Today: A Poem by Elisabeth Michel

Please enjoy a poem submitted by Beautiful Community member Elisabeth Michel. Perhaps it will inspire you to take up your pen. In fact, Elisabeth also shares a couple of writing prompts to help.


Today, I will write.

I do not consider myself a poet.

But I think of the voices now silent,

And I remember the writers.

The dancers.

The chefs.

The travelers.

Musicians.

Scientists.

Artists.

All the ones who could. Whose individual songs rang with power, even when soft. Whose perspectives helped us see parts of life and truth that we would have otherwise missed.

The ones who, in pursuit of their purpose, shaped the world around us.

They may, at one point, have thought they couldn’t.

Yet they blessed us when they did.

So today I write.


Writing Prompts:

1. What’s something that made you smile this week?

2. For the next two minutes, write down all the activities you engaged in today, in reverse order. (Start with now, and then write what you did before this moment, what you did before that moment, etc.). Go as far as you can in 2 minutes. After the two minutes are up, review the list and see which activity/moment in your day thus far has the strongest emotions attached to it. What was that moment, and what are you feeling?

Note from Elisabeth: “A professor gave me this writing exercise in college, and I love it to this day.”

If you feel comfortable, feel free to share your answers from the writing prompts above in the comments.

Elisabeth Michel is a health equity advocate passionate about seeing a world where everyone has the opportunity to reach their maximum potential. Currently living in Michigan, Elisabeth enjoys photography, improv, playing the piano – and when spring and summer finally overtake the Michigan winters, she loves to lounge outdoors in the grass with a good book.

Photo by Kaci Kennedy

 

Today marks the release of the third issue of The Beautiful Project Journal, a biannual publication that gives insight on the inner workings of our collective of Black girls and women. Our first issue, Activating Sisterhood, served as our re-introduction to the world as a collective of image makers and explored how we cultivate sisterhood with each other. Our second issue, Doing The Work, went deeper into what it means for us, as Black women and girls, to do this type of work that is before us. This current Journal focuses on the notion of wellness and healing for Black women and girls.

We are interrogating the nuances of self-care, exploring the necessity of collective care, and sharing tools and strategies on how to pursue wellness and healing for ourselves and each other. You will find articles and images that capture the themes of sisterhood, liberation, healing, and transformation. We hope you enjoy!

Thank you to the wonderful women who contributed to this issue and made it happen:

Editors: Khayla Deans and Pamela Thompson 

Designer: Winnie Okwakol

Images & Text Contributors: Frances Adomako, Ahmadie Bowles, Zoey Bowles, Jade Clauden, Morgan Crutchfield, Dawn Downey, Pasha Gray, Jamaica Gilmer, Alexandria Miller, Cecilia Moore, Della Mosley, Madylin Nixon-Taplet, Avery Patterson, Sydney Patterson, AlineSitoe A. Sy

Our love to Timisha, Lacquen, Margaret, Lisa, Nadia, Ashley, Krystyn, Shyla, Alex, April, Najauna, and Joan for blessing us with your presence.

Today marks the release of the second issue of The Beautiful Project Journal, a biannual publication that gives insight on the inner workings of our collective. Our first issue, Activating Sisterhood, served as our re-introduction to the world as a collective of image makers and explored how we cultivate sisterhood with each other. In this new issue, we are digging deeper into what it means for us, as Black women and girls, to do this work that is before us.

We define our work as creating spaces for Black women and girls to confront the mass misrepresentation of our likeness in the media and the world. This publication is a manifestation of how we approach image activism through photography, writing and care. In this particular issue, you will find a personal story by our Director of Wellness Programming, Erin M. Stephens, on practicing transformative care, a compelling short story by author Afabwaje Kurian, a glimpse into the lives and work of Black women in our community, and much more.

Thank you to the wonderful women who contributed to this issue and made it happen: Pamela, Erin, Jamaica, Meron, Madylin, Kaci, and Afa. Also, much love to Mama Toni and Sakarah for blessing our cover so gracefully!

You can view Doing The Work here.  We hope you enjoy!

 

 

Written by Khayla Deans for TBP

Cover Images by Jamaica Gilmer

They sang lullabies, wooing us away from our insecurities and fears and hang-ups and let downs . . .

Beautiful black girl, it’s okay to have those curls, it’s okay to have brown skin, you don’t have to be of the world you’re in.

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They sang empowerment chants, strengthening us to confront the lies that have been told about us, encouraging us to face ourselves full on in the mirror again, daring us to remember and know that we are brilliant, we are beautiful, we are bold and we are better, together . . .

Now that I know the truth, time to show and prove. . . Every part of me is beautiful and I finally see, I’m a work of art, a masterpiece. . . I”ll show my picture to the world, I’m not afraid to let it show, anymore.

 

They moaned sacred hymns, original compositions, those that could only be written by black women who know what it is to be misunderstood, mistreated, left out, under appreciated, offering these words hummed out in harmony as a salve, soothing the ache, making us know it’s going to be okay; we do not stand alone . . .

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If she could dance naked under palms trees and see her reflection in the river, she would know she is beautiful. But there are no palm trees and dish water bears no image.

For the length of two hours they used God given instruments; combinations of soprano, alto, tenor, notes in between and notes not yet named, creatively syncopated and composed to confirm our existence, appreciate our presence, and give earnest unto our future . . .

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It was the ultimate act of sisterhood, a story worthy of being told with black, blocked letters on manilla colored pages, but, make no mistake, this was no fairytale. This was real, and they pounded out note upon note, line for line, putting in work to passionately make us to know it is so:

sisterhood is activism.

The Sisterhood Soundscape was an experience. The lyrics have carried me and continue to do so. I hear them in my head and I let them do their work of pushing me forward, making space for me to explore myself, love myself, be myself. We were all so captivated by the work of the remarkable, significantly impressive sisters from the North Carolina Central University Jazz Studies Program Tyra Scott, Dupresha Townsend and Natalie Wallace, under the leadership of the fierce, incomparable, gracious and giving, Lenora Zenzalai Helm.

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To these women, we offer a humble thank you, understanding that there is no gift or words we could render to accurately and appropriately honor them for the myriad ways they blessed all of us that hot summer Sunday in June. They have imprinted on our hearts the messages of sisterhood that keep echoing back to us, like an audible boomerang, relentlessly reminding us that sisterhood says

I see you,
       I stand with you,
                                     I stand for you,
       I will keep you,
                                     I celebrate you.
I will hold you up and hold you down,
      I will walk with you,
                              I will weep with you and for you,
                   you are not alone.

And so, we simply say back to them, what they beautifully cantillated out to us in sweet song, with our right fists clenched tight with conviction and pride over our heart, as our anthem unto one another, determined to stay in the fight and make it, together,

We must go on this way; getting stronger everyday, can’t be too shy to say, that I really love you, sister, I love you.

Our deep thanks to the Beyu Caffe family for supporting the wonder of the Sisterhood Soundscape!

 

The world has been talking about #blackgirlmagic as of late in the media. Mainstream media, such as Teen Vogue and Elle Magazine are now beginning to realize the brilliance of Black women and girls. (If you haven’t checked out the beautiful exchange of words between Solange and Amandla via Teen Vogue, please do so.) In any case, we are grateful for rachael ranae derello for submitting a #dearblackgirl letter that perfectly embodies the essence of #blackgirlmagic. Thank you rachael, for taking up your pen!

 

dear black girl,

you will go through things in this life that might make you feel like you will break. when you get to that point, breathe and know that you are not alone. so many of us are here, rooting for you, loving you. don’t go so inward that no one can reach you. reach out to your loved ones and don’t feel ashamed to do so.

know that your ancestors are there. in the quiet, you will find them. in the wind at your back, you will find them. in your voice, be it frail or strong, you will find them.

they say that we were not meant to survive. i believe that you will do so much more than merely survive. i pray that you will thrive. that you will know without a doubt that you are cosmic perfection. your hair, your skin, your brilliance.

i pray that you bring your full self to everything that you do because every single part of you is welcome here. every single part of who you are in needed here. your magic. your anger. your laughter. your rhythm. your song. your shadows. your in(sight). your love. your prayer.

ase, ase, ase-o.

Post #13-RachaelRanaeDerellorachael ranae derello is a 35 years old mama, healer, and cultural organizer. hometown: nomadic

We are looking forward to showing you what we have in store at The Beautiful Project for the new year. Until then, here’s another #dearblackgirl letter with a powerful message for all of us. Thank you Amberly Carter for sharing your insight and taking up your pen!

Dear Black Girl,

Your mini skirt is not too short. Your pants are not too tight and your shirt is not cut too low. It’s your prerogative! Girls are born into a setting where the culture defends abusive and violent acts against them for the anatomy of their bodies. We’re told to plug it up, shut it up and cover it up because it has been perceived as a distraction for men. Women are threatened that they will be unwanted and unwed based on what they choose to pull out of their closets to cover their vaginas, breasts and booty cheeks. Despite what anyone says, women who wear modest clothes struggle to get married just as much as women who show off their bodies. Unequivocally, society does not tell men that they won’t get married if they don’t pull up their pants and stop saggin’. Furthermore, we’ve accepted that not all men see marriage as their goal, but yet society still push this expected social norm onto all women. Marriage may not be your goal either. Perhaps you hadn’t thought about it much at all before I wrote you this letter. When you do, know that there are non­-monogamous ways to be in a healthy relationship. Some of which many people find to be very empowering, just like modesty is empowering to some women and nudity is empowering to others.

When you think about race, gender and sexuality, understand that each has its intersections with the others. You may not be able to experience the privileges of one while being marginalized for the others. Some women, married or otherwise, will try to shame you as a single Black woman into behaving and dressing a certain way out of their own insecurities or internalized sexism. Know that some of those people are just repeating what somebody else told them. Gender norms are taught to us from a young age. Can you remember the first time you were asked if you had a boyfriend? How about the first time you were told to act like a lady? Many of the people enforcing gender roles have not stopped and questioned the origin of their own morals. They should worry about, why they’re worried about, other women’s clothes and behavior. You just focus on developing all of your identities and seek safe and brave spaces that celebrate your whole self.

The world will ask you to be everything you’re not and your soul will be convicted, your heart conflicted. Remember that the world is changed by your example, not your opinion and yet your mere existence is revolutionary. You are enough to change the world. So just. Be. You.

Inclusively yours,

Amberly R. Carter, M.Ed

 

Post #12-carterAmberly Carter is 30 years old from Chicago, Illinois. She is a non-teaching faculty member at the University of Albany in Albany, NY. She is also the cousin of the late Emmett Till and serves as the Director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation.

We are delighted to share another beautifully written #dearblackgirl letter, which was penned by 23 years old Maneo Mohale who is a student from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thank you Maneo for taking up your pen!

Dear Black Girl,

Ever hear that song, “Mama said they’d be days like this, they’d be days like this, my mama said”?

Something about the melody reminds me of summer days.

Of bright orange peaches, and sticky-soft mangoes that were so ripe that the sticky juice would ooze in between your fingers and all the way down your arm. Of days where my mother would warn me not to eat too many of my grandmother’s freshly-baked, straight-from-the-oven biscuits, or else I’d find myself with a tummy ache.

I’d try to listen (I really would), but I’d always give in to the sweet-sweet smell of butter and sugar and vanilla in the air, and I’d find myself stealing a few hot biscuits before my mum could see. And sure enough, by the end of the day, I’d be clutching my tummy in embarrassed discomfort, grudgingly admitting that my mum was so right.

“Mama said they’d be days like this, they’d be days like this, my mama said…”

Dear Black Girl,

I’m here to tell you that there will also be days that your mother never could warn you about. Like the day that you discover what the world sees in your skin – a world still trying to shake the dust of the troublesome past from its eyes.

Or the day you feel a kind of heart-heaviness that you struggle to explain, even to the ones with the ears to listen.
Or the many days that you will spend reaching with wide and desperate arms for songs and stories and movies and music and comics and characters and paintings and pictures that look anything like you. Just so you don’t feel so invisible.

But, my love, you are not invisible.

I see you.

You, my love, hold stories in your skin.
You, my love, are powerful, and precious.
You, my love, are so lovely and so loved.
And today is the day that you begin to tell yourself this, until the day that you finally believe.

Ke’a o rata. (I love you).
Maneo

Post #3-Maneo Mohale_DBGManeo Mohale is a 23 years old student from Johannesburg, South Africa. 

The 10 finalist for our call to Black women image makers debut TODAY!! Visit our facebook page and LIKE YOUR FAVORITE SUBMISSION!We are so grateful for all of those who took up their cameras and joined us in growing #TBPSelfCare Exhibit: A Word and Image Act of Self-Preservation and Political Warfare.

As we shared with the finalist, reviewing the world through their lens was a pleasure that moved us to tears. We see your act of self-preservation and political warfare and we cherish it. On Tuesday, August 18 @ noon, the 2 submissions with the most FB likes will be awarded:

1st prize: Cannon EOS Rebel T5 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Digital SLR Kit & Journal

2nd prize: Viewfinders by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe & a Nikon Coolpix S2800 20.1MP

CONGRATS to our lovely Black women image maker finalists!!

Yolanda Smith

Sharon D. Johnson

Mavis Gragg

Melissa Howell

Lauren Mariel Dennis

Kiana Fleming

Karis Gilmer

Dawn Michelle Downey

Channing Mathews

Chandra Taylor

 

Get to know some of the women behind the cameras at The Beautiful Project! We asked our contributing photographers for the Self Care exhibit to reflect on their experiences with the women they interviewed and photographed. Today’s reflection is from Precious Graham.

Also, today is the final deadline to submit to our exhibit. If you are a Black woman that would like to contribute, check out our guidelines here. Submissions are due by 11:59 pm EST.

LaShon and I met at my former place of employment and it was my first experience forging a friendship with a Black woman outside of my age range, outside of my social circle, and in an environment that isn’t typically conducive to friendship. LaShon is professionalism personified and is skilled at keeping her personal life out of the office. That said, her welcoming me into her home was very special to me. My favorite part of the photo shoot was learning that we had many self-care practices in common, namely writing. Seeing her beautifully written book of affirmations was beyond inspiring. After learning about how she cares for herself, I have a better understanding of how she has been able to successfully juggle so many endeavors.

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The experience has taught me that self-care is a habit to be cultivated and maintained throughout the course of one’s life, not only at a certain age or during difficult times. I had never given much thought to it before, but now I’m completely committed to doing so and encourage all of the women in my life to do the same. In hindsight, I can easily pick out the moments when I was consistently practicing self-care, or neglecting to do so, as it was usually evident in some or all other areas of my life. In this moment, I practice self-care by taking time for myself, penning my thoughts, feelings, and opinions regularly, seeking knowledge and spaces that encourage critical thinking, and nurturing loving and healthy relationships in my life.

Precious Graham graduated from Duke University in 2012. She is pursuing an interdisciplinary career in Demography and Social Policy. Her research interests include family demography, race and gender politics, and stratification. She currently lives in the Washington DC Metro Area. Follow her on twitter @precgraham.

You’ve seen the beautiful women featured in the Self Care exhibit. We would also like for you to get to know the women behind the cameras. We asked our contributing photographers to reflect on their experiences with the women they interviewed and photographed. If you are a Black woman that would like to contribute to our exhibit, check out our guidelines here.                                                                                                                                                                                               Khayla shares her reflection photographing her mother Kitty.

What was your favorite moment about the photo shoot?
My favorite part about participating in this exhibit was having the opportunity to take photographs of Kitty, my mom in an intentional way. My mother loves taking pictures. In all actuality, she is the true photographer of the family. She loves capturing beautiful moments on camera, whether it is a sunset or memories with family. I wanted to turn the camera on her and have the opportunity to capture her beauty as I see it every day.

 
Do you have a favorite quote from one of your interviews?
“Self-care is trying to look inward and trying to maintain my connection and relationship with God. I think that’s a big part of self-care.” I admire my mom’s relationship with God and her unwavering faith. When life gets hectic, she knows how to quiet the noise and chatter around her, just spend time with herself and God.

 
What did you learn during this experience?
I learned that it is so necessary to take some time to be self-indulgent and just enjoy your self. We are often taught to be selfless and serve others always. Yes, it is important to serve and I try to practice it daily. However, to serve others, it is necessary to take a break, relax, and release.

 
How do you practice self-care?
Self-care for me is a lot of different things. I’m a natural talker and love to have interesting & meaningful conversations with my friends.  Other times, I prefer the quiet and to reflect to myself in my journal. I write daily and it is a great space for me to release tension, capture happy days, or pray to God. I also enjoy jamming to good music and curating playlists for different moods and occasions.

 

Khayla Deans graduated from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 2013 with a degree in Public Policy and African American Studies. She is passionate about amplifying positive media and images of communities of color, especially in the Black community. She currently works for Frontline Solutions, a social change consulting firm. Follow her on twitter @khayla_d.