Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

SF inmates learn quilting to address homophobia, other issues

Photo: San Francisco Sheriff's Department

Photo: San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

Two dozen men who are incarcerated in San Francisco’s County Jail #5 recently completed a six-week quilting class in which they learned how to use the craft to address homophobia, racism, and other social justice issues, according to¬†an article by Angela Wilson, a rehabilitation services coordinator with the sheriff’s department. The article appears in the department’s April-May newsletter.

During “The Art of Social Justice” course, which was taught by Five Keys Charter School instructor E. Christian, the men also watched “Common Threads,” a documentary about the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and other quilt-related films, the newsletter says. Five Keys is a program through which inmates may earn their high school diploma or GED.

“After loading the students’ minds with fresh concepts of social justice, they sketched their ideas onto paper and transferred their concepts onto cloth,” stated Christian. Squares included expressions of peace, love, and kindness.

The former prosecutor learned quilting from an aunt, “using quilting as an expression of social activism is a family tradition,” the article says. Christian passed the skill on to Sara trail, her niece, who founded the Social Justice Sewing Academy, according to the newsletter.

Sheriff’s Captain Kevin Paulson, who’s gay and serves as facility commander, stated, “This is true restorative justice. Men who are willing to be creative, to be vulnerable, in order to give voice to the changes they want to see in themselves and in their society.”

One challenge in putting on the quilting class in jail was developing a way to bring scissors and sewing needles into the facility, which is located in San Bruno, California.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, May 3, 2017 @ 2:13 pm PST
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