Arts Based Social Protest*

Image credit Jane Hopkins Walsh #BorderQuiltProject
Twitter @_radicalnursing
Instagram @janewalsh357

#D4CCQuiltProject   #DetentionIsDeadly   #FreeThemAll  #BorderQuiltProject

Arts based inquiry has a historical grounding in nursing often linked to aesthetic ways of knowing, and to the centering of emancipatory, holistic, person-centered methods that include art as a way to uncover human stories (Archibald, Caine, & Scott, 2017). 

Beginning in San Diego California on May 13, 2020 and rolling to other nine other cities throughout the week, health care providers and allies from the group called Doctors for Camp Closure, (D4CC) are using art, and coordinating 24 hour protest vigils outside ICE detention centers to urge governors to release detained people before more people die.

The protests aim to draw attention to the serious risks of infection and death from CoVid-19 associated with overcrowding and the inability of people to social distance when in detention centers and prisons. In addition to risks to detained and imprisoned people, community spread of the virus is possible as detention and prison workers come and go from the centers.

In solidarity and collaboration with community groups around the nation, D4CC protestors are using pandemic related safety precautions like wearing masks and remaining six feet apart, while incorporating arts based events during the protest vigils. The arts related actions of the protest include poetry reading, candle ceremonies, knitting, music, story telling, reflective journaling, video making, and the creation of a virtual and actual protest quilt called the #D4CCQuiltProject.

We invite Radical Nurse Blog readers to follow and support the nationwide efforts of D4CC protestors this week on D4CC social media, and to participate in the #D4CCQuiltProject.

The #D4CCQuiltProject:

 By using the social media platform Instagram and including specific project hashtags (see the title of this post), the virtual  #D4CCQuiltProject project will “sew” together images from the nationwide protest, including banner messages and other images or words drawing attention to the risks of CoVid-19 infection for detained and incarcerated people.

Images for the #D4CCQuiltProject can also spotlight less obvious historical and structural issues that are influencing refugees and asylum seekers to immigrate around the globe- factors contributing to mass detention. These factors include persistent white settler colonialism, neoliberalism, wars and militarization of borders, racialized extraction of living and nonliving resources around the world by the Global North, and extreme climate related phenomenons, all factors contributing to conditions of poverty, violence, and food and water insecurity throughout the world. Migration to the US, and associated ICE detention, are influenced by multiple intersectional issues for which we as US citizens are complicit (think consumption of sugar, palm oil, hydroelectric power, coffee, lumber, beef, and the meat packing and agriculture industries to name a few).

Images for the #D4CCQuiltProject may include protest messages about other injustices impacting the health and lives of patients we nurses and doctor work with, including the current CoVid-19 related health disparities in the US.

The quilt protest may also draw attention to structural violence issues like entrenched white supremacy, overt racism and violence against People of Color, mass incarceration of Black, Indigenous and People of Color, disparities around Black maternal mortality, and lack of universal health insurance.

 In addition, Native American and Indigenous land rights and sovereignty issues in the US are often erased within discussions of immigration, detention and incarceration, and we invite protest messages to highlight these injustices. One current example of ongoing settler colonialism in the US among many, the Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts are in court proceedings with the federal government over rights to retain tribal land – their land for 12,000 years- that was “awarded” to them in 1934. You can support the Wampanoag Tribe and sign the petition here.

Furthermore, LQBTQI issues also frequently get erased in the discussion of immigration and detention, and protest messages about these important issues are also welcomed.

Project Guide: How to Participate  

There are two ways to participate in the #D4CCQuiltProject

  1. Virtual Quilt via Internet based images on Instagram
  • Take a square photo of any message or image that aligns with issues of social justice discussed above, widely personal, individual and open to interpretation.
  • A square image is needed as this shape allows the images to fit and align  together.
  • Image can include poetry, single words or phrases, a photo of a flower or nature image, a headline in news, memories of deceased persons to honor who have been impacted by immigration, incarceration, or structural violence.
  • You may superimpose a message on a photo you already have using cell phone picture edit features.
  • Upload  the image to Instagram with the primary hashtags #D4CCQuiltProject #BorderQuiltProject
  • If you do not have an Instagram account, you may create an account, or simply email the square image (an option in many cell phone cameras) to with permission in the email to upload the image and apply the hashtags.
  • Instagram is the chosen platform because the use of the hashtags aggregate the images in a virtual space where they can be collected to be “sewn” together. 
  •  You may further support the D4CC 24 hour vigils this week by also including the hashtags #DetentionIsDeadly  #FreeThemAll
  • Secondary hashtags are fine too but you have to use #D4CCQuiltProject  
  • #BorderQuiltProject so we can “find” the images on Instagram. 
  • You may also tag @doctors4campclosure to support the group page.
  • The virtual quilt  is public and will be shared on social media to amplify the messages of social justice that are of concern to us as nurses and doctors.
  • Our allies, friends and family are also invited to participate in the virtual quilting #protestbee
  1. Actual Quilt with Fabric Messages
  • During the vigil week, May13-19,2020 and up to two-four weeks after the vigil,  people can mail me 12 by 12 inch squares of fabric with messages hand written or sewn , and I will sew them together and make them onto a physical quilt . 
  • Any fabric is acceptable but dimensions should be about 12 inches by 12 inches.
  • This can be a way to invite others, friends, kids, and family members to be involved in this collective social movement.
  • You can include the creation of a fabric square as a way of reflecting during the time when protestors are doing the 24 hour vigil. Give yourself permission to create spontaneous, improvisational, non judgmental child-like art, no pressure to have any “artistic” or sewing skills. Messages can be drawn, painted or sewn on any type of fabric- old, used, upcycled.
  • You can invite local community groups to participate in the creation of squares.
  •  Email Jane Hopkins Walsh ( for address of where to send fabric squares.
  •  Fabric squares should reach me by +- June 30th 2020. 

Quilting, much like the art of participating in social movements for justice and change, is a slow art that takes persistence and patience. Projects such as the #D4CCQuiltProject and the #BorderQuiltProject may take several attempts across multiple protests to garner collective action to “sew” a virtual or actual quilt for social change. But if/when the project is actualized, the virtual and fabric quilt could be part of larger collective efforts that highlight injustice, and the project could present examples of ways for nurses and doctors to include more arts based activism in building knowledge and protesting important social injustice issues.

Speak up and speak out against injustice with art-artivism (Sandoval & LaTorre, 2008).

Parts of this post were published on May 14, 2020 on the blog NURSEMANIFEST


Archibald, M. M., Caine, V., & Scott, S. D. (2017). Intersections of the arts and nursing knowledge. Nursing inquiry, 24(2), e12153.

Sandoval, C., & Latorre G., (2008).  “Chicana/o Artivism: Judy Baca’s digital work with youth of color.” Learning Race andEthnicity: Youth and Digital Media. (Ed) Everett, A. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media andLearning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 81–108. doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262550673.08

Jane Hopkins Walsh is a Spanish speaking pediatric nurse practitioner at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is a PhD Candidate in Nursing and Jonas-Blaustein Scholar at Boston College, and is enrolled in a certificate program at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at the BC Lynch School of Education.

Jane is a volunteer and board member for the longest-serving NGO in Honduras called Cape CARES ( Jane is passionate about social justice and immigrant rights and volunteers for Project Reunify (, the Dilley Pro Bono Project ( and The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law  (

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