By Bill Parry
The field behind the Queens Museum was turned into a sea of red cloth last week as stories from survivors of sexual and domestic violence were stitched together on 200 quilt squares.
Larger than two basketball courts put together, the Monument Quilt was on display as part of a national project to create a public healing space for survivors of rape and abuse.
“These survivors suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome just like our veterans of war,” artist and activist Rebecca Nagle said at the Aug. 20 event. “There are memorials and programs that help soldiers reconnect and recover, but there is none of that for rape and abuse victims, so we are providing that public space where survivors can be supported and uplifted.”
Nagle and fellow artist Hanna Brancato are the co-directors of Force: Upsetting Rape Culture, an advocacy and arts group that travels the country with Shameek Dream, a healer in residence. The Baltimore-based trio made Flushing Meadow Corona Park their 10th stop in their current two-week tour through the south and northeast.
Queens residents mingled with the curious, who were taking in qualifying matches at the US Open at the adjacent USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The Queens Museum brought the project to the borough after hosting workshops for Latina women in the neighborhood, organized by Immigrant Movement International and Violence Intervention Program Inc.
“We have workshops in each city where survivors express their stories on quilt panels that will be joined with others,” Nagle said.
Over the next two years, more panels will be added to the Monument Quilt so it will cover 1 mile of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with thousands of squares that will spell out “NOT ALONE.”
“The quilt is a platform to not only tell our stories, but work together to forever change how the U.S. responds to rape,” Nagle said. “We are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported rather then publicly shamed.”
Both Nagle and Brancato are survivors.
“I am not broken by my experience,” Nagle said. “But I do realize that what is broken is the country that I live in.”
The Monument Quilt is modeled after similar projects that swept the country during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. More information is available at monumentquilt.org.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.