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Quilt Honoring People Killed By Chicago Police Is 40 Feet Long, And Growing

By David Matthews | October 17, 2016 5:16pm
 A 40-foot-long quilt now on display at Roosevelt University shows the names of 144 people killed by Chicago police since 2006.
A 40-foot-long quilt now on display at Roosevelt University shows the names of 144 people killed by Chicago police since 2006.
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Mansfield Institute at Roosevelt University

THE LOOP — A new quilt honoring those killed by Chicago Police is 40 feet long, and still growing.

Devised by local artist Rachel Wallis and We Charge Genocide, the quilt on display now at Roosevelt University shares the names of 144 people killed by police since 2006.  

Wallis, 35, of Albany Park got the idea last year in the wake of several high-profile police killings. But she didn't realize how painstaking the project — called "Gone But Not Forgotten" — would be.

"For every Laquan McDonald or Rekia Boyd, there are 10 more heartbreaking stories," she said.  

The quilt itself is six panels with six-pointed Chicago stars honoring the police victims. Other squares showing "traditional" quilt designs like snowflakes or a flock of geese are thrown in to allude to the victims' families who lost a loved one, Wallis said.

"I wanted it to look like a traditional quilt," she said. "That's an important part of the exhibit."

The quilt is on display through Oct. 27 at the university's 10th-floor Murray-Green Library, 430 S. Michigan Ave. The artists and relatives of police shooting victims Dakota Bright, Darius Pinex, Boyd and Ronald Johnson will speak from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. 

Those who put the quilt together said the project helped humanize victims otherwise only known through headlines. 

"It was extremely impactful to be in that space and connect to an individual as I was stitching that name and learning more about bringing these folks to life," Nancy Michaels of Roosevelt's Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation said. 

The project arrives as the Chicago Police Department works to repair its image following many videotaped police shootings. Police are seeking input on new use-of-force guidelines expected to roll out next year.  

Wallis and more than 200 others worked for months to put the quilt together. But Wallis has since discovered more victims, and will add a seventh panel. The installation also includes a video of interviews with the relatives of people killed by Chicago police. 

"There is so much more to these stories, they just weren't being heard until Black Lives Matter moved into the spotlight," Wallis said.

Wallis said the project was supported in part by a $5,000 grant from the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Spokespeople for DCASE did not immediately return a message.

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