Article originally published in The Guardsman Newspaper
Story and photographs by Ekevara Kitpowsong
The long, bright, sheer, red scarf with 26 hearts covered Stephanie Chassin’s shoulder and back that waved in the air when the wind blew. Chassin sewed each heart onto her own scarf, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Project SURVIVE hosted the installation of the “The Monument Quilt” at City College football field on May 6, co-sponsored with City College Physical Education and Dance Department, Women’s Studies Department, and Student Health Services.
“Each heart on the back resemble one of my friends who is a survivor,“ City College student Chassin said as she stood on the City College football field.
In front of Chassin was a display of a massive red quilt titled “NOT ALONE.”
“I am a survivor so I think it is very important for people to know that it can happen to anyone. Domestic violence, sexual violence, there are ways to fight back if we try,” Chassin said.
The 5,000-seat George M. Rush stadium’s green field transformed to red on Saturday morning. It was not a game day but it was a day of “The Monument Quilt.”
The giant quilt installation took almost four hours with the help of about 50 volunteers comprised of City College students, faculty, Project SURVIVE peer educators, athletes and the public.
The volunteers worked hard against the wind which lifted up some square fabrics even though on each corner of fabric was tied with 1.25 lbs. round iron disc weight plate.
The green field was covered with the giant quilt to transform a new culture where survivors are being publicly supported, not shamed or punished.
“The Monument Quilt,” is a large collection of over 2,000 stories from survivors of rape and abuse. It is a project created by FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a Baltimore-based creative activist collaboration to create public healing space for survivors and promote a culture of consent.
“Because being survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence can be isolated experience, the message that we are not alone is something that many of us find comfort in,” a co-founder of FORCE Hannah Brancato said, “It is both comforting and same time it is sort of devastating when you really reckon with the number of people who are survivors who had experienced sexual assault.’’
FORCE reached out to Leslie Simon of Project SURVIVE, a peer education sexual violence prevention program at City College about “The Monument Quilt.”
“The message is we should have a public space for healing, and sexual assault and other forms of abuse is nothing to be ashamed of,” Simon said.
“The quilt has been displayed in more than 30 cities and town across the U.S.,” Brancato said.
“San Francisco is the last stop of the South West Tour,” she added.
“If we lay out every quilt squares that we have, it would fill more than this football field here. So it is more than 300 square feet,” Brancato said.
“These quilts, they all packed into a 16-foot box truck,” one of “The Monument Quilt” drivers Stephanie Cassidy said. “It has been quite a journey. It is something that we care for and it has been very impactful.”
None of the squares looks the same; each one has its own unique experience with the use of symbols, words, and colors. Stories of the survivors and supportive messages were written in ink or paint, sewed, stitched and painted onto the red fabric 4ft. x 4ft. square.
City College instructor Shella Cervantes and her 15 students from the Ending Sexual Violence: Peer Education class spent an hour working together in a class to create a square using white canvas with words written in red, “It only has to be 75% red, and you can make its red in many different ways, you can use paint, my class used paint, markers, felt and glued them on, basically they created a piece that is talking about what we need to end sexual violence so they added words: accountability, education, respect, communication and then we put it on a quilt piece.”
Alexis Ortiz, a City College Women’s Studies student said, “We all wrote something down, what is that we need to eliminate the sexual violence, I put down Acceptance.”
Simon said the football field was chosen for the quilt because it’s a symbol of allies between teammates and compared that sense of intimacy that survivors of sexual assault can be allies as well.
Among the volunteers were City College Rams football players Sean Duffy, Zach Masoli, Oliver Svirsky and Davin Lemon-Rodriguez were helping set up the quilt.
“I think it is a great powerful message to everybody,” Svirsky said. “Having this message on the big field of City College is a powerful message to everybody saying that we stand up for the women.”
Lemon-Rodriguez said that events like these help bring awareness of sexual assault to the community. “A lot of tragic things happened to people’s lives so we should all come together as a community,” he said.
The quilt has been displayed in seven different locations during the tour and it will be transported back to Baltimore in a truck.
The quilt has traveled more than 8,500 miles across the country.
Cassidy’s driving job is very important and more responsibility “because It’s not just fabric. It’s not just a thread. It is people’s lives. It is people’s stories and stitches in each of these is the essence of that,” she said.