booth. I went and walked and I know what it was [00:07:00] in the, in the cosmos that made this happen. As I'm walking up the aisle. Suddenly I see Ebony coming and then I see Lafa and I see some other people coming and there's literally like maybe a handful of that.
[00:07:17] Rashida Coleman Hale: See each at the shows and we all just to in the, of the, in this one aisle and we were like, what?
[00:07:28] Lisa Woolfork: It's all my twins,
[00:07:33] Lisa Woolfork: the swap stories and say, Hey, I'm Rashida, but apparently IM also Ebony. And I'm also have your experiences, big foot market this year. Did they have similar stories?
[00:07:45] Rashida Coleman Hale: They had similar stories and like, we always tease each other.
[00:07:48] Lisa Woolfork: You and you were like five, 10.
[00:07:51] Rashida Coleman Hale: Five 10 in .
[00:07:53] Lisa Woolfork: So it's not 5, 10, 10
[00:07:56] Rashida Coleman Hale: But yeah, we, we took a picture together and posted it to [00:08:00] social media and we were all cracking up. Like we should. Be like, here's our names,
[00:08:06] Lisa Woolfork: the cap. The caption should read, not the same person,
[00:08:09] Rashida Coleman Hale: same person, but it's funny you laugh about it now, but in reality, every time it happens, it hurts my heart every time because I am an individual and.
[00:08:24] Rashida Coleman Hale: Worked very hard to develop my style and, and, and be who I am.
[00:08:32] Lisa Woolfork: mm-hmm , you know, it hurt and it, and it just reveals that this industry is so white mm-hmm and it's almost aggressively white. Yeah. That when there are black people there. it's hard. It's like, people want to say here's a, here's a spaces that you can have, and we'll have reservations for four people and it'll be these four or these three, which is problematic enough.
[00:08:58] Lisa Woolfork: That's problematic just to have the [00:09:00] numbers be so low, but additionally problematic is that is the lack of care. Yeah. In saying, in feeling like they would invest. To even be able to tell one person from another. And so it, I can definitely see how it, it could feel like tokenizing mm-hmm um, when, what, it actually is one of the deep, one of the many deep flaws in a white supremacist society.
[00:09:24] Lisa Woolfork: And, and I, I say white supremacist, but some could call it white privilege or predominantly white or whatever, but it doesn't have to be this way. That's the, I don't see who benefits from this. Like where is the benefit? How is the industry. Growing becoming better, becoming more nimble. How is this key to any industry's success, especially in this day and age when there's no reason for it, it's just not like the three of you all should not be integrating quilt market.
[00:09:56] Lisa Woolfork: Like it's like 1962 in little [00:10:00] rock Arkansas or 54. This idea that you could be a pioneer at something mm-hmm at this late stage of the 20th century is. Just shocking. Yeah. And it it's, it, it, it feels deliberate to me. It feels deliberate. Mm-hmm that clearly they made choices to privilege some forms of art to legitimate, some forms of fabric while de legitimating or ignoring others.
[00:10:26] Lisa Woolfork: Yeah.
[00:10:27] Rashida Coleman Hale: I feel after everything that happened over this past summer, I started getting emails and instant messages and texts. You know, everyone reaching out and, and that felt nice, but it was like, really? Why does it have to take such a powerful tragic event to suddenly. Be recognized
[00:10:51] Rashida Coleman Hale: or to wake people up.
[00:10:53] Lisa Woolfork: Yeah. Because it's not even to wake people up it's to wake up white people. Yeah. Because people are already aware of all aware of [00:11:00] these things. We did not need a traumatic incident and, and a catastrophic set of violent abuses as what we, as what occurred in 2020 in order to know. That this country has a very deep problem.
[00:11:14] Lisa Woolfork: Very deep it's pervasive through every aspect of society. Mm-hmm and, and then the same people who want to keep politics outta quilting. Mm-hmm oh, don't talk about, don't bring politics to quilting. It's not politics. It's not politics, but like how and how do they explain then the idea of having three or four black women at quilt market?
[00:11:37] Lisa Woolfork: it's such an aberration. Mm-hmm not only can you count them all on one hand, you only need one name to use for all of them, right? you know, that is a structural issue that is structural to how the boost gets set up, how they get disseminated, how they get divided. If the industry wanted to make a difference or change, they could do all sorts of things to [00:12:00] increase black representation at that end, if they chose.
[00:12:05] Lisa Woolfork: They simply don't choose to do. And me that feels very much like politics. Yeah. Like black people's lives are not a political issue. This is a human rights issue having an all white quilt market. And it's called even the international quilt market international. Yeah. But it's filled with, what's like a 97% white event.
[00:12:23] Lisa Woolfork: How is that international? Like, how's that representing even. America. So yeah, I do. I am sorry that you had to go through that or it sounds so frustrating. And I have such sympathy for that as well as empathy. Yeah. Because this is something that. It's too prevalent in the lives of black women, for sure.
[00:12:46] Lisa Woolfork: It really isn't.
[00:12:46] Rashida Coleman Hale: It, it feels like, yeah, I think that for myself, I've just, I haven't wanted to go to that show.
[00:12:57] Rashida Coleman Hale: yeah. It's hard to wanna go. Cause it's a lot of energy to, to go to [00:13:00] market. Like I, I hear people talking about it because I used to have folks that would go to the Houston for the show. Mm-hmm so when you say quilt market, do you mean the Houston international?
[00:13:11] Lisa Woolfork: Yes. So that also has the market attached right
[00:13:15] Rashida Coleman Hale: market first. And then the, the show is after, but, um,
[00:13:19] Lisa Woolfork: why is quilt market important? I think that's useful to explain to people why quilt market is so important. Quilt market
[00:13:25] Rashida Coleman Hale: is where all of the fabrics companies and any, anything sewing, any sewing related company, basically books, notions, all those things.
[00:13:36] Rashida Coleman Hale: They go there to sell their wares, to shop owners. So shoppers come from all over the country and buy their stuff for the following season. So it is very important as a fabric designer or a pattern maker or a sewing book author to attend that show. It's basically your bread and butter.
[00:13:57] Rashida Coleman Hale: Okay. Okay. So this is [00:14:00] like the most important trade show for anyone who is in the quilting industry.
[00:14:05] Rashida Coleman Hale: So if you make tools, if you make patterns, if you sell classes, if you have fabric, you want to be there. So you wanna be there. So you can be seen and recognized and engaged with potential shop owners. Yeah. And then you meet potential shop owners or shop owners who might be potential clients who can't manage to tell you a part.
[00:14:27] Lisa Woolfork: From the other black woman who was speaking earlier in the day, I can definitely understand why it would be like, it feels demoralizing. That's why, when you say like how it hurts your heart, it feels like, look, I have my name on things. Yeah. I definitely have my name on actual badge on my body badge in of, on my, on thes of the fabrics that you see in this booth, in the
[00:14:48] Rashida Coleman Hale: booth behind me.
[00:14:49] Rashida Coleman Hale: Yeah. It's upsetting, especially because you put so much time and energy and just so much of you into it and. It it's [00:15:00] draining. not to say that I haven't had amazing experiences at that show. Oh, those those small they're not small. No, not small. Those few
[00:15:11] Rashida Coleman Hale: incidents are. you still remember them. Yeah. And so for example, that some people describe these things as microaggressions mm-hmm
[00:15:19] Lisa Woolfork: Um, but I have friends who say they don't, they won't use the term microaggressions. They just say it's aggression. Mm-hmm but microaggression are these little small moments. Of pain of, of aggression, of gas, lighting of things that are so subtle. And this woman has said, hi, Latifa and walked away and you are left with this.
[00:15:41] Lisa Woolfork: And she thinks she's just spoke to Latifa Sophia, and she's all happy. She'll be telling all her friends that she met Latifa, Sophia Quil market, right. Said hi to her and her booth . Um, and that wasn't even her and like these kind of things that can have a cumulative. They are, they can be very wearing very drain [00:16:00] that they have emotional weight that are that's heavy to carry.
[00:16:04] Lisa Woolfork: I think that so many of us have stories like this. I'm pretty sure Latifa and Ebony have very similar stories. And then that's so frustrating to me is that this is where you have to be in order to make your money. This is what you have to be to share the vision of your artwork with a corporate. and with so much of it being about vision and people not seeing you, mm-hmm, more misidentifying you, it makes that even worse.
[00:16:31] Lisa Woolfork: So like I know. And so I, I hear your reluctance to return, but it feels like this kind of racism makes something that's mandatory optional mm-hmm yeah, it cuts. So much of your ability to communicate your work more broadly. So it's just, Ugh.
[00:16:48] Rashida Coleman Hale: Yeah. Yeah. It is very difficult. And I've thought about it a lot.
[00:16:52] Rashida Coleman Hale: I mean, I've even, I've had discussions with my husband. Like, I don't even know if I wanna keep doing this just because it just, [00:17:00] yeah. I can't even know how to describe the feeling. Lisa it's just, but I, is it going to be better into some other industry
[00:17:09] Rashida Coleman Hale: you've already hit on the so. in the creation of Ruby star society, you have found a way to build and to create with people that you like, people that firm you, people that understand what you are about building our own institutions.
[00:17:26] Rashida Coleman Hale: Mm-hmm, building our own communities, finding ways to do our work in ways that affirm us and not drain us. That's what we need. Right. And our
[00:17:36] Rashida Coleman Hale: own story.
[00:17:36] Lisa Woolfork: Yeah. Make our own story, build our own things. And that's what the stitch police podcast is. That's what black women stitch is. It was me finally making a break and it took something big to make that happen.
[00:17:49] Lisa Woolfork: It took something traumatic for me. That was the thing for me. Is that in building this group and building this platform was that I refused to trade in who I [00:18:00] was mm-hmm in exchange for doing something that I. I would no longer sit and listen to the microaggressions. I would no longer hold my tongue. Or sometimes I would just write text messages to my friends and say, they just said this , you know, I, and I did it for years and now I am so happy.
[00:18:22] Lisa Woolfork: I'm so much happier. Um, that I, I thought if I, I didn't want to build my own thing. Cause I thought it would be too hard. Mm-hmm I thought it would be too hard. Make your own thing. I thought it'd be like, I'm like, oh my gosh, I can't do this. It's too much. I can't host my own events. It's too much. I can't have a group it's too much.
[00:18:39] Lisa Woolfork: And then it really struck me. The thing that really got me to do it like to hold my first event was I was like, Lisa, you've been going to these quote retreats with these white women for decades. And this one person, not all of them were this way, but this one person was pretty terrible. And it was like, Lisa, seriously, if that raggedy bitch[00:19:00]
[00:19:00] Lisa Woolfork: can do it and you can do it super well, which of. Turned out to be true. There you go. And so, and this is what you were doing too. I think that Ruby star society seems to be the space for you. And I just really, I really, and it really burns me that the international quilt market is this way for black women who decide to attend because in many ways it's not an optional event.
[00:19:23] Lisa Woolfork: Yeah, it's true. And then, yeah, I, I just, yeah, that sucks. That so sucks. And I just think this is what I. You should do. I think you should go back and you should bring more black people that will. I volunteer. I will come and we can make what's make it like a big DJ party. you got music bumping we'll have cocktails.
[00:19:51] Lisa Woolfork: We'll make it a black ass. Good time. I, I specialize in black ass. Good times. That's what I do. I have a black ass, good time. There [00:20:00] love a black ass, good time. And I think that we should do it that. And having a nice purple carpet on the ground. Like I, I already have a vision. I have a vision. I just need you to join me.
[00:20:11] Lisa Woolfork: Just come with me. I don't even, I don't know how cold market works. I've never been there. I know it's in Houston. I know people love it. I know people spend a ton of money. Other than that, I talked to Bianca Springer from thanks. I made them, she's gone a couple times and supported. So I've learned a little bit, but like I have friends in Houston.
[00:20:29] Lisa Woolfork: I will totally come and go and check it out
[00:20:32] Rashida Coleman Hale: one season whenever they,
[00:20:34] Rashida Coleman Hale: whenever they start up and can, when I know when outside opens mm-hmm outside opens.
[00:20:40] Lisa Woolfork: Yeah. thank you so much for listening to the stitch please podcast. I do hope that you enjoyed this fantastic. Episode with Rashida Coleman hae as much as I did, I was really glad that we decided to continue our conversation so we could get to [00:21:00] this particular issue that I do believe is important.
[00:21:02] Lisa Woolfork: And you cannot dismantle a problem unless you identify what it is. And I think continuing to talk about this and identify it is a good first step. Next week, our foray into national quilt month continues with a fun and detailed discussion of fue applique. Now for the fusible applique project, I am using the social justice sewing academy, 2020 block of the month club block.
[00:21:31] Lisa Woolfork: This is a block from February called crown. And it was created by a quilter who was mentioned in this recent episode, Latifa, ER, so tune in next week to learn more about feasible applic K and how fun it is and how it's a really great project to introduce someone to the world of quilting. See you next week.