The 70273 Project
Occasionally, I feel an instant connection with a new person I meet whether on line or face to face. And so it was with Jeanne, an Internet friend. At first, we met through words because I appreciate the way she strings them together. Then I saw her art and another bell rang. Further endearment was added as I learned about Nancy, her husband’s sister who is developmentally challenged, and the quilts Jeanne is making from Nancy’s drawings.
Jeanne has the southerner’s charm of story-telling but also a laser focus on fairness and I gather wears a white hat on most days righting both small and large injustices with clarity, wit and a modicum of patience. So it is really not a surprise that the project you will read about today tackled her head on and she answered the call. It is with profound respect that I introduce Jeanne Hewell-Chambers.
And now the page is hers.
Ideas? I collect them like charms that jingle on my wrist . . . often retreating to my computer to let some fictional woman breathe them into existence. But at the end of January 2016, an idea happened along, whispered in my ear, and refused to be handed off to some digital woman created in my imagination . . .
Between January 1940 and August 1941 through a program called Aktion T4, German Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people. Assessing physicians never met the person they were evaluating, basing their decisions solely on a form created by the T4 leadership. Once two physicians placed a red X on the bottom of the form, the person was murdered.
The very minute I heard this, I knew what to do: gather 70,273 quilt blocks from around the world to commemorate each and every person murdered because they weren’t deemed perfect. Two weeks after the idea came to call, on Valentine’s Day . . . Love Day . . . my birthday, I launched The 70273 Project. Guidelines are few and simple:
- blocks must be one of three sizes
- a white base to represent the paper of the medical records
- two red X’s on the white base to represent the death sentence
- a signed Provenance Form from each Maker giving me permission to use the blocks.
Blocks began coming in right away, each as unique and individual as the person they represent. Some are machine stitched:
Some are hand stitched:
Some entire families make blocks:
Some friends make blocks when they spend a weekend together:
Many blocks come with stories of relatives, friends, students, loved ones who would most likely have received two red X’s had they lived in a different time:
Corinne Micropoulos used fabric from her grandmother, cloth she’d been saving for a special purpose:
Everyone can participate in The 70273 Project – even if you’ve never held a needle and thread. This is a project where we check perfection at the door and allow ourselves the freedom to just create without judgment. Through The 70273 Project, we commemorate people who were perfectly imperfect. To try to make The Perfect Block would be more of a travesty than a tribute.
The finished quilts will be completed in all different sizes – something to fit any and every venue who will have them on exhibit. The purpose of The 70273 Project is threefold: commemorate those 70,273 people who were so casually and callously murdered; celebrate and raise awareness of those with special needs who live among us today; and educate all who will listen so that an atrocity like this never happens again.
Though it is a soft deadline because we will not stop until each person is commemorated, the goal is to have all 70,273 blocks in hand by the end of October 2017. Why? The German Nazis spent 20 months murdering these people, so we’ll spend 20 months commemorating them because it shouldn’t take longer to love than it takes to hate.
Won’t you join us? If you’d like to make blocks, a financial donation, or both, visit www.JeanneHewellChambers.com.
Links of interest: