Spotlight On: Anna B Brown!

It’s always a good day to celebrate our members! This month we celebrate Anna B Brown!

Anna B Brown, a 2018 founding member of Akoma Ntoso MQG, is the 4th child (right smack in the middle) of Roosevelt and Anna Brown from Hollandale, Mississippi. Anna is the fourth “Anna” in her family. Her maternal grandmother, nicknamed Sis, and her mother (the youngest of 12) were both named Anna. Also, her paternal grandmother was an Anna! She says that her father (an only child) moved his children to Indiana when she was 5 because, “he wanted better for his children and did not want any of them picking cotton and falling victim to a system that would keep them uneducated and poor.” Initially moving to Muncie, IN, the family later moved to Indianapolis where Anna attended School #26 and graduated from Arsenal Technical High School.

When asked if anyone in her family sewed, she stated that her maternal grandmother was the seamstress and quilter in the family. Sewing everything by hand, Anna wishes that she had something that her grandmother had made. Remaining in Mississippi, her grandmother passed without her mother knowing. She stated that back in the day, pregnant women were shielded from bad news and her mother did not learn of her own mother‘s September 1960 passing until after her younger sister was born January 21, 1961. So how did Anna learn to sew? Anna explained that she learned how to sew through the school system. Not only did she take Home Economics in school, but there were after school programming at a neighborhood center that taught students how to crochet, knit, embroider, and create other art projects such as needle point. She believes that this fostered her belief that one should “know a little bit about everything.”

Anna’s eldest brother helped her to make her first quilt, out of blue jeans, when she was 25 years old. It was his only quilt and he made it to prove “how easy it was to do!” Anna didn’t make another quilt for decades, but promised herself that when she found the time, she would go back to quilting. Anna spent 32.5 years waiting to quilt as she spent that time working at the Indiana Women’s Prison. She spent 20 years as a laundry supervisor. Her final 12.5 years were spent as a clothing supervisor teaching the toughest inmates—murderers and the mentally ill—to sew pajamas. She felt that this project gave the women a chance to hone skills that could transfer beyond the prison walls. Years later, she’s still getting messages from former inmates that her efforts were appreciated.

As a member of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, Anna stated that Founding Secretary Vickie Powell gave her a card announcing the founding of Akoma Ntoso. She held onto the notice and realized upon finding the flyer again that the date of the inaugural meeting was the next day.  She decided that she would “go and see what was going on.” Anna joined the guild and became a founding member that very day!

What are Anna’s thoughts about quilting and the guild? Anna stated that she loves appliqué and traditional quilting. She is in awe of the traditional quilter’s ingenuity with finding fabrics with which to create. Often resorting to using flour sacks and old clothing, she appreciates their skill in creating quilts that have lasted decades! She does however believe that modern quilters have carved out their own lane and acknowledges that both have a place in quilting.

Anna laughed (for almost a minute!) when asked what has been her favorite project with the guild thus far.  Anna mused, “I don’t have a favorite project, although I really do enjoy making the Birthday Blocks. I really am a ‘Jack of All Trade’ and I allow the fabrics to speak to me and tell me what to do. My motto is ‘It is what it is.’ I don’t stress about the quilting process at all. I thoroughly enjoy being in the guild as it allows me to increase my learning curve, to learn from and help others, and to enjoy the camaraderie of those who move from friendship to family. I loved coming to meetings to enjoy the snacks and to see what others had completed! Even before COVID-19, I spent many days by myself. Joining the guild made the days very purposeful (I quilt and create for 4 hours each day) and meeting with my guild members made the days less lonely. That’s what I love the most: people move from being more than your friend. They (your quilt guild members) become your new family.”

Anna considers herself an artist. She believes that God puts people in your life for a reason…and maybe even for just a season. For now she loves quilting and spending quality time with her quilting family. As for tomorrow:  Who knows? It is what it is!