Quilt honors victims of police shootings


Maria Cardona

Dorothy Holmes (pictured above) and three other family members of those killed by police spoke at the Oct. 17  exhibit opening for ‘Gone But Not Forgotten,’ a quilt that honors more than 100 police shooting victims.

By Metro Reporter

One hundred forty-four people killed by the Chicago Police Department or in CPD custody are now memorialized by artist Rachel Wallis’ newest exhibit. “Gone But Not Forgotten” is a quilting project in collaboration with We Charge Genocide, an anti-police-violence group. There were 15 quilting circles with a total of  around 200  participants.

The six-panel quilt, which stretches nearly 40 feet in length, includes the victims’ names, ages and dates of death. 

“People would come together, read aloud the stories of the individuals who had been killed by police, embroider [the victims’]names and information, and then talk about what this means and what we can do to take action to change this cycle of violence,” Wallis said. 

The exhibit opening, Oct. 17 in Robert Morris University’s Murray-Green Library, included a conversation with Dorothy Holmes, Henrine Edwards, Martinez Sutton and Gloria Pinex, family members of individuals represented on the quilt. 

Chicago police killed Ronald Johnson, Holmes’ son, at the age of 25 on Oct. 12, 2014. 

“[‘Gone But Not Forgotten’]means to me that I’m not the only one involved in the struggle,” Holmes said. “This support to me, my family and to [my son’s] kids is showing me there’s people out there that really care about what’s going on here in Chicago.” 

Holmes was also interviewed for the video portion of the exhibit,  filmed by Salome Chasnoff, a filmmaker and installation artist who has previously done work about the prison industrial complex. 

Chasnoff said she helped Wallis organize the project and documented the quilting circles around the city in which sections of the quilt were being made.

“I wanted to know more about [the individuals represented in the quilt and] how they lived,” Chasnoff said. “I didn’t just want to know the worst thing that ever happened to them. I wanted to know how they were loved by the people that were closest to them and how their loss impacted and impacts their families, friends and their communities.” 

Although the video presented Oct. 17 told the stories of only the four family members who spoke at the opening, Chasnoff said the project will not be finished until she has filmed and presented the stories of more than a hundred conversations with families of those who have fallen victim to police shootings.

Kofi Ademola, a Black Lives Matter organizer, said he hopes Wallis and Chasnoff’s project will receive national attention. 

“It’s just a beautiful, heartwarming project,” Ademola said. “In addition to bringing awareness, it is also very therapeutic.”

While creating the project, Wallis said she found that people who are killed by the police are not always counted. Through research, she said she has found more individuals killed by CPD in the last decade who were not originally included in the quilt, adding that she is in the process of planning a seventh panel of the quilt to include them. 

“Projects like this, they’re done, but they’re not done,” Wallis said. “Our hopes are that, over the next year, the quilts will move around Chicago to different community spaces. We’ll just see where this takes me.”