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

 

During this wonderful journey of having our images and words on display in the Pen, Lens & Soul exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, we must lift up and celebrate the women artists in the show and in our community who have sojourned alongside us over the years. 

A few of the women artists shared reflections about the experience seeing their work in Pen, Lens & Soul. 

How did you feel about seeing your face/words/photographs in this exhibit?

I felt valued, celebrated, and deserving to see my work, my image, and the work and images of girls and women I know at The Met. For one, the exhibit marked a moment of personal and professional growth in my existence as a Black woman and in my artistry as a writer and image maker. Seeing my words from 2016 marked how influential TBP has been in my development as a writer and scholar, and for my own individual growth. Additionally, it marks the revolutionary unity that is Black woman- and girlhood. It transcends time, age, and even location as a number of us have moved to different parts of the world. The exhibit reminds me that when we are together, we are unstoppable, and the exhibit is proof of our already innate love, respect, and care for one another.  ~Alexandria Miller 

What is special about having a whole exhibit like this dedicated to showing the perspective of Black girls and women?

“What’s most special about this whole exhibit is that we get to tell our stories our way. With how quickly the media shifts, the world only gets the highlight reels which, unfortunately, don’t show us in our light. What this exhibit offers is an intimate look into what our worlds look and feel like, how dynamic and nuanced we are and how we hold space for each other.” ~Winnie Okwakol 

What is special/important about having your work at The Met for you as an individual? 

I remember moving to NYC years ago to pursue my dream I’m currently living. To come back years later and to have my work in the most prestigious museum is, I honestly don’t have the words. Our/ my work is in the same museum as ancient artifacts! This is big! I’m still processing it. I’m thankful and honored to be a part of this collective. ~Pasha Gray

We are grateful for all of the beautiful women who have opened their hearts and minds to our purpose at The Beautiful Project and who have gifted us their love, time, words, and trust over the years. 

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic. – the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” 

 — Charles de Lint

September 10th, Durham’s own Village of Wisdom hosted its 2017 Black Genius Fest in the heart of the city’s Northgate park. A myriad of local organizations – all of which promote the political, social and educational advancement of black youth – were invited as an outreach and resource to black families across the Triangle. The Beautiful Project set up stage creating an interactive #dearblackgirl experience that allowed families of black girls and boys alike to both receive and contribute nodes of positive thought to their sisters, daughters, mothers, friends, and selves.

 

“If you were able, what would you say to a black girl that you know and love?” This simple question proposed a creative platform of amity and inspiration to the young minds who visited the booth, and challenge these same brilliant minds to explore the magic and care in their hearts.

After reading the #dearblackgirl letters of so many other genuine souls around the world, and composing their own works of prose, they were each given the opportunity to have their imaginative excitement documented as a keepsake photograph.

While the experience was a sure way for The Beautiful Project to collaborate with so many amazing souls young and old, it also extended a dais to these same creatives for their own declaration of black girl magic and black boy joy.

We invite all who attended and even those who could not to continue the work of #dearblackgirl in their own rite. As the saying goes, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” –  be the voice that brings light and love to black girls everywhere! 

 

Written by Madylin Nixon-Taplet for TBP

Photography team: Alexis Dennis, Kaci Kennedy, Alexandria Miller, Natalie Wiggins, Madylin Nixon-Taplet, Jamaica Gilmer & Tamara Gibbs 

During a staff meeting late last year, someone brought up the idea for TBP to start releasing a newsletter again. The initial purpose was to update our community with news about what’s going on within the organization, share new TBP campaigns, and to expand our virtual community. As we continued to brainstorm what the newsletter could become, we specified the importance of creating something that feels like us — thoughtful, serene, welcoming, and creative. As image makers and storytellers, we wanted to creatively give our community a deeper look into who we are as an organization and a behind the scenes look into our work. Soon, the dream that we were creating extended beyond a simple newsletter and blossomed into something larger. And thus, The Beautiful Project Journal was born.

The Beautiful Project Journal is a biannual publication that gives insight on the inner workings of a collective of Black women storytellers who choose to empower women & girls through words and images.

Twice a year, we will release the TBP Journal under a new theme that captures an element of one of our core values. The Journal will feature words and images by members of our collective and the greater community. In this inaugural issue, we focus on what it means for us to activate sisterhood for Black women and girls. We hope you enjoy our first issue and will feel inspired to activate and cultivate sisterhood with the women and girls in your own lives. Enjoy!

They are quiet and fierce. Loud and loving. Angry and hopeful. They join us in this work, taking up pen and lens to create and protect space for Black girls and women. Welcome with us, our new class of image makers:

Kaci Kennedy/North Carolina Central University

Meron Habtemariam/North Carolina State University

Madylin Vernise Nixon-Taplet/University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Alexandria Miller/Duke University

Image Makers

 

Love to you Meron, Alex, Kaci, and Madylin!

 

 

#DearBlackGirl was conceived with the goal to engage a multitude of Black women in imagining and articulating the full range of possibilities for Black girls. We were excited and amazed to see such a simple idea become a movement through the pens of countless of Black women.

We released a portion of those letters online and witnessed the powerful impact those letters had. However, the vision has always been that once written and collected, the #DearBlackGirl letters would be directly shared with Black girls. We know some of you have shared the letters with girls you know- subscribing your daughters to our blog, printing copies for your nieces, tagging friends on Facebook and otherwise sharing letters with Black girls in your life. So far we have had the opportunity to share letters with girls in Durham, NC, a group of high school teens in Washington, DC, and a room full of black girls and women in New York City during the Black Girls Movement conference.

DBG letter reading and responding

 

After reading one letter, one 17 year old girl wrote:

When reading this letter, I feel motivated and appreciated. I believe every word she said, about myself and all young black women. I am worthy of love, respect, my dreams, health, education, the world, friendship, my beauty, and my life, not because I am a black girl, but because I am a human being and I deserve everything I am willing to work for.

Another wrote in response to a different letter:

There are times when you’re just feeling so alone as an individual soul that you can’t help but want to feel acceptance from what the public overall wants. You think that maybe if I look like this and this represents me then I could be more positive about myself. But, that’s not how it works and it’s not how it should work. It makes me feel as if I don’t need to compare myself to anyone or anything to feel loved or to be powerful. A positive radiant soul then creates a lovely being and although the world may not make it prevalent, we are beautifully powerful individuals with untold stories.

During our workshop at the Black Girls Movement conference a group of girls of various ages collectively penned their own letter in response.

Thank you for opening our eyes to our deeper feelings that we share with other beautiful women of color! Thank you for reminding us that we are worthy. Thank you for reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles as Black girls and women. We are aware that the world isn’t always fair, but it is important for us to keep fighting for equality and peace… Because you rock, we do too! [We] hope that whenever you fall into insecurity or anything you outlined in your letter remember what you said. May you experience the comfort we did.

These letters — so simply formatted, yet so full of wisdom, hardships, joys, hopes and dreams– have brought light, love and laughter into the hearts of black girls and women around the world. As we wrap up our online #DearBlackGirl exhibit we say to our authors, with deep gratitude, thank you. And to those of you who have been inspired by these amazing love letters, we aren’t finished with them yet! We will continue to share them with Black girls and women. Stay tuned to our blog to see what will come next!

Group Response to DBG Letter

 

Happy May, beautiful people. Here is a new #dearblackgirl letter written by Vanessa Thomas. Thanks Vanessa for taking up your pen!

Dear Black Girl,

I want you to love yourself. Love the skin you’re in. Love the woman you will become. Know that you are beautiful and that God has done something incredible when he made you.

Don’t allow the ugly parts of society try to dictate who you are. One thing they can’t take away is the fact that you are filled with self love that is only a reflection of God’s light shining through you.

Walk through life with your head held high and a smile on your face. Exude confidence and you will go places. Be sure to also share a little of your light with other brown girls. Say hello to strangers because you never know, you could make someone’s day.

Don’t rush through life. I remember when I was young and couldn’t wait. Couldn’t wait to get to high school. Couldn’t wait to get to college. Couldn’t wait to be an adult. And now that I’m here, I regret taking some of my youth for granted.

I wish I would’ve slowed down and took my time on some things. Slowed down by not giving my virginity away at the tender age of 14 to someone who didn’t respect me or not working two jobs in high school when it wasn’t necessary.

I know it’s important to plan for the future but make sure you’re intentional about right now. Enjoy this very moment you’re in and embrace the things you have to be thankful for.

And lastly, don’t ever give up. Truth is life is hard. And sometimes even when you think you’ve got it all figured out there will be something else that will try to pull you back down.

I say this as a woman who has survived two layoffs before the age of 26. I followed my dreams. Worked hard. Broke stereotypes. And survived being the only African American on staff at 3 laboratories only to be on a constant fight for stability.

I say don’t give up as a girl who has struggled with anxiety and depression who once questioned her purpose on this earth.

Life is tough, yes. But the fact is I didn’t give up just because I got knocked down. I persevered and pushed forward and because of that God has opened doors no man can shut! I didn’t give up and you shouldn’t either.

In the event you haven’t heard it enough, you’re beautiful, you’re worthy, you’re good enough, I love you. And know that it’s true.

Signed,

A black girl who grew up and finally saw herself the way God sees her.

Post #30-VanessaThomasVanessa Michele is a 26 years old Forensic Scientist from Winston Salem, North Carolina.

Last week, we had the great pleasure of speaking about Black women and self care on the She+Her radio show. Feel free to take a listen. This week, we are glad to bring you another #dearblackgirl letter. Thank you Karima Grady, for taking up your pen!

Dear Black Girl,

The world is your oyster! There are places to be and people to see and there’s no time to waste. That magic that you have? It translates culture, country and even continent and it’s time for you to take that show on the road.

Americans can be ethnocentric. Black Americans even more so. We stay with what is familiar and comfortable and we abide by the social standards set for us by our families, our religions, our peers, etc. You’ll never see yourself any other way unless you look at ourselves through the eyes that are truly different.

I first learned to escape through books. I read espionage books because they took me all over the world and offered adventure. Later, I escaped through foreign films. Finally, when living vicariously through the characters left me unfulfilled, I made my own escape!

My first time abroad was as a university student, when I traveled abroad to Europe. I lived in Spain and travelled to France, Monaco, Ibiza and Greece. After that, nothing was ever the same. I came back and I was the same but I was different. Suddenly the world was my playground and I set about getting to those places I had to be and seeing those people I had to see.

After I graduated, I moved to Japan for over a year. I travelled throughout the country and region. I made friends. I made memories. I lived life.

The next stop was South Korea and there was more of the same.

By the time I made it back stateside more than 3 years later, I had more than 25 stamps on my passport and no idea how I would assimilate back home.

But I did. Because we do.
Black Girl. Magical girl. Get out there and stake your claim in the world – oh the places you’ll go!
Why wouldn’t you?
It’s your oyster.

Love ALWAYS,
Karima (your sister)

Post #29 -Karima Fire PicKarima Grady is a 35 years old attorney from Philadelphia.

We are pleased to bring you another powerful #dearblackgirl letter that will surely move you. Thank you Ash-Lee for taking up your pen!

Dear Black Girl,

You are the living proof of what successes our ancestors fought for and won. The legacy they created to see their work to liberate our people come to fruition. You have everything you need to be exactly who you were born to be. Exactly who our people need. Just be you.

I celebrate the truth that you’re gonna get this life right in so many ways that folks before you only imagined. Settle for and concede nothing. Live your best life. Make mistakes. Learn lessons. Have fun. Fulfill desires. Be smart and safe, courageous and full of adventure. You are brilliant.

Use your gifts in service to our people. We need you. Your servant leadership doesn’t require perfection. Be loving. Be honest. Embrace having real and unapologetic commitment to politics that get our people free. Live those politics in theory and in practice. Serve the people. Follow their leadership.

You are beautiful. Answered prayer. Dreams personified. You are why so many of us made great sacrifices, fought tooth and nail with everything we’ve had for freedom, justice, love and liberation. For you to not just survive, but thrive. You are loved and adored. You’ve got this. It’s in your blood and bones. You were born with a purpose and are exactly what we’ve been waiting for. You have a privilege and responsibility to be your best you and give back.

You are my family. You are not alone in this life and work you’ve been called to do.

Yours, with love and solidarity, always and forever,

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

Post #28-IMG_8292Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson is a regional organizer at Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide. She is 30 years old and is from Chattanooga, TN. 

Our team is still floating from all of the love and magic we felt during our time at the Black Girl Movement Conference this past weekend. We will share more about our experience later this week, but make sure to check out the awesome tweets and conversations about the conference. Today, we want to maintain the energy that we felt from the conference by providing a new #dearblackgirl letter penned by Jasmine Salters. Thanks Jasmine for taking up your pen!

Dear Black Girl,

You are somebody. You are somebody and you are enough. Growing up, I wish I’d heard this more–on those days when I sat alone in the cafeteria, the mornings I stood in front of the mirror questioning my beauty, all the times I was picked last for a team in gym class, the afternoons my crush walked past me in the hallway without even a glance as if I were invisible. You are enough. I know that my mother and the other Black women in my family–my grandmother, nana, aunts, older sister, and cousins—tried their best to instill in me a sense of self-worth but their words and actions seemed more like familial requirements than mere truths. It has taken me over two decades to see the legitimacy and value in their declarations, their hugs, their smiles, their yells. It is my hope that you realize this sooner.

You are enough. This may be hard to believe at times with the endless media images portraying us as any and everything we are not and all those unfortunate, misinformed people who will tell you otherwise. (In the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”) There will be times when you will doubt yourself and your worth, when you will be made to feel like you are not enough. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not light enough, not tall enough, not smart enough. You are enough. You must realize that it can be hard for others to see your beauty when they cannot see their own. You are enough.

You are part of a long lineage of Black girl magic, from your ancestors who came to America on slave ships, singing songs of freedom in shackles to the greatest writer of all time in the entire world (for real), Toni Morrison. I’ll let you in on a little secret: every time you walk down the street, you leave a trail of invisible glitter behind. Black girl magic. Just ask Quvenzhané Wallis.

I am somebody and I am enough. Say those seven words to yourself every day. Life changes in the most magical of ways once you start to believe them.

With all my Black girl love and magic,

Jasmine

Post #27-saltersJasmine Salters is a 26 years old writer and long-time student from Lakeview, NY.