Fabric in flag symbolizes diversity

Muriel Stockdale, in front of a backdrop of pieces from her flag series that inspired her new project “Out of Many, One,” which will be unveiled on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  Celebrating America’s rich ethnic diversity is a critical part of the 9/11 healing process, according to Charlotte’s Place, which has come up with its own unique way to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11.

The Trinity Church community center, located at 109 Greenwich St., is collecting pieces of cloth for a colorful mosaic of fabric in the shape of handprints, configured to form an American flag. Starting last month, church parishioners and others began donating 10-inch square pieces of fabric from around the world, which artist Muriel Stockdale, the flag’s designer, will mold into community members’ handprints.

Stockdale’s goal is to collect between 1,000 and 2,000 pieces of fabric by the end of July. The 12-foot-long flag will be mounted on the wall behind the center’s reception desk and unveiled there for community viewing on the afternoon of the 10th anniversary.

At the same time, Charlotte’s place is asking community members to come in and make handprints that Stockdale will use as templates for the donated fabric.

“I like the fact that we’re using the hands as a template for the whole flag. There’s something very direct about putting your hand on something,” said Jennifer Chin, program manager of Charlotte’s Place and co-founder of the project.

The artwork will be named “Out of Many, One,” a translation of the famed Latin motto of the Great Seal, the U.S. coat of arms that appears on U.S. currency, passports and other government documents. The flag is an extension of a series Stockdale started in 2003 of American flags consisting of materials Stockdale collected from different countries around the world.

Having grown up in a homogenous culture in England, Stockdale particularly appreciates America’s history as a “melting pot.” Beyond celebrating America’s cultural diversity, Stockdale said, the 9/11 flag is meant to “advertise and promote the notion that choosing to live harmoniously together and celebrating each other’s differences is the way we need to move forward in this world.”

“My hope is that people around the world can say, ‘Oh, maybe that’s a good idea,’” Stockdale said.

“I think it’s important.” said Trinity Church parishioner Regina Jacobs, “It’s one more way to tell a story of how we all come together and can show our diversity in its uniqueness but in its sameness,”  of the project.

Jacobs contributed a piece of cloth she bought during a recent diocesan mission in Burundi, a small country in eastern Africa.

“One day, we went to the market and saw the villagers’ day-to-day life there. I wanted to help support the women and their families by buying a fabric,” Jacobs said of her purchase.

Jacobs never knew at the time that her souvenir would become part of an initiative in her church’s community back home. The donation, she said, speaks to her “role in the church in terms of being part of the mission partnership and connecting it with other cultures and pieces woven together” to make the flag.

The flag is intended to memorialize meaningful individual experiences of any kind, not just cultural ones, according to Chin.

“Again and again, I keep noticing that all these pieces have something really personally at stake for people. I think that’s the universal part of it — that we can connect with each other on a personal level,” Chin said.

Amandy Geihe, Stockdale’s sister, for example, contributed a piece of apron that her German mother-in-law used to wear when visiting Geihe and her husband at their Syracuse home.

“She cooked every day and wore it every day. I thought it would be good for the flag, as a memento,” said Geihe.

Other donations for the flag include a Japanese handkerchief, an Afghani scarf and a piece of shirt worn by a World Trade Center victim. One community member pitched in part of a shirt Ladder 24 firefighters wore in the days following the attacks that had a message for families in search of their loved ones.

Charlotte’s Place will be accepting fabric donations through July and plans to complete the flag by mid-August. Community members are encouraged to visit the community center on, Thurs., Aug. 4, from 5 to 8 p.m., to participate in the making of the flag. People can also drop by the center anytime Monday through Friday between the hours of noon and 6 p.m. in early August to assist in the project, Chin said.

For more information about the “Out of Many, One” project, e-mail Chin at charlottesplace@trinitywallstreet.org.

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