Participants in the Social Justice Sewing Academy.
Photos courtesy of Social Justice Sewing Academy.
The Social Justice Sewing Academy is the brainchild of Sara Trail. By merging discussion on social justice with acts of sewing, Trail has created a curriculum to help build students up and allow them to thrive in a positive setting.
She had been sewing for a while (having written a book with C&T Publishing and patterns for Simplicity!), but it wasn’t until after the death of Trayvon Martin that she made her first social-justice–related piece. The death of Martin, who had been just weeks apart from her in age, sparked an idea that she would eventually carry forward into the Social Justice Sewing Academy.
After giving her students readings, Trail soon realized it was art that would get the community involved; the research papers she was assigning (and the students were doing) weren’t enough to create a draw. “Since I love sewing and I love art, I’m like, what if we added an art aspect to this culturally relevant curriculum? That would therefore bring the community together because community loves art and art is so universal. You know, if we had an art show, people would come and you could speak about the things that you’ve learned.” So she began offering sewing lessons as well, teaching students the basics: how to quilt and how to make their own clothes.
Trail, who will receive her MA from Harvard this spring and enter a PhD program this fall, has also spent time thinking about where she wants the academy to go. “I want SJSA to be a full-time after-school program; I want to develop the curriculum and do a ‘train the trainers’ weekend, where it could begin in high schools all across California and eventually expand. If we could just have a pilot where high schools could send me two or three teachers, I could do a whole two weeks of training and sewing instruction and machine safety, and then the curriculum and the ways to teach it.”
Students who have gone through the academy (kept anonymous because they are under 18) have nothing but great things to say about the experience. One student who made a quilt about the school-to-prison pipeline shares: