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From Sewing Academy to Museums: The Youths Move to Social Justice

It’s relatively common for me to hear about how a politician is pushing for social justice, or how a professor is doing their best to fight for their student’s rights, I’ve even known many peers who’ve been out to protest and fight for change. One thing that’s particularly impressive about the times we’re living in right now, however, is the youth. The youth have stood up and shown up in a way that’s almost never been seen before. A prime example of this phenomenon is the Social Justice Sewing Academy.

The Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA), is a youth education program that was founded in 2017. Its prime objective? To combine artistic expression through textile expression with activism. The youth who partake in this program create the art they desire onto what they call a “block” which is just a specific fabric piece. Volunteers around the globe then embellish and embroider these pieces before they’re sewn together into a quilt to be displayed in museums and art exhibits around the world. This program is available to schools, prisons, and community centers alike across the country. Some of the creations tackle problems such as climate change, discrimination, mass incarceration, and bullying. Their program has an Instagram with over 16 thousand followers where they post some of the quilts and art they have created; if you scroll through you can see the myriad of problems and different artistic styles these kids have chosen to express.

One of the biggest wins this program has had is now displayed in The National Quilt Museum. It is the depiction of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American teen who was unjustly shot on his way home from the convenience store by George Zimmerman: a white man on the neighborhood watch team who thought Trayvon Martin “looked suspicious.”The creator of the piece, Sara Traill, comments on the significance of the quilt on the SJSA website, “this quilt commemorates the life of Trayvon Martin and serves to remind society that as the years pass, his life is not forgotten.”

Though SJSA is only one example of how the youth have started to make their voices heard, it is an important facet in conversion with youth empowerment and activism. It’s never too late or too early in your life to take part in the movement towards a better life and a fairer tomorrow.

Jay Telles

UC Riverside '22

Third-year English major with a love for social justice, fashion, and woman empowerment.
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