I wanted to repost this article on an interesting and worthwhile pursuit–a worker-owned social enterprise inspired by weaving, piece sewing, and quilting traditions originating in the rich cultures of West Africa and rural African American communities in the U.S. south. Enjoy reading about Southern Journeys Collective in this interview with Lara Jealous, a textile designer.
What inspired you to get involved with this project?
There is so much that inspired me and made me want to be part of this project!
I have a passion for crafts. As a textile designer, I work with large companies, developing textiles and products all over the world. I was thrilled to be asked to support the Southern Journeys Collective – a sustainable social enterprise that celebrates American textile traditions and empowers women artisans.
I first met the members of the Southern Journeys Collective during a trip to rural Georgia nearly two years ago. We met in their communal sewing room and I was immediately inspired by their dedication to their craft, the historical references they draw from, and their deep desire to share their sewing and quilting traditions with the next generation.
In addition, I come from a long line of women who sewed, quilted, crocheted, and embroidered. Sometimes all this making was due to necessity and sometimes it was because it was a way to express their creativity and love. Their creations are family heirlooms and treasures that link me to them and our family history. When I talked and worked with the women in Southern Journeys, it was like sitting with someone from my family. Because of this, my connection to the project is very personal. The more time I spent with the women who are part of Southern Journeys, the more touched I was by their sense of community, friendship, and mutual support.
Did any of the women have stories of their lives that particularly stood out?
The story of each woman is unique. I find their perseverance and dedication, despite extreme challenges and obstacles, both admirable and humbling.
Southern Journeys Collective grew out of the work of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative. SRBWI facilitates rural women’s access to resources and community-centered economic development. It empowers black women in 77 counties spanning some of the poorest and most remote communities throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. A purchase of a Southern Journeys product provides fair wage income to women with very limited earning opportunities. In addition, Southern Journeys makes the textile traditions and its members’ stories seen, enjoyed, and heard. This, in itself, makes a difference.
Their products are handmade from recycled natural fabrics including denim, cotton, and silk as well as reused burlap coffee sacks, and hand-dyed cotton. The hand-dyed fabrics are sourced from a women’s collective in Acessa, Ghana which in turn provides income and educational opportunity to local African women.