Durham County

Durham man wants quilt marking violent deaths to inspire conversation, action

Durham man continues to honor homicide victims with 60-foot quilt after 23 years

Video: Sidney Brodie sews on the 696th square onto his Durham Homicide and Victims of Violent Death Memorial Quilt on Wednesday June 14, 2017.
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Video: Sidney Brodie sews on the 696th square onto his Durham Homicide and Victims of Violent Death Memorial Quilt on Wednesday June 14, 2017.

Sidney Brodie poked a needle through layers of quilt and stitched the newest name into the fabric of a tragic Durham club.

Bernabe Dubon, 62, died after being found on the ground with a gunshot wound on the morning of Sunday, June 11.

On Wednesday morning, Brodie sewed a yellow triangle with Dubon’s name, drawn with green and purple fabric paint. Above Brodie’s triangle is 24-year-old Kenneth Bailey’s name. He was shot by police in February.

And to the left is Kamari Munerlyn, a 7-year-old killed in a drive-by shooting June 4.

The names are part of the five-foot by 60-foot quilt that as of Thursday had 695 names of people killed in Durham since 1994.

“They are becoming a part of a club,” said Brodie, 60, of Durham. “The quilt is joining all these people together. They are black, white, Latino.”

The quilt is a product of Brodie’s magic.

A magic, he said, that he is using to compel people to see the destruction of fear and despair. A magic that he wants to inspire outrage, conversation and action to stop the violence that has resulted in three children 14 and younger being shot since May.

“I want them to do something. I want them to think of something. Everybody has a magic,” Brodie said. “I don’t know what their magic is. I know mine. I hope to help them find that.”

Over the next few months, Brodie wants to bring the quilt to 120 different places. On Saturday it will be at McDougald Terrace public housing complex near Burton Park from noon to 3 p.m.

After Brodie has taken it 120 places, he plans to retire it, possibly by putting it in a museum.

Taking care of the quilt has been Brodie’s honor and his burden, he said.

This isn’t Brodie’s first attempt to calm the violence. From 1996 to 2005, he traveled across the region on a “Stop the Violence,” tour. On the tour, bands would play and young men paralyzed by gunshots in Durham would speak from their wheelchairs.

2-year-old shot

Brodie is a father of five and a Durham native. He has worked as a city 911 dispatcher and a security guard for Northgate Mall.

He is now an alarms officer at the N.C. Detective Agency. He is also a musician – a vocalist and guitar player - whose rhythm and blues band The Brothership, which includes his brother Robert, opened for Jimmy Buffett in the late 1990s in Raleigh. From 1983 to 1992, he played with Doug Clark and The Hot Nuts.

In the 1990s, Brodie listened to the violence through calls to 911. He wasn’t working the day in 1994 when 2-year-old Shaquana Atwater was shot by stray bullets while she was playing on a neighbor’s porch, but the death jolted his passion to inspire change.

A year later he started the “Stop the Violence” tour.

In 1998, a bullet from a gun battle severed 5-year-old Tyquan Mikell’s spinal column and took away the kindergartner’s ability to walk.

Brodie remembers visiting Tyquan at the hospital. His mother was feeding him juice.

“He was a little bitty 5-year-old,” Brodie said.

Brodie decided he had to do more, he said.

The idea for the quilt came from Greg Kincy, who was volunteering with Brodie’s tour. The quilt would be another tool to help people see the extent of the violence. Brodie already carried with him a coffin with an African-American mannequin in it. The mannequin had long dreadlocks. Its face was a mirror.

“It’s shock value. The kids wanted to see this because it was fascinating,” Brodie said. “We talked with them about why we did that. There were so many premature deaths, so much wisdom in the ground.”

Brodie also started a violence awareness museum in his investment property on Carroll Street in the West End.

When he started the quilt in 1998, he went back to 1994 because that was the year of 2-year-old Shaquana’s death, he said.

‘He is not forgotten’

Lisa Richmond’s 17-year-old son Jonathan Richmond was found shot to death in the backseat of a car in 1999.

Brodie brought the “Stop the Violence” tour to Richmond’s house. His band played. The quilt and the coffin were there.

“You see the name,” Richmond, 54, of Durham said about Jonathan’s name on the quilt. “You know he is not forgotten.”

Brodie’s girlfriend, Yvonne Cash, who became his wife, initially sewed the squares on the quilt.

Through the process she learned about how the people on the quilt lived and died.

“And I would know,” said Cash, 49, who is no longer married to Brodie.

By 2005, she had to stop.

She couldn’t continue thinking about death and homicide all the time. She likes to complete things, she said, but the murders wouldn’t stop.

“There is no end,” she said.

By 2005, Brodie was also burned out. He had closed the museum and ceased the tour.

“He pulled away from the community,” Cash said.

Brodie was discouraged and frustrated.

“I think I put so much heart and soul into this that I may have neglected my family,” he said.

‘More intense than it has ever been’

Over the years, Brodie lost the coffin and other artifacts to storage fees he couldn’t keep up with. But he always kept the quilt with him in a blue tote that stayed under whatever roof he was sleeping under.

He sought help with keeping the quilt up to date, but it fell years behind as he struggled to find someone who would do it.

In 2011, he said, he dropped it off at the Durham Center for Senior Life for the quilting club to add squares. When he picked it up a year later, no squares had been added but he was told it won a prize in a contest.

Late last year, Brodie again became concerned about the violence in Durham and tension with police.

“This is more intense now than it has ever been,” Brodie said. “I knew this effort needed my talents and my thoughts.”

Brodie started to sew the additional names on the quilt himself, with the help of his sister and three of his father’s neighbors.

Now the quilt is stored in a storage unit off East Geer Street where his band The Brothership keeps their instruments and holds practice.

Brodie brought the quilt to Kamari’s vigil last week, sewing the square with the 7-year-old’s name on it as tears blinded his eyes.

Brodie also brought the quilt to the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in February. Sixteen people carried it.

When Sheriff Mike Andrews saw it, he thought it was a piece of art work.

“It stunned me with what I saw,” Andrews said. “The length of it.”

About 500 people work for him, he said. And there were more people on the quilt.

Andrews wants to display the quilt in the lobby of the jail.

“I think it is something that people need to see,” he said. “It will impact a lot of individuals.”

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

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