On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed at Pulse in Orlando on Latinx night and 53 others were injured by a man filled with hate. You probably don’t need to be reminded of the details. They’re probably etched in your mind and your heart alongside the all-too-many tragedies that came before and that have happened since. But it’s important to repeat the date, the names. Perhaps your heart is starting to feel like a graveyard. Perhaps America is starting to feel like a graveyard.
What can one do in the face of such loss? What happens after the world falls apart? How does one honor those who will never dance again and those who will never hold those dancers again? The Orlando Modern Quilt Guild responded to this tragedy by turning to what it knows, what it does, putting out a call to all quilters for #QuiltsforPulse. Their goal is a minimum of 102 quilts, one for the family of each victim and one for each survivor. They hope to exceed that goal so they can give quilts to the first responders. Groups, guilds, and individuals are spreading the word and getting to work. My sister received an email from Rebecca Saylor, team captain of her local SFEtsy group, asking members to contribute.
“Let’s wrap each other in handmade,” Saylor wrote at the bottom of that email.
My sister–who has made and donated quilts for shelters, for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, for fundraisers for fire victims and a person battling cancer, and for the homeless–immediately went to her supply closet, where she discovered she already had all the material she would need. OMQG chose a theme of rainbow hearts, and my sister quickly put together her plan for a quilt. Following guidelines provided by OMQG, and using a heart block pattern by Cluck Cluck Sew, my sister created heart blocks in each color of the rainbow and added a two-inch sashing strip in between each row and column of hearts.
She put her own special touch on the quilt with the last block, a heart that holds all the colors of the rainbow. This heart symbolizes the coming together of those within the LGBTQIA and Latinx community in the face of this tragedy, the coming together of allies around those communities, and the coming together of quilters to express love and support and to comfort those affected by the tragedy.
Quilts have always been a symbol of love, comfort, and unity. One of the most amazing quilts in history was started in the wake of the AIDS crisis, when individuals, families, and the LGBT community were wracked with heartbreak and loss. The AIDS Memorial Quilt, as its called, started by Cleve Jones in partnership with Mike Smith and the NAMES Project Foundation, was first displayed in 1987. People from all over the world have contributed to the quilt in one way or another, and the quilt is made of more than 48,000 panels that honor the memory of those lost. You can learn more about this amazing quilt at aidsquilt.org.
We can’t give the grieving families of those killed in Orlando their loved ones back, but making this quilt and spreading the word about this project is something my sister and I can do. And working for stricter gun laws, fighting legislation that puts LGBTQIA people at risk, demanding protection for marginalized groups, and spreading love instead of hate is something we can all do to craft a better world and tomorrow for all.
If you have quilting skills, please contribute to the #QuiltsforPulse by making blocks, tops, or entire quilts; blocks are due by August 15, quilts by September 15. Here are the details. If you don’t have quilting skills, help spread the word by mouth, via groups, and on blogs and social media using the hashtag #QuiltsforPulse.
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old; Amanda Alvear, 25 years old; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old; Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old; Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old; Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old; Cory James Connell, 21 years old; Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old; Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old; Frank Hernandez, 27 years old; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old; Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old; Kimberly Morris, 37 years old; Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old; Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old; Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old; Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old; Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old; Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old