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Stitches from the Heart, Inc., a southeast Queens non-profit organization that teaches men, women and young people the benefits of quilting, held a tea party and fund-raising event in Cambria Heights Sunday.
The party featured the Sacred Heard Church childrens and adult choirs, a breaking of the bread for the end of Kwanzaa and an assortment of tea and pastries.
Louise Perez-Jones, who is on the board of directors at Stitches from the Heart, spoke about the historical significance of quilting to black Americans.
African-American quilting provides both intellectual and spiritual knowledge, Perez-Jones said. Our quilting is our history and it comes from our very hearts and souls.
Geraldine Hazel of Cambria Heights founded Stitches from the Heart in 1995 after quilting for several years and learning that American slaves used quilts to send messages along the underground railroad.
Hazel teachers her students how to make the symbols slaves used to communicate, including a monkey wrench and a wheel signifying that it was time to get moving and stars, representing the North Star, which encouraged slaves to keep traveling north toward freedom.
The form of a log cabin with a black outline signified a safe house along the underground railroad, Hazel explained, pointing to patterns on a quilt some of her students helped her make. In the time of slavery, people would hang their quilts outside to spread messages and the slave owners were none the wiser, she said.
Hazel started the quilting group at the Sacred Heart Church, where the fund-raiser was held Sunday.
Quilting helps with hand-eye coordination, but it also helps build self-esteem, Hazel said, adding that men and women were welcome to join the organization, which accepts people as young as 12.
When her students tell her they cannot do something, Hazel said she tells them that if their ancestors could overcome slavery, then they can certainly face whatever challenges them.
We are always going to be struggling, but we have to overcome it, Hazel said. Quilting has brought the community much closer.
Father Caleb Buchanan, who serves as associate pastor under head Pastor Michael Gribbon at Sacred Heart, agreed that quilting is a positive activity.
We need this in our community, Buchanan said of Stitches from the Heart and people who run the organization, because they help us keep sacred the memory of our ancestors.
Stitches from the Heart is funded by private donation, the state Council on the Arts and the Queens Council on the Arts.
For more information on Stitches From the Heart, call 525-1269 or e-mail SFTH100@aol.com.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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