When I was younger, my grandmother would knit her grandchildren quilts as they were born. That quilt, and all of its green coloring and beige backing, was the first family gift given to me. Adolescent naivety kept me from understanding the long-standing tradition of Black quiltmaking. In fact, some historians argue that quiltmaking was a form of Black agency during times of oppression. This quilt was not just a household item to keep me warm, but rather an immeasurable gift from Grannie, a gift of hope.
Grannie is a living embodiment of hope. A Black woman who, with the help of her husband, raised eight children in deep south Alabama during the height of Jim Crow. Freedom did not always come in the form of legislation and reparations. It was Grannie who, by the grace of God, crafted her own freedom. Whether it was in her Sunday school lessons, the taste of sweet potato pie, or her handmade quilts, she tried her best to usher in hope in every way imaginable.
Hope for Grannie was not an abstract thought preached at Mt. Gilead Church, but rather a gift that she would get to work with God in bringing hope into her world. A world that allowed for her husband to go off to World War II to only come back to denied voting rights and G.I. bills that seemed to preference White veterans. Alice Walker writes in her book, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, that “…there was no sympathy for struggle that ended in defeat. Which meant there was no sympathy for struggle itself—only for ‘winning.’” Hope allows one to not only acknowledge the struggle, but actively defeat it.
Over the latter half of 2017, I have had the blessing of working in an inner-city school in Greensboro, North Carolina, that literally has the word hope written into its DNA. Each morning when I see the students’ smiling faces, and sometimes not-so-happy faces, I’m reminded of the hope that was given to me by Grannie. Just as she found a way to knit together a hope that brought warmth and comfort to the following generation, I pray that we can do the same. In this age of destructive politics, human trafficking, and other evils, it is important that we as believers find a way to usher in God’s hope—a hope that is woven into the fabric of our daily lives.