Quilts of George Floyd’s last words on display in Northwood and Deerfield

  • This quilt, featuring George Floyd’s last words, will be one of 10 on display in Northwood and Deerfield later this month. Courtesy of Sacred Ally Quilt Project

Monitor staff
Published: 8/4/2022 5:09:23 PM

A textile exhibition that uses needle and thread to weave a message of racial justice is coming to Northwood and Deerfield this month, after touring the East Coast for almost a year.

The Sacred Ally Quilt Project was started by the United Church of Jaffrey, who partnered with eight other New Hampshire United Church of Christ congregations to create 10 quilts, many of which feature the words “I can’t breathe,” the phrase repeated by George Floyd before he was killed by Minneapolis police. Floyd’s murder in May 2020 prompted a racial justice movement against police brutality, racism, and lack of police accountability.

“Immortalizing these tragic words centers this expression of allyship on the words of a Black man,” said Rev. Mark Koyama, pastor of the United Church of Jaffrey. “The white man who killed Mr. Floyd did not listen to these words, but we do. We listen attentively. In response, we create. In response, we remember. In response, we are changed.”

The quilts have been displayed in a wide variety of locations, including New York City’s Positive Exposure 109 Gallery and Riverside Church, New Hampshire’s World Fellowship Center and Vermont Academy. Now, they’re coming to Northwood Congregational Church from Aug. 7 to 14 and to Deerfield Community Church from Aug. 21 to 28.

Rev. Reneé Rouse, pastor of the Northwood Congregational Church, said Thursday that holding the art exhibition will help bring awareness and dialogue to the community.

“For over 400 years, breath has been taken from people of color in our country, and so it’s part of America’s history that you will see in art form,” Rouse said. “The quilt brings a challenge to all of us when we see, in art form, the last words of a man, the last breaths being taken.”

The Jaffrey congregation spearheaded the idea of a collaborative project in the aftermath of Floyd’s death that would reflect eight stages, from discomfort and pain to death. The ninth and tenth quilts are titled “Beginning” and “Ending.”

At the end of the exhibition on Aug. 28, the Northwood and Deerfield churches will collaborate to host a screening of the documentary Stitch Breathe Speak: The George Floyd Quilts, which tells the story of the creation of the quilts, at 6 p.m. at Deerfield Congregational Church.

“We encourage people to come and be comforted or challenged,” Rouse said, “And be awakened to the reality that art has a place in bringing us common ground in the area of racial justice.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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