The Cyberquilting Experiment is designed to empower women of color in the US who are least represented within the mainstream media—to create their own means of information sharing and vision building. By creating an online structure for communication controlled by and about women of color with an interest in creating a world free from violence and full of sustainable communities, the Cyberquilting’s project will increase the access of oppressed communities to information that can impact their survival and activity in social movements. The creation of a trans-inclusive space centered on the needs and visions of women of color will also increase the investment of women of color in producing their own media. We believe that the information most vital to women of color is being learned and created in the lives of other women of color all over the country. The purpose of Cyberquilting is to allow women of color to access and build on that information across and within geographical regions.

Furthermore, The Cyberquilting Experiment is a project examining how the internet can be used as a resource for social justice work and movement building activities. As with the Highlander Folk School in the Civil Rights Movement, The Cyberquilting Experiment is to be a “cyber-communal training” space where activism, cognitive engagement, and skill development intersect, equipping women of color activists and organizations within Detroit, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and Durham. Women of color will receive the cyber tools, internet training, and hardware needed to bring about radical social change within their local communities by connecting through a Cyberquilting website and by connecting through our Cyberquilting Skill Share Workshop with organizations, groups, and activists within their cities and across the five cities included in The Cyberquilting Experiment. Overall, the goals of The Cyberquilting Experiment are: (1) To share, maximize, and amplify the impact of the work of community groups and women of color activists through various cyber technologies; (2) To build and strengthen real world relationships by connecting people with other people who are doing similar work; (3) To share information, news, and resources so that people are informed and able to act; (4) To connect people with information more quickly so they can mobilize for their own freedom.

We implement these aforementioned goals by creating a Cyberquilting internet infrastructure, developing creative ways for marginalized communities to have access to hardware and cyberspace, and by facilitating Cyberquilting Skill Share Workshops within and across the five cities.

  • The Cyberquilting Experiment’s internet infrastructure will allow women of color activists, groups, and organizations to connect and share information in sustained and varying ways by utilizing video conferencing features, message boards, internal social networking sites (i.e. Ning), linked blogs, archive features to store information, real time updates (i.e. twitter-like functions), and featured stories. Also, the website will consist of a searchable database where women of color can search “How To” (i.e. how to host a grassroots fund raiser or how to stage theatrical protest) in the form of video, pdf.
  • The Cyberquilting Skill Share Workshop will: (1) Consist of trainings on how to use video conferencing features and other social medias to build community and share news/information; (2) Consist of creating safe spaces for intergenerational dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of cyber technology in helping with social justice work as well as intergenerational discussions about how traditional forms of mobilization can benefit from cyber technology and vice versa; (3) Consist of developing creative strategies on how to make the internet and computer hardware and software accessible for marginalized communities; (4) Consist of having serious discussions about internet security and safety for women of color organizers and communities of color; (5) Consist of women of color sharing skills, information, and news about the social justice work they do; and (6) Consist of connecting participants through the Cyberquilting internet infrastructure with information, news, and other women of color and organizations that do similar work. We have termed The Cyberquilting Skill Share Workshop as a “cyber-communal space.” The term “cyber communal” highlights the importance of developing “social trust” through localized community building exercises and information/news sharing, as well as highlighting the importance of equipping people with cyber training and resources (i.e. human, social, news/informational, technological, and capital) needed to assist with their social justice work.

All in all, The Cyberquilting Experiment is designed to generate energy and inspiration based on practical illustrations of the connections between the works that women of color are doing in communities all over the world.

How will your project improve the way news and information is delivered to geographic communities?

Our project will improve the way news and information is delivered to geographical communities by “cyberquilting.” The term cyberquilting bridges the “new” worlds of cyber space with the “historical localized traditions” of quilting to create a term that defines a network of women of color who come from different localities and who do different types of social justice work, but who then use the internet to connect, share resources, news and information, and strategies for justice work strengthening their localized projects and activities.

Specifically, how the term cyberquilting is implemented is that within the first two years of The Cyberquilting Experiment, our goal is to focus on the five forementioned cities: Detroit, Durham, Chicago, Atlanta and DC. Each of these are cities with majority populations of people of color, but they have not been epicenters of visible progressive movement to the same extent as coastal cities like Oakland and New York City. Visionary cyberquilters in each of these cities are already in place and connected to local networks and movements led by women of color. Building on the vision, accountability and connections of each of these cyberquilters, our intention is to exponentially increase the connections between women of color in these cities by making the stories, memories, events, victories, artwork, and information of these communities available and accessible to each other online. Most importantly, our goal is to energize these women of color by allowing them to see their visions and struggles reflected in the faces, words and actions of their sisters.

In order to facilitate this process, we have created cyberquilting patches. Like analog quilts, cyberquilting brings the edges of different spaces together. The cyberquilting site will consist of:

*regional patches- zones that bring together people working on different issues in the same region in order to share resources and information about local events and regional campaigns;

*thematic patches- zones that bring together people working on directly related issues across geographical regions.

Each patch will function through live video conferencing and messaging, message boards, internal social networking sites (i.e. ning), linked blogs, archive features to store information, real time updates (i.e. twitter), and featured stories. These functions will allow organizations and individuals to share information and news in sustained and varying ways.

For example, if a women of color-led coalition like UBUNTU in Durham North Carolina was responding to an incident of sexual violence in their community through an organized campaign, they could 1) post a featured story on the blog on the cyberquilting patch about ending violence against women of color, (which would send a message to inbox of each person subscribed to the blog); 2) search the archives to see how other organizations had responded to similar incidents in the past; 3) video conference with leaders of women of color-led anti-violence organizations in other parts of the country to strategize; 4) let individuals know how they could set up their own vigils in solidarity through the message board; and 5) send updates to people following the issue through realtime cellphone updates twitter (i.e. “the charges have been droppped,” “the family of the survivor is in need of financial support,” “the survivor is being slandered on the news right now – turn on channel six and write an angry letter,” etc). Cyberquilting would allow a group of people organizing in one city the access to the wisdom and support of a larger community of women of color, and in turn they could coordinate local actions more quickly.

Likewise, an individual with a vision or in need of support can use the same functions to transform an idea into a movement force. An individual linked to cyberquilting could post to the message board about her idea to create a radical valentine exchange program as a benefit for a harm reduction HIV clinic in her community. She could 1) look through the archives to see other fundraising models that individuals and organizations have used; 2) request that one of the linked organizations fiscally sponsor her project; 3) solicit donations with a featured story and honor sponsors through the social networking site; 4) update people who choose to follow the project through cell phone notifications when they reach particular goals; and 5) people could share their radical valentines through video love messages online, creating a gallery of love from and between women across the country for a cause.