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Quilt’s fate uncertain
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A quilt made by students from the Piedmont Governor’s School shown here contains a square with an image of a dark-skinned person, which Martinsville City Council member Sharon Brooks Hodge said was offensive. (Contributed photo)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A decision has not yet been made on whether a quilt made by Piedmont Governor’s School students that offended Martinsville City Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge will be displayed at the municipal building.

The students created the patchwork quilt to highlight their experiences in doing a citizens survey for the city, the results of which were presented to the council Tuesday night. They gave the quilt to the city for display.

City Manager Leon Towarnicki said Wednesday night that the quilt is in his office for now. Describing it as “a gift presented to the city and the council,” he said it would be up to the council to decide whether to display it.

He said, though, that the students’ teacher, Nina Huff, expressed interest in having the quilt returned to her for display at the governor’s school if the city decides not to display it.

“I don’t have a problem with the quilt being displayed” at the municipal building, Mayor Kim Adkins said. She said the quilt is “lovely work” and the students “put a lot of creativity into it.”

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Hodge said she was offended by a square on the quilt that showed a dark-colored person on one side of a dam and a gold-colored person standing on the other.

A student told her that the dark image was indicative of the students’ lack of knowledge of Philpott Dam before visiting there, and the gold image was indicative of the knowledge they received during the visit.

Hodge said she hoped the quilt would not be displayed at city hall.

The student who created the square said he simply used a dark color and a bright color to show contrast.

“As a person who is of dark color,” Hodge replied angrily, “I would suggest ... that in the future, you consult with somebody who is of dark color.”

When the student asked her what color she would recommend for the figure, she replied, “I don’t care, but not black.”

Huff said none of the students in the research class that did the citizens survey are black. She said she thinks that was a matter of coincidence in students’ class scheduling.

Hodge refused to discuss the quilt with the Martinsville Bulletin following a council meeting Wednesday night.

However, she told another media outlet that while she thinks the students did not intentionally aim to offend anyone, “lack of knowledge (about issues that might offend people) is no excuse.”

She questioned whether teachers at the governor’s school have undergone diversity training.

Huff said Wednesday that the way Hodge voiced her displeasure with the square on the quilt “was very hurtful to my students,” many of whom cried as they left the council chamber Tuesday night.

The quilt was created to be “something we could leave behind ... instead of just (research) numbers” to show their pride in their work to help the city, Huff said.

Students were “celebrating what they learned” during the project and “their overall desire for growth and unity” in the community, she said.

“They were so surprised and shocked” at Hodge’s reaction, Huff said.

She said the students did not mean to offend anyone. Huff said she expressed to them afterward that in life, they will hear a lot of viewpoints and they should handle themselves with grace and class and move forward.

They are “16 of the most fabulous and giving and wonderful students that will ever be your opportunity to meet,” she told the council members during Tuesday night’s meeting.


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