DAVENPORT -- On the face of the "Journey Quilt" is a story documenting the history of African-Americans. |
There's also a story in the stitches, each one symbolizing a step in Debra Morgan's life.
The stories are tied together by the signature of President Barack Obama, who signed the quilt when he was in Davenport on Aug. 15.
It's more than a president's signature to Ms. Morgan. It's the mark of achieving a personal goal and the launch of a second journey for the 55-year-old Davenport woman.
"I would like to go around and speak to people, to offer them some encouragement and remind them anything they want in life is possible," Ms. Morgan said.
The light sea-green quilt has images of the struggles and successes of African-Americans. The first shows two slaves on a deck with a ship in the background, and the date 1619, the year the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown, Va.
Other illustrations include President Abraham Lincoln with the date 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves; the NAACP logo and the date 1909, when the association was established; Condoleeza Rice and the date 2005, the year the former national security adviser became U.S. Secretary of State.
A large box at the bottom right of the quilt has a picture of President Obama and stitched lettering that reads: "And the journey continues...."
Last week, the president wrote "God Bless!" and signed his name under his picture, Ms. Morgan said. "Ever since I created the quilt, my goal was to have President Obama sign it."
She didn't know how that would happen until she saw Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba while she was going through volunteer training on Aug. 14, in preparation for the president's visit to the Village of East Davenport the next day.
She had met the mayor earlier in the summer when he saw her quilt on display, and she sought his help getting the president to sign it.
Mayor Gluba introduced Ms. Morgan to some people coordinating the president's visit, who introduced her to a White House aide who said she'd do her best to get President Obama to sign it, Ms. Morgan said.
The next day, after the president left the Village of East Davenport, Ms. Morgan met the aide at Lagomarcino's, and was handed a signed quilt. "I want to use this to bring people together," she said.
Ms. Morgan didn't know how to sew when her mother suggested she start a quilt in 2008 to relieve stress. She was caring for her mother at the time and working two jobs.
Ms. Morgan decided to create something to inspire her family to vote. She began researching her culture and learned more about important events that led to freedom. She also realized the importance of voting, and cast a ballot for the first time in 2008, for President Obama.
When her mother died, Ms. Morgan said she fell into darkness. She stopped working on the quilt for some time, but when she picked up the needle again, she found her depression lifted. She finished the quilt in 2010 and began putting it on display at the urging of a friend.
The quilt does not tell a story about one race of people, she said. Instead it's a story about all people coming together to create a new world. It is message for all people, especially children, she said.
"I want to share the quilt. I want to go around the country and inspire people, especially kids, to tell them you can do anything. It does not matter what race you are, if you are rich or poor. If you have a goal or just a feeling, do not give up. Anything is possible," Ms. Morgan said.
The president never gave up on his dream and now holds the highest office in the United States, which is why his picture is on the quilt, she said. Then, he signed the quilt, which Ms. Morgan said showed her she should never give up on her dreams.
"I know I need to share that message," Ms. Morgan said. "My dream now, after I take the quilt around the country, is to take it to (Kenya) to the home country of President Obama's father, and present it to the people there.
"I believe everything happens in circles, and that would be the completion of the circle, to share the message with the people there that anything is possible," she said.
Ms. Morgan has embraced her new mission. "It may seem like an impossible vision, but I believe I am going to do it."
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