SHANIKKA QUILT #100
linkage1951: We're here at NetRoots Nation 13 in San Jose, and it's my opportunity or my pleasure to interview one of the recipients of the Community Quilt. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your quilt?
shanikka: Hi. My name on Daily Kos is shanikka. I am a front-pager at DKos. My real name's Rene. I have the unique privilege of being the recipient of the hundredth quilt that has been made at the Community Quilt Project. In terms of myself, there's not a whole lot to tell.
Most people read my writing and either love me or hate me. I love everybody, so that works out well. In terms of my day job, as most people know I'm an attorney at a commercial law firm, but I am blessed to able to dedicate 100% of my time to the provision of pro bono service to people in need, whether it is myself -- excuse me -- whether it is to direct individuals or non-profit organizations serving those in need.
linkage1951: Can you tell us about your quilt?
shanikka: Oh, my quilt, my quilt! It is the most wonderful gift I have ever received other that what I received from my husband when we first got married, because he gave me a star. For those women out there who know that that's for your head out there, so the quilt is just a little below that. When I got ill, I've had diverticular disease since last year, and when I had my second attack in March of this year and ended up hospitalized and then beginning what ended up being a huge round of complication after complication after complication that delayed the surgery that I needed to have, and then subsequently having surgery.
I really wanted a quilt because I believe that feeling peoples' arms around you, virtually, physically, or otherwise, and feeling their energy which I already had so much of from those people in the Daily Kos Community who knew how ill I was. I just felt like the quilt would just encapsulate that. But I was like, well, I'm real tacky asking for a quilt, you know, because a quilt... I knew that Sara and her sister had begun this as an act of love and outreach, and I'm not somebody who says, you know, um, ah, could I have one? But I did let it slip that I really wished I had one on a day at Black Kos. And Sara saw it and said, "We would love to." So then they go off and they post these two diaries about it, you know, asking for messages. I was in the hospital for both of those diaries, literally. It was only Navaho (Nina) who let me know that they were up.
And I remember that one of them went up the day before I had my surgery. I logged in that night, and frankly, I was quite frightened because, you know, I was quite ill. We'd already had so many issues and problems that had made me so sick, and we didn't know whether I was gonna have a laproscopic surgery which was comparatively minor compared to what often happens, which is that they literally have to open you up aft to stern practically and would have put me out of commission for six months.
I remember going into this diary, you know, saying, you know, read these messages and reading. I cannot describe the amount of strength I got from it. These are people who I have met, maybe, 10% of them, maybe, who, nonetheless just through these little pixels that I periodically post up that people either love or hate had come to care enough about my well-being that they wanted to write something on my quilt. I have never had an experience like that, and I'm 51 years old, so I've had plenty of time if that was the kind of experience I was going to have.
So then, you know, they get the messages, and then Denise Oliver Valez (?) reaches out to Sara and says, "I have some fabric, this particular piece of African fabric that I would like to be the center of this quilt. And this is second hand from Sara. And I was like, "Oh, my God," because of course...people tell me they look up to the things I say sometimes and think... My heroine is Denise Oliver Valez in terms of black women writing at Daily Kos and in the blogosphere. Truthfully, we could use a thousand more like her instead of some of the posers that manage to get a lot of airplay.
But then something else special happened. My daughter is a documentary filmmaker who lives in Rome, and she couldn't come to be with me while I was in the hospital. I told her about this quilt that people were gonna make for me. And she went to the diary -- she's not a Kossack -- and she (unintelligible) goes, "Mommy, you remember those fabrics that I brought you back from Ghana and Burkina Faso," and all of these places where she's been over the years to film. She always brings me back African fabric. She's like, "Do you think that maybe somebody could put a piece of my fabric in the quilt?"
By this time Sara and Ann had already started working on this quilt, I assumed. (Unintelligible) A check is probably too late. And I wrote them and said, "It's probably a huge imposition, and it's probably gonna throw all your design off, but my daughter has sent me all these fabrics, and she would like them to be part of it, because that way she can feel like she's hugging me from so far away."
Needless to say, they're like, "Of course, we want to put the fabric in." So I sent them everything I have, some of which they didn't use 'cause it wasn't the type of fabric for quilting. But then I get an email from Sara saying, "Oh, by the way, Ojibwa is coming by to bless some quilts. Do you object to him blessing yours?" I literally broke out in tears over that because I personally am a very spiritual person, a religious person, and the notion that someone would take this earth-based fundamental power and lay it on my quilt in an effort to try to help me heal, this process of healing which is a process, and it's gonna be a long one, was just overwhelming for me.
So then finally the day comes, the beginning of the month -- actually, it was the 30th of May. So I was like, "Your quilt's in the mail." I don't even want to say how happy I was. It will be there in, like, two days. Two days come and go; no quilt. Three days; no quilt. The fourth day, I go running out when the neighborhood mailman comes by and say, "Excuse me, but I'm supposed to have a package, and it's really important that I get this package."
"But we haven't had any packages all week for this block." So then, of course, I started freaking out. "Oh, my God, the quilt is lost!" And ultimately between tracking numbers and everything, we find it, but I end up getting it about a week after I should have gotten it.
And so, the reason I mention it is because that whole week I was frantic, just frantic. It was like, "Please, God, don't let this quilt, this thing that reflects all these beautiful things that people said to me which me, as a person, who is deeply insecure needed to be able to say, you know, you can let go. We will catch you." One of the messages that a blogger named CocoLove posted was, you know, "We are lifting you up as God made you." The tradition of lifting up in the African-American church is one of the most powerful ideas. If this quilt is gone, I don't know what I'm gonna do.
It finally shows up, and I open this box. I'd already seen a picture, mind you, so it's not like I was surprised about the design of this, but I was blown away by two things. First, it was huge! I was like, "Wow!" I had never counted how many people had messages, and then suddenly I see them visually. They are heart space in blocks, and I sit there, and I wrap myself up in this thing, and at this point I'm fifty pounds lighter than when all this started for me, so I had to wrap a little tighter than I would've. And that felt so good. I sat out there on the back porch for about an hour, wrapped in this quilt.
And then I took the pooty pad that they graciously made for my little beautiful epileptic crazy cat Kiah (?) and put her on it. Now I have to say, Kiah has never been this calm. She actually hasn't had a seizure in a month, which for her is a big deal. And I'm convinced it is the energy, and the catnip, that's in the pooty pad. We sit together.
I sit on the couch in it when I get tired and I slept under it one night. Every day, every day I pick up that quilt when I feel tired or when some of the complications that I had after surgery, were lingering kicked in, like this leg where it's like it really doesn't matter what you do, it's gotta hurt. I don't know that there is anything so emotionally debilitating particularly to someone like me who's used to be in charge, being in control, being able to solve problems. When there's a problem that you really can't make go away, to be able to say, you know, "I'm not by myself." I mean I didn't feel a hundred percent... I have the most loving husband on the planet, but it's still...just I literally feel that all those people... I don't have to write them; I don't have to call them. All I have to do is wrap myself in them. And it's extraordinary for me. That was a long-winded answer to a straightforward question, but I can't go on about... I could go on forever about what that quilt means to me. I could.
linkage1951: Is there anyone that you'd like to thank?
shanikka: Oh, Jesus.
linkage: Or everyone?
shanikka: Everyone. I am a... (unintelligible) I am a lame-ass bitch because I have not written a a thank-you diary since I got the quilt. The fact that people took time to give money, including people who gave money for other people. The people that took time to think about prayers for the people who took the time to send healing energy to me, whether or not they are praying people. The people who took the time to say, "I've been there, and this is gonna be OK." And the people who sat and said, "OK, who is shanikka? Who is Rene?" And wrote messages that were almost as if I had commissioned them to write them because they spoke to exactly who I was, you know. I can't thank you enough. I can't hug people enough. I'd gladly owe everybody hugs and kisses. If there is anything I can do for you, that's how much it means to me.
linkage1951: Well, thank you. Thank you very much for sharing this with us.
shanikka: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share.