Durham man creates quilt to honor homicide victims

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Sidney Brodie honors every homicide victim in his county with a square on a quilt, to make sure they are remembered and do not simply become a statistic.

He has already sewn 17 squares for victims inside the Durham city limits this year. There were 17 in all of 2017.

“We’re not even completely through half of the year. That’s not good. But what we do, we continue to chip away at this stone, and know that change is gonna come,” Brodie said.

Another six squares added the quilt in 2019 represent victims in the Durham County Sheriff’s jurisdiction. Each section includes the victim’s name, date of death, and additional information in some circumstances.
He started the Durham Memorial Homicide Quilt project in 1994.

“I was working as a 911 communicator for Durham, and a young girl was killed, and there was some outrage, but it was short-lived,” Brodie said. 

“You can’t help but yourself in that parents or those grandparents place, and just imagine what life would be like to live out that reality. I started this just as much for my own children, as I did for any other reason,” he said.
“You just never know when it’s going to touch someone you know or your own family.”

He personally knew a few of the people, but most are strangers. His habit is to speak the victim’s names as he writes them on sections of fabric, and to ask what happened in the moments before they died.

There are 805 squares as of June 14, 2019.

“That’s just total devastation, and it’s like, where does it stop? It’s concerning any time someone is murdered in this town because it happens so regularly,” he said.

“Putting on this patch is not going to fix it overnight, but I want to do my part in making it crystal clear that we’ve got a problem.”

The full quilt will be on display at DIY Fest on June 22 at the Rhythms Live Music Hall. Brodie hopes there will not be any new names on the quilt before its next exhibition.

He was busy in the second of half of May. Dwayne Wilson, Jr., died in a shootout on May 19. Security guard Jay Aaron Foust was killed in the early hours of May 21. Deeshawn Cates died the same day.

“I usually close the border off as soon as I close a square. Something happened (in mid-May) that I had not seen in a long time. I came out, I added a square, my routine, and left and the very next day I had to come and open that square, that border, and put in another square. I closed it off, and went back to my life,” Brodie said.

“Then I came back a third day. Three days in a row, I opened up a border and added a square.”

He left the border open, not because he anticipated another homicide, but because he was tired. Within a week there was another name, a dying 16-year-old boy was abandoned in a car outside Duke Hospital.

He last worked on the quilt June 6.

“I’m closing the border in hopes that the quilt is finished.”

He is optimistic the work to be done forever, but he knows the realism is it will only be a matter of time before there is another victim.

“When it comes to a remedy, looking for ways to turn it around, we find ourselves in a mode where we’re looking to assign blame, but we need teamwork. What we need to do is get back to civilization, get back to family, get back to accountability,” he said.

“Our city, Durham, I personally think is worth the fight.”

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