Kimberly stands underneath the Black Lives Matter flag she made for New Seasons Market in Portland, Oregon.
Photos courtesy of Kimberly Bennefield.
In mid-June, I was contacted via email by Gregory Hammond, a member of the operations team at a local natural foods market here in Portland, Oregon, called New Seasons. He reached out to me via my website because the store wanted to fly a Black Lives Matter flag out front and they wanted to commission a local artist to create the flag.
My first reaction was, “of course!” not because I was confident about the make, but more so because I was confident about the cause.
Following the horrendous and public murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd (and many others), coupled with the prolonged quarantine we were all enduring, I’d been really hoping for a way I could use my craft to help others as well as a way to speak out even as an introvert.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Whether or not one supports the current administration, it’s impossible to deny the way that race has become an explosive topic of discussion recently, particularly in these days of unfiltered social media. For the first time, I started to really consider the postings and words of my friends and analyze the intent behind what I was reading and seeing. I began to note the many micro-aggressions, as well as direct and hate-filled posts, streaming through my feed. I also began interacting in new ways with many of the individuals in my social media friends lists, to question them and also inform them of the impact some of the postings they made were having on us, the people of color that they seem to consider to be their friends.
I saw so much negative talk about Black Lives Matter as a movement, and so much focus on looting and violence around protesting, but not as much focus on the violence perpetrated toward Black people.
Going into this project, I was a bit apprehensive because I didn’t want to conflict with the movement but also wanted to align with BLM’s branding, so the flag would be clearly connected.
I came up with two very different designs. One was more focused on the symbolic gesture made by a close family friend, athlete Tommie Smith. Who can forget the statement he, John Carlos, and Peter Norman made at the 1968 Olympic Games? Dr. Smith’s world record-breaking performance in the 200-meter dash was not as firmly cemented in our minds as much as the stand he took on the 1st place step of the podium. Both he and John Carlos (3rd place) raised their black-gloved fists in the air, as the anthem played, while the second-place winner from Australia proudly wore one of the “Olympic Project for Human Rights” pins, in a show of support.
The other design was more focused on the text, with just a nod to Dr. Smith. Gregory chose the text-based design, feeling it would be more clear and visible from a distance. After choosing the design, we agreed on a three-week time frame to have the flag completed.
The first design idea was inspired by the 1968 Olympics.
The second idea, and the one that was selected, was text-focused.
So now I had to go and figure out how exactly I was going to make this flag. I did what I usually do when I need to take on a new challenge – engorge my brain with YouTube videos and blog post tutorials.
There wasn’t really much out there regarding the construction of actual flags. I found lots of crafty or decorative flag-making information, but only a few channels had serious flag making content. These were helpful in getting started.
I decided on rip-stop nylon with heat-transfer vinyl for the words and the fist. I used my Brother Scan-n-Cut to cut out the shapes and pieced the flag together on my home sewing machine, using French seams to join the rows. Then I added a canvas header and grommets to string and hang the flag.
Figuring out how to create a flag was a challenge, Kimberly researched extensivly on blogs and You Tube to come up with her plan.
The day of the march Kimberly’s granddaughter came along.
On the day of the flag-raising, New Seasons invited me to join them in a neighborhood march for Black Lives Matter. They closed the entire store for 30 minutes. Several friends and family came out to support me, including my 2-year-old granddaughter who insisted on not only marching but running during most of the march!
At the end of the march, I was asked, as the commissioned artist, to say a few words. I spoke about how much I appreciated New Seasons and their acknowledgment of their employees’ right to protest and for their support of under-represented and BIPOC people.
My Black Lives Matter flag proudly waves in front of the store, right next to their Pride flag, welcoming all to come inside. I couldn’t be more proud of my work, as well as my city.
New Seasons supported their staff in joining in Black Lives Matter marches and protests.
Kimberly Bennefield is an avid modern quilter and bag maker. In 2018 she served as president of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild when it reached a record 400 members. Kimberly has enjoyed a career of 20+ years working in technology and design with companies like Nike and Intel. She now works in user experience design for CDK Global. She’s a wife and mother to a blended family of seven children, as well as five grandchildren.