I was inspired to create this quilt, America at the Crossroads, during the course of the 2008 presidential campaign. The purportedly “improbable” candidacy of Barack Hussein Obama demanded intro/retrospection about American’s perennial challenge to reconcile the competing imperatives of race, gender, religion, class, nationality and sexual identity as we struggle to realize the vision of “a more perfect union.”
As I engaged in debating, donating, campaigning, and finally protecting the vote on Election Day, it became apparent to me that America was at a crucial crossroads and we needed a wise and audacious interpreter/mediator to negotiate the crossing. As a Jamaican American immigrant, Barack Obama’s narrative resonated with me. Obama, who is black and white, insider and outsider, native and other, acknowledged our stories, explained our fears and inspired us to make a united leap of faith into a future where we become the change we have been waiting for.
The Ghanaian adinkrahene symbol, anchoring the corners of the inner border of the quilt, denotes greatness, charisma, and leadership. The central adinkra symbol of the intertwined crocodiles, funtunfunefu-denkyemfunefu, signifies unity in diversity. The bicolored representation of the same symbol at the outer border of the quilt invokes the spirit of the Yoruba orisha Esu-Elegbara—mediator, joiner of opposites, opener of gates, and guardian of the crossroads.
With mathematical precision, this quilt delineates the intersecting social and political movements that have enabled the election of Barack Obama as our forty-fourth president. America at the Crossroads emblematizes the possibility of regeneration of the United States in the twenty-first century.