Zuri Quilting Guild began in the basement of Ray of Hope Community Church (Nashville) as part of its 2008 Black History craft project for the women of the church. Rev. Judi Wortham-Sauls, a clergywoman and master quilter, (and at the time a recent transplant from Los Angeles) was asked by Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems, one of the co-pastors of the church, to teach a six-week class on quilt making.
After only a few weeks into the class the women of Ray of Hope were hooked. Turning beautiful fabric into quilts was just what their souls were after. For many women this was their fist time in front of a sewing machine. Other women knew how to sew, but they knew nothing about quilting. For almost all the women in the class, quilting was a way to reconnect with a memory -- a memory of a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, or the woman next door from childhood who quilted with love.
Evidence of our new found addiction can be seen in the project the new quilters took on one month into the class, sewing 15 feet quilted banners to hang in the church's sanctuary in time for Easter service in six weeks! Cray, cray!
To God be the glory. After six weeks, the banners were done. And while we were exhausted and dreamed of fabric and stitches for days to come, enthusiasm was high. The order of business was to start a black women's quilting organization. We took the name "Zuri" because it means beautiful and describes this wondrous work we have taken on which is to continue the African-American women's quilting tradition in the Middle-Tennessee area.
Since its inception in 2009, Zuri Quilting Guild has grown in numbers, attracting women from throughout Metro-Nashville. We are a diverse group of black women. We are professional women and day workers. We are retired, self-employed, and women who work on jobs that fill up our lives but not our souls. Our diversity extends even to our quilting styles. Some of us take pride in making utility quilts (bed quilts, lap quilts, baby quilts, wedding quilts), while others avant-garde studio quilts, while still others folk art quilts
Zuri monthly meetings began in a church and have since moved from a local quilt shop to another, larger church reception hall, to our current location in the airy, spacious, well-lit spaces of Lewis-Scruggs Building at American Baptist College. Invitations have poured in over the years to display the unique bold, colorful, African-inspired aesthethic favored by Zuri quilters: the Nashville Metropolitan Airport, Nashville Cultural Festival, Bessie Smith Cultural Center (Chattanooga), The First Center for Visual Arts, Vanderbilt University, etc.
Ultimately, we are women using fabric to tell the stories our lives, stories of growing up learning to sew from mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or home economic teachers. For a time there we left our mothers' craft for fancy careers and store=bought designs, and came back to weaving fabric because we discovered that were artists at heart. We quilt because we sewing and quilting connect us to our ancestors and that side of us that loves having something all our own