Black Belt fashions on display during Juneteenth

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 30, 2005

BIRMINGHAM-Visitors to the tenth annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will be in for s special treat from the Black Belt this year. The Institute plans to collaborate with Black Belt Designs of York to present “Affirmation: A Collaboration in Fiber,” which will display dozens of one of a kind handmade clothing designs by York artists Marilyn Gordon and Lillie Mack.

Gordon and Mack’s work will be on display in the Institutes Commons area from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and will feature unique designs guaranteed to attract attention. Gordon and Mack use all kinds of fabrics from denim to linen to create clothing designs that reflect artistic traditions of the rural South. Mack said their clothing designs are tailor made for those who demand to be seen.

“Using whatever is available to make something beautiful, functional and unique is the common denominator of our collective experience,” Mack says. “Our clothing is the perfect accent for dynamic individuals who like to stand out in the crowd. Our clothes are not for Madison Avenue fashion clones.”

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The Institute and BBD felt this collaboration would be perfect for the Tenth Annual Juneteenth Celebration because of the significance clothing had in June of 1865. Mack said the clothing was a symbol of the changing times.

“When the enslaved in Texas were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation, they celebrated by wearing the clothing of the slave master and mistress,” Mack said. “This role reversal is a special moment when clothing becomes a shining symbol for liberty, self-determination and possibility.”

Both Mack and Gordon have a great deal of experience behind their work. Gordon started making clothing at age nine when she fashioned a feed sack into a skirt. Mack watched her mother make clothes for the family and soon caught on. After developing her skills she was able to make hr high school prom dress and much more. Together, through the years, the women have gained professional experience in fabrics and fibers working in everything from factories to their own shops.

Black Belt Designs is a collaborative fiber workshop and arts outreach program in the Coleman Center for Arts and Culture in York. Through BBD, Gordon and Mack have been able to share their gift with others in the area and the rest of the state.

For more information on the upcoming display, please contact Marie Jones, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Public Relations Coordinator, at 205-328-9696 ext. 244.