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Quilting Water: Voicing Our Stories

Date & Time

Friday, November 17, 2023, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.


Communities of Care


Walter K Gordon Theater 314 Linden St, Camden, NJ, 08102


Mahirym Arroyo

QW-RRC Nov17 Event Banner UPDATED

We held a special celebration of Quilting Water on Friday, November 17 at Rutgers-Camden. Quilting Water is a global public arts project which stitches together the human connection with water through quilt-making and oral histories. We shared in this communal journey of witnessing the ties between our ecological realities, cultural and spiritual rituals, and the literary forms hidden within our everyday conversations. 

The event featured celebrated lead artist for Quilting Water Renata Merrill and acclaimed writer and art quilter Jacqueline Johnson, and a special performance by the Resistance Revival Chorus, a collective of women and non-binary singers, led by led by musical director Abena Koomson-Davis, who joined together to breathe joy and song into the resistance, and to uplift and center women’s voices.

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The Resistance Revival Chorus performs at the "Quilting Water: Voicing Our Stories" on November 17, 2023
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Lead artist for Quilting Water Renata Merrill presents at the "Quilting Water: Voicing Our Stories" on November 17, 2023
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Acclaimed writer and art quilter Jacqueline Johnson and lead artist for Quilting Water Renata Merrill at the "Quilting Water: Voicing Our Stories" on November 17, 2023
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Lead artist for Quilting Water Renata Merrill presents at the "Quilting Water: Voicing Our Stories" on November 17, 2023
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ISGRJ-Camden Co-Director and Quilting Water Director Patrick Rosal presents at the "Quilting Water: Voicing Our Stories" on November 17, 2023
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The Quilting Water team (L to R): Betsy Roy, Cherita Harrell, Patrick Rosal, Amy Beth Sisson, Lindsey Hoover, Mahirym Arroyo, Emma Wu
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Quilting Water Voicing Our Stories Event 9
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Quilting Water Voicing Our Stories Event 11

Photo credit: Marley Molkentin

Learn more about the Quilting Water project here

The Quilting Water Public Arts Project has gathered interviews about water - examining the intersections between art, race, and ecology - from South Africa, Senegal, Cape Verde, Japan, Puerto Rico, Belgium, the Philippines, the Atayal people of Taiwan, as well as right here in New Jersey. The content of these water stories have been stored and made available to local Black artists who have worked on crafting quilts in dialogue with this global archive. Those artists were led by Camden resident and quilting artist Renata Merrill.

Participate in Quilting Water as an interviewer! Click here to access the instructions on what you need to get started.
QW-RRC Nov 17 Poster
Featured Speakers:
Patrick Rosal
Patrick Rosal Headshot - credit Mark Rosal
Photo credit: Mark Rosal

Patrick Rosal is the author of five full-length poetry collections including The Last Thing: New and Selected Poems, winner of the William Carlos Williams Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. He currently serves as Campus Co-director of the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers-Camden, where he coordinates the programming series Occasions for Gathering and Quilting Water, a five-year public art project collecting interviews about water from around the world. He is also Professor of English teaching courses on poetry, performance, improvisation, collaboration, and community art. He has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Research Scholar program. and the New Jersey State Council for the Arts. Residencies include Civitella Ranieri, a Lannan Residency in Marfa, TX, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. He is co-founding editor of Some Call It Ballin’, a literary sports magazine.

Brooklyn Antediluvian (2016), won the Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Prize for best book of poetry and was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry. Previously, Boneshepherds (2011) was named a small press highlight by the National Book Critics Circle and a notable book by the Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of My American Kundiman (2006), and Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive (2003). His collections have also been honored with the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award, Global Filipino Literary Award and the Asian American Writers Workshop Members' Choice Award. With Cherita Harrell, Jacob Camacho, and his wife Mary Rose Go, he released copies of Atang, an experimental, traveling altar and self-published book object under the ad hoc moniker of Quili Quili Power Projects. Atang was distributed in 2021 on the quincentenary of the defeat of Magellan by Lapu Lapu in 1521. Quili Quili Power is a conceptual extension of the ad hoc, mostly invisible Institite for the Study for Contemporary Collaborative Imagining (aka ICCII), which was launched in 2017 with the Microscope Fellowship, which distributed free 7x microscopes around America.

He has received teaching appointments at Princeton University, Penn State Altoona, Centre College, the University of Texas, Austin, Drew University's Low-Residency MFA program and Sarah Lawrence College. He taught creative writing for several years at Bloomfield College where he previously earned his B.A. and twice has served on the faculty of Kundiman’s Summer Retreat for Asian American Poets. In addition to conducting workshops in Alabama prisons through Auburn University, he has taught high school workshops through the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Sarah Lawrence College's Summer Writing Conference for High School Students, Urban Word NYC, and the Volume workshops in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

His poems and essays have been published widely in journals and anthologies including The New York TimesTin House, Drunken Boat, Poetry, New England Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Grantland, Brevity, Breakbeat Poets, and The Best American Poetry. His work has been recognized by the annual Allen Ginsberg Awards, the James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Arts and Letters Prize, Best of the Net among others. His chapbook Uncommon Denominators won the Palanquin Poetry Series Award from the University of South Carolina, Aiken.

His poems and voiceovers were included in the Argentine feature-length film Anhua: Amanecer which screened at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival. He has also appeared on the Leonard Lopate Show and the BBC Radio's World Today.

His invited readings and performances include several appearances at the Dodge Poetry Festival, the Stadler Center for Poetry, WordFest in Asheville, the poetry reading series at Georgia Tech, Poetry @ MIT, the Carr Reading Series at the University of Illinois, the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center, Sarah Lawrence College, where he earned his MFA, and hundreds of other venues that span the United States, London, Buenos Aires, South Africa, Senegal, Italy, Spain, Greece, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. 

Renata Merrill
Renata Merrill Headshot

Renata Merrill's quilting journey began in 2011, following brain surgery–which successfully removed a tumor pressing on her optic nerve but resulted in clouded vision in her left eye. This life-altering experience led her to discover the transformative power of quilting as a catalyst for healing and self-discovery.

Within the intricate threads of each quilt, Renata found not only a creative outlet but also a profound reconnection with her roles as a dedicated wife, nurturing mother, and inspiring community leader. Her journey into quilting uncovered a familial legacy, discovering that she is descended from a lineage of skilled quilters originating from the South. Rooted in her African American heritage, quilting became a fervent passion, interweaving rich values and traditions.

Renata's quilts transcend generations, serving as a bridge between the past and the present, weaving together a vibrant tapestry of time. They are a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries and encompass the essence of a life fully lived, both personally and communally. Each intricate detail tells as unique and full of a story as the completed quilt, inspiring us to honor heritage by recognizing the power and beauty in our own experiences.

Renata's quilts have been shown at venues such as Asbury Community Church, The Camden FireWorks Art Gallery, and the Black Arts Festival at Cathedral Village. 

Jacqueline Johnson
Jacqueline Johnson

Jacqueline Johnson is a multi-disciplined artist creating in both poetry, fiction writing and fiber arts.  She is the author of A Woman's Season, on Main Street Rag Press and A Gathering of Mother Tongues, published by White Pine Press and is the winner of the Third Annual White Pine Press Poetry Award.  

She has been awarded residencies at MacDowell Colony for the Arts, Black Earth Institute, Blue Mountain Arts Colony, Hurston Wright, and Brooklyn Public Library Artist Residency.   

Her work has appeared in: From the Belly: Poets Respond to Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons Volume I, Word Works 2023, About Place Journal, Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era, Routledge 2020, The Slow Down, American Public Media, October 16.  She is a Cave Canem fellow and Black Earth Institute Senior Fellow.

Recent exhibitions include: Celebrations of Black Mermaids:  From Africa to America, at the Waterfront Gallery in Charleston, SC, and Sister Girl Friends (and Brothers, Too) exhibited at North Charleston City Hall. Sacred Threads: Expressing Life's Journeys 2022, Yours for Race and Country: Reflections on the Life of Colonel Charles Young, exhibited at the National Afro-American Museum, Wilberforce University and the Soul of Zora: A Literary Legacy Through Quilts at the Legacy Museum, Tuskegee University.

Works in progress include: The Privilege of Memory, a novel and  How to Stop a Hurricane. a collection of short stories.  She is a graduate of New York University and the City University of New York. A native of Philadelphia, PA., she resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Cherita Harrell
Cherita Harrell Headshot USE

Cherita Harrell is a writer and educator from New Jersey. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Camden and a Master of Science in Education at Walden University. She is a doctoral candidate at Walden University, and her research interests include a focus on critical literacy, racial literacy, and Black feminism. Her research examines how critical literacy, racial literacy, and critical theory may help to create spaces that allow for the exploration of students’ lived experiences through forms of expression, such as oral stories, narratives, visual media, and other literary contributions. In her free time, she writes fiction, and her work has been published in Decades Review, Minetta Review, and The Bleeding Lion.

andie millares
andie millares

andie millares is a poet from New Jersey. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University-Camden, where she wrote about knockoff bags, Hello Kitty, poetry fellowships, Kermit the Frog, and Spam. andie has been granted fellowships from Kundiman and Lambda Literary, and her work has been published in Catapult, Foglifter Journal, Underblong, MAYDAY Magazine, and elsewhere. She is currently a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers, where she researches and writes about hobbyism, fashion, DIY culture, and how a language of making might intersect with a language of care.