Gone But Not Forgotten is a collaborative quilting project creating a memorial quilt for 144 individuals killed by the Chicago Police Department or while in police custody from 2006 to 2015. In collaboration with the grassroots group We Charge Genocide, we planned and organized a series of 15 peace circles/quilting circles where participants could read the victims’ stories aloud, while creating a hand embroidered quilt in their memory. The circles provided a safe space where more than 200 people from vastly different neighborhoods and backgrounds could come together and discuss transformative justice, police accountability, and community safety. Together, we created a six panel quilt which stretches nearly 40 feet in length.
Despite widespread public outrage about police killings and misconduct, and an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the Chicago Police Department, there is no public record of individuals who have been killed by the police. Gone But Not Forgotten appears to be the most comprehensive public collection of information about who has been killed by the police in Chicago. The names, ages, and dates of death featured on the quilt panels, as well as the victim information sheets collected in the binders on display, were gathered through a combination of official police records, newspaper articles, and information from victims’ families. Many of the victims’ names and stories remain unknown. Two individuals whose deaths fell outside of parameters of the quilt (one who was killed in 1999 and another who was killed in a Chicago suburb) were included by request of family and friends.
By engaging in the slow process of hand sewing, and focusing on the lives and deaths of individual victims, Gone But Not Forgotten encourages participants to engage in radical empathy, remembering that victims of police killings are more than statistics or another headline on the nightly news. No matter the circumstances of their death, each of these people had someone who loved them and mourned their deaths. The circles served as a venue to process the loss and trauma of police violence, and also to encourage each other to take action to end this history of violence in Chicago.
Only two Chicago Police Department killings have been ruled unjustified in the last decade, and no officers have been convicted for a fatal shooting. Grassroots groups, mostly led by Black youth, continue to take to the street on a weekly basis to demand police accountability and reform. Six people have been killed by the Chicago Police Department since we stopped including new names on the quilt
This project is a collaboration between Rachel Wallis and We Charge Genocide, and is supported by a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.