75-year-old Miriam has held onto her spunk and fight during her year and a half in the NY shelter system. This feisty woman who is a passionate advocate for elders and the environment and is active in her church, found herself out on the streets after losing her partner and her home. Ten years in a dedicated relationship with her partner left her no rights to their apartment when her partner passed away.
When things were at their worst – when the person she loved most in this world was gone and she had nowhere to live and no one to turn to, she told me that she had two options: “eat all the bon-bons in the world or fight.” She chose to fight. As a former deacon of her church, she feels that “if there is a higher power, you need to take the second option; otherwise it’s a slap in His/Her face.”
And fight she does. Before receiving a bed in one of the city’s faith-based shelters, she advocated for the women in the drop-in center, working to get more women placed in shelter beds. She met many other homeless individuals in these centers and spoke to them about the possibility of creating a book or program that spoke to the “many faces of homelessness.” And she continues to work on her website for seniors which provides them the resources needed to advocate for themselves while giving back through volunteer work.
There was no way I could capture all of Miriam’s complexity in a single quilt, so I decided to depict the essence of her story through an abstract piece. The background shows her vibrancy and depth while the layers of black tulle show the darkness that she battled through the loss of her partner and home. Although those were dark and difficult times, her brightness shows through even the deepest layers of sheers and, as the piece moves through the darkness to the right, she starts to slowly emerge from that sorrow as she moves forward with her life – trying to get back to a place of her own so she can better help others.