Almost there…

I have 122 squares in my sticky little hands–so only 22 squares to go until we reach our target! It’s so exciting!

We had an impromptu knit-in today–I was contacted last week by the Kentucky Kernel who are planning to run a huge feature on the Project in this Thursday’s edition of the Kernel and they wanted to send a photographer to get some pictures of the knitting in action, and of the squares themselves. We were small in number, but it was an incredibly productive meeting and we’ve decided a few crucial things. Mary-Beth and Margie have very kindly agreed to start work on finding a venue for displaying the finished blanket. Top contenders right now are The Kentucky Theater, Central Library, and the empty space in Lexington Green shopping area. I’ve left this in their very capable hands and will keep everyone updated with progress.

We also talked about how best to go about raising money from the completed blanket. Initially, I had thought that a charity auction would be the best way to raise funds but I admit I’ve had some concerns about whether or not anyone would actually bid for the blanket. Today, Kerri came up with a superb idea–sponsorship. She suggested that we could offer the squares for sponsorship–either by individuals or businesses–with a set minimum donation. That would remove some of the uncertainty about raising funds and would be a much more viable proposition. Sponsors would have their name listed next to the square that they have sponsored. We’re thinking of a minimum donation of $15-$20 (can’t decide–opinions would be welcome on this point) but, naturally, we would be happy for sponsors to donate more, if they chose to. I’m so grateful to Kerri for this gem of an idea–seems far more workable to me than a charity auction. And it removes the deadline of June–although I’m still planning on getting the blanket finished by the end of March and getting the funds in by the end of June so that we can start with scholarship applications.

Finally, we’re going to have one last knit-in before I close the door to squares. Next Wednesday, 18th January at Coffee Times on Regency Road, 6.30pm start. I’ll continue to accept squares until the end of January, though, so carry on knitting–if we get more than 144 squares we’ll just make a bigger blanket!

40 and counting…

That’s how many squares I have in my physical possession right now. And they’re all beautiful. That’s a pretty good number (and it’s a substantial pile) but we still have a way to go – 104 more to go, to be precise. I know there are still a lot more out there and I’m trusting to everyone who keeps telling me that we have this under control. But can we do it by Christmas so that I can start getting this blanket pieced together in time for it to go on display in March? I’m determined that we can.

Last night’s Knit-In at Coffee Times was another fabulous success–some familiar faces, some new faces, lots of coffee, a few pieces of cake, and a lot of knitting. I’ve put some photos up on facebook, please feel free to tag yourself in them if you were there.

Thomas, the brother of my lovely partner, Susan, has spent the better part of a week working on some collection boxes to make it easier for you to get your squares to me. I’ll be getting them in place this week, so hopefully more squares will come rolling in. You’ll be able to find the boxes in the following locations:

UK Campus:

Patterson Office Tower, 13th floor (outside room 1353)

Outsource (ground floor of the Student Center)

WT Young Library (in the Writing Center, 5th floor)

Gaines Center for the Humanities (Raymond Betts Building, on East Maxwell Street)

Downtown Lexington

ReBelle (371 South Limestone Street)

I’ve got another two boxes currently without a home so if you have any suggestions for drop-off points, please let me know!

Homecoming

I have two exams tomorrow which means, naturally, that a great deal of today will be spent procrastinating–and what better way to procrastinate than with facebook. Browsing the status updates I came across a post on Nicky’s wall, linking to a story that ran in yesterday’s Daily Mail–a British newspaper for those of you not in the know. The story was about a young lesbian couple–Rebeca Arellano and Haileigh Adams, seniors at Patrick High School in San Diego–who were crowned as Homecoming King and Queen over the weekend. Rebeca was crowned Homecoming King at Friday’s pep rally, and Haileigh crowned Homecoming Queen as Saturday’s dance.

To say that this makes my heart glow is an understatement–in fact, as my friend and Writing Center colleague Ashley will attest to, it actually made me cry. So many of the stories that we hear are so desperately tragic that to hear such positive news is wonderful–and proof that although we still have SUCH a long way to go, we’re making tiny, tiny baby steps. These girls were chosen from their peers–what more affirmation do we need that at least in some parts of the world (and I know, it’s not happening in enough parts of the world, not by a long chalk) being LGBT is accepted–not simply tolerated–and that love among two people, whoever they happen to be and however they identify themselves, is celebrated.

There’s more of the story here, on the Daily Mail’s website, and it’s worth looking at for the lovely photographs and the video clip of Rebeca speaking about the weekend’s events.

Among other things, this story is a reminder to me that the Diversity Project is as much about celebrating life as it is about remembering the lives that have been lost. And so, there WILL be a square in the blanket in celebration of Rebeca and Haileigh (I’m thinking it has to have embroidered crowns on it…) and their story will be told alongside everyone else’s–their relationship, their love, and the hope that their story brings will be shared with other people who need to hear the positive stories and the changes that are happening, albeit slowly.

So, before I head back to studying for these flippin’ exams, I’d like to raise a metaphorical glass to Rebeca and Haileigh, and offer my congratulations and love to them both. Cheers, girls.

“No Day But Today”

I bookmark my sun-ups to sun-downs with tears these days. Opening emails has become an exercise which requires a box of tissues close at hand and I’ve learned not to put on my mascara until I am safely away from computer access. Just two short weeks into the project and there are 8 squares finished (those are the ones that I absolutely know of, and have seen photographic evidence of), but many more have been promised. And already 6 of those squares have been dedicated to lives that have been lost from the LGBT community.

Just 6 dedications and so many tears. What I’ve learned already is that these dedications don’t just land in my inbox with no context. For every single dedication there’s been a process of correspondence, emails and facebook comments exchanged back and forth with the partners and family of those that this blanket, amongst other things, seeks to remember. Getting to know, even on a “virtual” level, those people is proving to be life-changing. I am touched and privileged beyond belief that people are trusting me with the stories of those they love. The stories they tell me will go into the blanket unedited, raw, and desperately moving.

I have hesitated about whether or not to share any of those stories here, before the blanket is finished but have finally decided that I should. How can you, reading this from whatever distance, really access what the blanket is about unless you experience it? If reading one or two of these stories inspires just one more person to pick up some needles (or a hook) and contribute…

So, today, Rebecca W. shared with me a photo of the square she finished for Hannah. I’m now sharing that with you, along with Hannah’s story.

HANNAH’S STORY

Hannah Landers, at 17 years old, was an outspoken advocate for gay rights and was one of the original members of Dunbar High School’s Gay Straight Alliance. Intelligent, compassionate, persuasive and hard-working, she was an invaluable member of the Memorial Garden crew from its inception. I met Hannah in April of 2007 after my son’s fatal auto accident – she was Jesse’s friend and became mine too. Hannah’s passion to help others was evident in all that she did, from working at the Garden to interviewing for the documentary “Straightlaced: How Gender’s got us all tied up.” She was driven by many things but a large part of her dedication was due to the suicide of her friend Josh Shipman. Josh, a flamboyant and openly gay youth was only 15 years old when he took his own life.
In May of 2008, just over a year after Jesse’s accident, less than two years after Josh’s death, Hannah was in a fatal car crash.
This square is dedicated to Hannah and for all the good that she would have continued doing in this world. The purple, pink and yellow fibers are from her own knitting basket. Purple and red were Hannah’s favorite colors. The bright pink is for her friend Josh, the yellow is the color for Jesse and is the same yarn she used to knit a scarf for me in the Fall of 2007 (she said she stayed up all night to finish it) in honor of my son.

There’s nothing more I can add.

“It’s Just Knitting A Blanket”

Two weeks ago I had a plan to knit a blanket. Naively, I thought that a few hours with my knitting needles would be all it really entailed. Yes, I wanted involvement, but I wasn’t sure that anyone would be at all interested in what seemed like an eccentric English woman’s plan to knit at every available opportunity. I’m eating those unspoken words now.

This is so much more than just knitting a blanket.

Emails and messages have started coming in, not exactly in droves but in enough of a quantity that I’m spending more and more time replying to them. It’s really important to me that every message is replied to individually, that everyone who wants to contribute really knows how much their contribution is valued and that they feel a part of this project whether they’re here in Lexington or in Washington State, or Chicago, England, Canada, or Australia, and I’ve had messages and contributions from all these places. This local project is reaching out across the globe. That fact delights me. My life exists in places so much further afield than Lexington–my family are all in England, I have friends across the world, and all of these people are part of my personal community. The LGBT community does not exists in an easily identifiable geographical location–it exists in the family and friends that we have in far-flung places, and I’m so thrilled that this project will be representing not only diversity on an individual level but also diversity on a geographic level.

I’ve been especially moved this week by the messages and dedications that have been starting to come in. Every different story somehow managed to be both uplifting and heartbreaking and I’ve spent a lot of time wiping away unexpected tears. Susan will tell you (and I’ll openly admit) that I’m an emotional person at the best of times. I can catch the last 10 minutes of a movie and still weep uncontrollably at the end without any sense of what might have happened previously to those characters. I cry at soap opera weddings (Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, I’m looking at you), and sad-faced kittens so I suppose it was inevitable that this project would bring out the tears, even though I really wasn’t expecting it to. Some of the stories that people have been wonderful enough to share with me have been incredible, and I cannot wait to work them into the finished blanket. There absolutely must be some kind of publication, or “virtual blanket” alongside this project so that its audience can learn about the amazing people that are making this project possible. I’m tempted to start sharing stories here, and I’m sure you would love to read them, but I think it’s more appropriate to save them until the blanket itself is finished.

What I will share, though, are pictures of some of the completed squares and the yarn donations we’ve had. Hopefully this will inspire anyone still sitting on the fence to get out their needles and hooks and start creating. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to share every square I receive in this way, but I’ll do my best to pop up some pictures when I get the opportunity. I was hoping to put the pictures in this post but I emailed them to myself from my home computer this morning, thinking I could easily open them and add them to this post from campus. Alas, though, I’m on a Mac and haven’t a clue how to get them from my email to this post so you’ll have to wait until this evening.