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Social Justice Sewing Academy

UCR ARTS presents a selection of quilts made by some of the talented individuals that have participated in Social Justice Sewing Academy’s workshops. The issues they explore are more relevant than ever.

Founded in 2017, the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through a series of hands-on workshops in schools, prisons and community centers across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion and become agents of social change. Many of SJSA’s young artists make art that explores issues such as gender discrimination, mass incarceration, gun violence and gentrification. The powerful imagery they create in cloth tells their stories, and these quilt blocks are then sent to volunteers around the world to embellish and embroider before being sewn together into quilts to be displayed in museums, galleries and quilt shows across the country. This visual dialogue bridges differences in race, age and socioeconomics and sparks conversations and action in households across the country. More information can be found at

Click each image to hear the artist statement.

Exit Wound
Artist: Audrey Bernier

Click the hotspots to read the words in this quilt and listen to the artist statement below.

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” in 1963. This is a legal maxim meaning that if justice is not forthcoming in a timely manner, it is the same as no justice at all.
The number 13 refers to the 13th Amendment of the United States which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This means that slavery is still legal within the prison system.
“Kalief Browder sent to Rikers over a backpack” – Kalief Browder was a Black 16-year-old who was held at the Rikers Island prison without trial from 2010 to 2013 for allegedly stealing a backpack containing valuables. During his imprisonment, Browder was in solitary confinement for two years.
“16 yrs old 3 yrs in prison NEVER CONVICTED”
The embroidered marks on the quilt represent the number of days Kalief Browder was in prison and the number of times he attempted suicide. Browder ultimately took his own life in 2015, two years after his release.

Justice Denied
Artist: Kailah Foreman

Click the hotspots to decode the symbolism in this quilt and listen to the artist statement below.

Obama Quilts, 2018

These Obama mini quilts were made with students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Recently inspired from Obama’s speech in South Africa on the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth they wanted to create the artistic “vision of equality and justice and freedom and multiracial democracy.” These are blocks honoring a president they all really happen to miss.

Obama, the 44th President
Artist: Audrey Bernier
Embroidery Volunteer: Melinda Newton

Obama portrait (smiling)
Artist: Kailah Foreman
Embroidery Volunteer: Jesi Evans

Obama portrait (thinking)
Artist: Cecilia Charney
​Embroidery Volunteer: Kate Godfrey

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences