wait a moment

Primary Source Description – Gil Scott-Heron Quilt Piece

On this Pan-African inspired quilt piece, we see three photos of the famous musician, poet, and African American social activist, Gil Scott-Heron. His influence is reflected in this very quilt piece. Gil Scott-Heron was a famous musician and African-American equality activist, and his influence left a mark on rap and hip hop culture today. Scott-Heron, unfortunately, lost his battle with AIDS. The subculture affected by AIDS, Pan-African pride and black activism, is resembled in this quilt piece. The quilt piece has a white backdrop piece. This choice of background helps for the individual items on the quilt piece to pop and be more visible. The years listed are 1949 and 2011. These dates indicate that Gil Scott-Heron lived for only 62 years, which compared to the average length of an American’s life of 76 years, is comparably short. This shows how African Americans who are exposed to the injustices posed by white Americans systematically are affected by AIDS. 44% of HIV victims are African Americans, yet African Americans only account for about 12% of the US population. These dates on the quilt piece show that AIDS has affected a black individual and ended his life. The center image is of Gil Scott-Heron’s debut studio album “Pieces of a Man” released in 1971. This image is here to show an example of Gil Scott-Heron’s accomplishments. Many of his songs and works were intended to present the injustices African Americans face, to the public. AIDS affected the people facing these injustices greatly; this is a result of the systematic racism and restrictions set on African Americans living in urban places with little access to some of the necessities and/or luxuries other Americans from suburbs are granted. Furthest to right we see an image of Gil Scott-Heron which is darker and shows a shadowy background, while picturing his face angled slightly to the side, giving off a dark and more serious tone. Much of what Gil Scott-Heron stood for and rapped and wrote about were the dark truths of the things African Americans face, like oppression. This dark image shows Scott-Heron in a serious and dark setting, bringing light to the dark side of his music. At the top of the photo we see the words “Gil Scott”, in yellow, green, orange, and red material, and at the bottom we see the word “Heron” in the same material. This material is colored red yellow green and orange, all of which are colors commonly found in African flags, and colors used to represent Pan African culture. Below the number 2011, there is a verse from Gil Scott-Heron’s song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. This verse reads, “The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised, the revolution will be no rerun brothers, the revolution will be live.” This excerpt, and the entire song in fact, is on of Gil Scott-Heron’s many examples of political activism. This aspect of the quilt piece resembles a sort of irony. Because of the oppression and lack of resources and systemic injustices, African Americans everywhere are affected by things like drug addiction, crime, and HIV viruses, as was Gil Scott-Heron, a man who dedicated his talent to making a difference on several occasions. On the mid-left side, beneath the year 1949, there is an image of the continent of Africa, colored red, yellow, and green, and a black outline of a fist in the center of the continent. This is a symbol of black power and African pride. Finally, in the left lower corner we see an image of Gil Scott-Heron wearing reflecting sunglasses, and in these sunglasses, we see the left lens there is a group of Klu Klux Klan members, as well as an American flag, and a dollar bill, with the statue of liberty in the background. This lens shows a combination of negative American cultural aspects, such as greed and racism. This lens resembles racist capitalist America, which Gil Scott-Heron stood strongly against, and it showed in his activism. In the right lens, we see African people playing instruments, a black man smiling in the background, and a city skyline. This lens symbolizes African American culture and music as well as black pride, which is what a lot of Gil Scott-Heron’s work implied.