“Heritage Quilt” shows history, fulfills a promise in Lafayette, Louisiana

The "Heritage Quilt" shines a light on a Black and Creole community in southwest Louisiana

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Black people have traditionally used quilts to tell their stories.

Harriett Powers, for example, born into slavery in 1837, created the much-lauded “Bible Quilt” that hangs in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.

The quilts of Gee’s Bend, an Alabama Black community whose tradition with quilts dates back to the 19th century, may be the most celebrated of them all.

In southwest Louisiana, one beautiful, colorful quilt does more than tell the story of the Black and Creole community there. It fulfills a promise, as explained by The Acadiana Advocate.

George Alfred (left) and Pearly Alfred stand next to the Heritage Quilt (Source: African American Heritage Foundation)

The African American Heritage Foundation’s “Heritage Quilt” contains 81 squares that highlight the people and places associated with Lafayette, Louisiana. Some squares are images of politics, music or education subjects, while others are photos of individuals.

The foundation is making a big effort to tell the story of the people in the pictures.

“Everyone may have known a piece of it, but together [the quilt] told a story of a treasured past,” Pearly Alfred told the Advocate. “It told of a community that used what they had, that valued what they had and that respected their community and each other.”

Alfred’s involvement with the project runs deep, being one of the women who helped create the quilt. But she’s also the one who promised that it would get finished.

Alfred’s sister-in-law, Je’Nelle Chargois, was a long-time presence in Lafayette as a radio host and her local community involvement. She died in November 2018 as the quilt was in its early stages, according to the outlet.

Heritage Quilt (Source: African American Heritage Foundation)

Since her passing, Alfred’s husband, George Alfred, and Maisha Chargois Drexler, their daughter, continue to promote the quilt. George Alfred is the brother of Cargois, the Advocate reports.

“As long as I can remember, she wanted to do things for the community,” he told the Advocate.

The Heritage Quilt was completed in 2019 and touring ramped up this year. The group offered to take the quilt to local schools during Black History Month, a natural tie-in.

It also helped the wishes of at least one student, the publication reports.

“I had a student who said, ‘Ms. Theriot, I feel like during Black History Month we learn so much about the hardships of Black people but I wish we could focus more on their achievements,’ ” Rachel Theriot, an eighth-grade history teacher, told the Advocate

“I think it makes it so real and a part of their actual life, not just a textbook or something they see on TV,” she said, according to the outlet. “I think it helps them realize that it could be them. They could contribute to the world.”

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