Freedom quilt seeks unity and diversity

By Carolina Bolado

Third-year in the College Justin Palmer decided to bring the Freedom Quilt Project to campus after hearing on the British Broadcasting Corporation about students’ efforts to make a freedom quilt at George Washington University (GWU). The quilt, which will include panels from different University groups, will be laid out along with those of other universities on September 11, 2002 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“The goal is to get all the other universities on the Mall to unveil at the same time. You’ll see what’s represented by all college campuses all over the country,” said Andrew Macnally, a second-year in the College who is helping Palmer organize the quilt.

The quilt will be 25 yards long with 320 red, white, and blue panels of one square yard each. University groups—including recognized student organizations (RSOs), departments, sports teams, fraternities and sororities, houses, and Laboratory School classes—will each decorate a panel for the quilt.

“Our goal is to incorporate the University of Chicago at all levels,” Macnally said. “We’re looking for a student group to represent what they’re about and show how that makes up the fabric of the nation.”

The Freedom Quilt Project, which according to Palmer will soon be an RSO, already has over 20 organizations that have agreed to contribute panels. JoAnn Fabrics agreed to honor the discounts that they gave to the GWU students, as well as cut the fabric to the correct size, so each organization will pay only $3 for a panel. Using the $300 received from the Student Government Finance Committee, the quilt organizers will buy craft supplies that the groups can use to decorate their panels.

Palmer and Macnally, along with third-years in the College Anne Szustek and Jason McCabe, have been e-mailing organizations on campus and meeting with administrators, who according to Macnally have been supportive of the idea. Recently, they began attending RSO meetings to encourage the organizations to contribute panels.

“What we’re finding is that once we’re getting personal contact with people, it’s been going well, and we’ve just begun to branch out into graduate schools,” Macnally said.

If they fail to get 320 groups to participate, they plan to halve the size of the quilt to 160 yards. “We’re realistic. This is an enormous task, but our full and earnest intention is to get every group,” Macnally said.

Palmer and Macnally are also looking at local sewing companies that would be willing to put the panels together into a large American flag at a reduced cost. They plan to sew parts together but to have walking paths between the stripes of the flag so that people can walk through and see the individual panels when it is unveiled in September.

“In its entirety, the Freedom Quilt Project will symbolize the diversity of our campus and our nation, but emphasize the unity that held us all together after September 11,” Palmer said.