FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a Baltimore-based arts and activist group, hosted an event called Grown in Baltimore at Whitelock Community Farm in Reservoir Hill on Saturday. The event featured performances from local musicians Uni Q. Mical, DZL MC and DJ Laila Snacks and celebrated the thousands of individuals who have contributed their resources and creativity to the Monument Quilt.
From May 31 to June 2, the Quilt will be displayed in its entirety for the first and only time in Washington, D.C. near the National Mall, culminating the project that FORCE has been working on for the past five years.
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Professors Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle, the co-founders and co-directors of FORCE, launched the Monument Quilt in 2013 to promote solidarity for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. The Quilt features survivors’ stories, written and stitched onto nearly 3,000 squares of red fabric. By partnering with over 100 organizations nationwide, FORCE has exhibited the Quilt 49 times in 33 different cities.
Uni Q. Mical, a member of the musical duo blkottonkandy, appreciated the work that FORCE has been doing both nationally and internationally to create a platform for survivors to share their stories. In an email to The News-Letter, she applauded the Quilt for creating a space where victims and survivors could feel safe.
“The work they’re doing in the U.S. and internationally is truly necessary and timely, in regards to shifting from a patriarchal place of blaming victim-survivors for the assault, into a space of holding not just the attackers accountable, but also the culture that allows the attackers to exist,” she wrote. “I’m thankful to them for providing me the platform to share my own story as a survivor of child molestation as well.”
DZL MC, who performed alongside Mical as a part of blkottonkandy, also commended the Quilt for empowering survivors in an email to The News-Letter.
In light of the #MeToo movement and the increase in conversations surrounding sexual violence, she asserted that this was a unique moment in history, when survivors could support each other and know that they are not alone.
“I find the Quilt to be an incredible platform for victims/survivors to share their stories and inspire others through their triumphs of healing,” she wrote.
Baltimore resident Shawna Cheatham, who attended the event, plans to create a square to recount her own experiences anonymously. By attending the event, she hoped to stand in solidarity with other victims or survivors of sexual violence.
“The Quilt will allow me to express the things that I experienced and tell my story to encourage other survivors too, without exposing myself right now,” she said. “I’m just not ready to tell my entire story, but this will be my coping mechanism, a way of release and healing from my own trauma.”
She emphasized the need to continue to foster ongoing discussions about sexual violence and prevent society from treating it as taboo.
“People need to stop pushing it under the rug,” she said. “There need to be a conversations in households everywhere to prevent it from happening. The people responsible need to be held accountable, they need to be called out and they need to understand that we’re survivors. We’re victims, but we’re also survivors.”
Robin Im, one of several MICA students who helped coordinate the event, agreed with Cheatham’s sentiment and explained how the Quilt aims to make victims and survivors feel less isolated. Im added that the Quilt held personal significance for them, because they have friends who have experienced sexual assault.
They emphasized that seeing these stories visually represented through the Quilt was exceptionally powerful both for survivors and for allies.
“People put their hearts into these works to visually represent that they’re not alone,” they said. “You see it for yourself, and you come to the understanding ‘I’m in this position where I don’t have to be by myself, and I can seek comfort in a community.’”
Like Im, Sophia Dodson sought comfort in a sense of community when she and her partner moved to Reservoir Hill in November.
She believes that it is crucial to be present at events like this to show people who have experienced any kind of trauma that they can lean on their loved ones and their community for support instead of suffering alone.
“It’s essential that people can come out and feel like they have a community that cares about their experience and wants to make the world better so that they and others never have to go through it again — to help them heal and to support them in having an identity that includes being a survivor,” she said.
Whitelock Community Farm Program Manager Wykeem Franklin agreed, highlighting the importance of fostering community both through events like Grown in Baltimore and through the farm itself.
He described the farm as a space that grows both food and love, noting that events like this, which encourage mutual support help promote overall community wellness.
“We need to honor our people who sometimes their stories get overlooked or unheard,” he said. “We need to give those people a platform and make sure that they feel like they’re actually heard and that they have the support they need.”