May 31, 2007

The Bioethics Quilt Project

Karama Neal sent along some great links about the Bioethics Quilt Project by Muhjah Shakir, assistant professor of occupational therapy and senior scholar at the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University. Professor Shakir has been working with the female partners of the men in the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study (Tuskegee) to create a quilt and find out the impact the study had on contemporary women in Tuskegee and Macon County, Alabama.

“I had long since wanted to use quilting as a method to engage a group around,” she said. “The community had a long history of quilting, so the quilt project was a great way to engage the community and learn of the impact of the syphilis study.”

This project involves women between the ages of 55 and 96 meeting twice a week to tell their life stories, create a quilt and journal. Each creates a square to depict how they are feeling. This is designed to develop a capacity for reflection in the women.

Shakir said the squares vary in their symbolism and meaning. “Each square tells a particular story from the woman’s own perspective,” she said. “The quilting has become a community narrative of Tuskegee.”

You can also hear both Professor Shakir and Harriet Washington, the author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present discuss the history of experimentation on black Americans, as well as how the quilt project heals old wounds via art.
-Kelly Hills [with many thanks to Karama]

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