BALTIMORE — The hum of sewing machines fills the studio at the Motor House in North Baltimore as the massive Monument Quilt is sewn together piece by piece.
The quilt is a project five years in the making, said Kalima Young, a member of the Monument Quilt leadership team.
“We’ve been collecting quilt squares from around the country, even at the border with Mexico, of survivors of sexual violence or folks who are allies of those who have been assaulted in some way, shape or form,” she said.
The Monument Quilt was started by the Baltimore-based group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. Young said the mission of the group is to change the conversation about rape and sexual violence, using projects like the Monument Quilt.
“The idea is if you can collect as many stories of survivors as possible, it elevates the conversation and brings attention to those stories that are marginalized or often kept out of our larger narrative of sexual violence, gender-based violence and sexual assault,” Young said.
Each quilt square represents a survivor’s story and more than 3,000 squares have been collected over the last five years. All of the squares will go on display at the National Mall in Washington D.C. for three days beginning on May 31. When laid out, the squares could fill the length of four football fields. They will spell out “Not Alone” in English and Spanish.
“It’s extremely powerful because when you see them all laid out, you realize the diversity of stories,” said Young.
“Often these things are made to seem so private and they’re made to seem so individual and people don’t tell their story and people don’t speak out because of all that goes along with that.”
Over the last five years, pieces of the Monument Quilt have traveled around the country to different cities and campuses. This will be the only time all of the squares will be laid out at once and will mark the quilt’s 50th display since it started.
Young said the three-day event will be a mix of grieving and celebration and she hopes it continues the conversation about rape and sexual violence.
“I would hope that people would feel more inclined to engage and address issues of gender-based violence and sexual violence,” she said.
The Monument Quilt will be on display from May 31-June 2 at the National Mall, between 12th and 14th Streets. There will be guest speakers, music and performances. For more information on the quilt and the event, click here.