GARFIELD PARK – For the second time this summer, the family members of gun violence victims in Chicago will come together to honor their loved ones “one patch at a time” this Saturday.
The Illinois Chapter of Moms Demand Action hosts their annual “Mother’s Dream Quilt” event Aug. 23, in West Garfield Park.
Since May of this year, Moms chapters nationwide have convened at local churches, libraries and other community gatherings to create a “living metaphor,” says Christine Ferro, a communications coordinator for Moms Illinois. The quilts are stitched together from clothing owned by the victims.
“Think about how you look at a quilt. At first sight, you see the beautiful whole, but as you get closer and closer, you start to see the specific fragments,” Ferro said, a mother of two whose friend lost a stepson to gun violence.
Moms Illinois hosted an earlier event at St. Sabina Church on the South Side in May.
These events, Ferro noted, create an intimate interaction with grieving parents, and it forces people to remember the victims.
“When we did this on the South Side, what struck me was meeting parents as individuals,” Ferro said. “What I kept hearing was that these parents often get made to feel invisible.”
The parents, Ferro added, also don’t believe that law enforcement follows up on their cases like they should. The media, according to the parents, Ferro said, are hardly any better.
“They treat them as just another name. Sometimes, the victims are portrayed as just being associated with gangs and are written-off. Moms believes that a life lost, whatever that person did while living, is significant,” Ferro said.
The Mothers Dream Quilt Project, she added, treats the victims as people with past histories, focusing each quilter’s attention on the exacting details of a life that is no longer.
“It’s very moving to have a parent bring a shirt her child may have worn,” Ferro said. “Some moms have told me that, until making the quilts, they hadn’t even gone through the closets of their children since their deaths. We would cut into a shirt [for example], and discuss how we’d use the fabric, knowing that that shirt will never be worn again. It will have a new life and a new function.”
Although emotional support is a large part of what the organization does, it isn’t the group’s only function.
Moms Demand Action is a major player in the fight to tighten gun restrictions across the country. Recently, the organization has put considerable pressure on large retailers such as Kroger and Target to ban “open carry” firearms in their stores.
“The purpose of the [project] is to symbolize the human pull of gun violence in America, as well as our shared commitment for making our country safer for our children,” said Nicole Chen, chapter leader for Moms Illinois.
Although she wouldn’t disclose an exact figure, Chen said the chapter’s membership numbers in the thousands, and its Facebook page has nearly 4,000 “likes.”
Ferro hopes that this very intimate confrontation, this getting up close and personal with victims, will force those with power to act.
“The violence has got to stop,” Ferro said. “We’ve got to make a change. There are a lot of ways to do that, but this is one way. We want lawmakers, the press, the public and churches to see this quilt once it’s completed. We want you to see the beautiful whole, but as you move closer, we want you to see the patterns and stitches and the stories.”