Being, Revolutionary

Today on the blog we have a post by a former intern, Precious Graham. I can’t say enough about this woman. Working alongside her for a couple of years was inspiring as I watched her express herself creatively through the lens and through thoughtful, reflective conversation. It was also encouraging because I would think to myself about all of the grand possibilities for the world because she was in it. She spares no part of her brilliance and thoughtfulness on this piece. Enlighten your Monday by taking some time to read her provocative piece below. 

 

Last week 14-year-old Willow Smith’s glamorous editorial spread and cover for Issue 6 of Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book was released.  Rocking everything from Tom Ford to Saint Laurent, Willow embodies a cool, seemingly effortless bohemian style that is captured in a high fashion lens. In the words of black twitter: “Mama is slaying!” Flipping through the photos for the second time, I came to the conclusion that what was awe-inspiring to me about this editorial was more than the clothes, the photography, or even Willow herself. I take a certain pleasure in seeing a black girl having the freedom to be completely and unapologetically herself, whatever that may look like. It almost feels luxurious. Willow is quoted in the magazine as saying “I just want to have dreads. I want to embrace my full self, as natural as I can be…I think my look changes all of the time, and right now it’s a bit more messy, kind of grungy.” In the last few years, particularly as the visibility of black women with natural hair has increased, these girls have been dubbed “carefree black girls” on social media. However, as much as I adore the concept, I also find it a bit depressing in that it suggests that black girls have so much to care about in the first place that to be oneself has become a revolutionary act.

As an undergraduate at Duke University, I was selected to be a part of a women’s leadership program on campus called the Baldwin Scholars program. Upon matriculation into the program, one of the first things we were taught was “effortless perfection.” Coined by a breakthrough study at Duke in 2003, the phrase describes the impossible pursuit among college women of academic excellence, physical beauty, and popularity, all without appearing to break a sweat. Because achieving this perfection is impossible, it often leads to insecurity, low self-esteem, and a host of other issues. Sounds bad, right? Well imagine a young woman battling that societal pressure everyday while simultaneously attempting to refute negative racial stereotypes that have existed for hundreds of years. Effortless perfection is ten times worse for a black girl because she has to constantly consider the negative societal views that may accompany her blackness as well as her womanhood. She is not afforded the luxury of being herself because she has to be a representative. She is supposed to be beautiful (in a way that appeases the white dominant culture), fit and curvy (even though that is grounds to be criticized as well), educated, heteronormative, domestic, gregarious, mild-tempered, and so on. Any slip up could land her in any of the various categories that describe a wrong type of black woman, namely Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire, or as they might be called today, Baby Mama, Hoe/Thot, or Bitch/Angry Black woman that will never get married. While conformity to these pressures are exemplified in a number of ways, it is very often performed through the mediums of hair and fashion.

So yes, when I come across a black girl who is unapologetically herself in that regard, it is indeed revolutionary. If I had to give any advice to young black girls, it would be to hold on to that thing that makes you who you are, but also to have fun in the process of figuring out what that looks like. Wear an afro to an interview. Get piercings or tattoos if you feel compelled to do so. Experiment with fashion. Declare an art history major if that is what you love. Wear dreads to a fancy event like the Oscars, even though someone might think you smell like “patchouli oil and weed.” Give yourself the grace to make mistakes. Someone once told me that as a black woman your presence should be so great, so awe-inspiring that anyone who encounters you should be forced to deconstruct any preconceived notions they ever held about black women. I am now offering that advice to you.

 

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.

Photo Credit: Jamaica Gilmer for The Beautiful Project

It is burrrrr cold here in North Carolina! The snow has fallen and, in some places, so has the ice. It’s the perfect weather for staying in, watching a good movie or reading a good book and cuddling up with a blanket and this delicious chili recipe. Click the link above for the full recipe and give it try this week or this weekend and tell us what you think!

 

Photo Credit

Just before the Christmas holiday we were able to sit down and talk with Jasmine Bowles, a thirty something mother of three darling girls, making her way in the world, one daring move at a time. It was our privilege to listen to her story as she shared her way of doing life on her terms, making sure that she doesn’t get caught up in the rhythm of survival but pushes herself to thrive, if for no other reason than for the three pair of adoring eyes fixed upon her each day. Please read on if you’d like to laugh, be encouraged, be inspired and get this Tuesday morning started off right!

 

OK, so to get started, tell us your name and a little about yourself.

My name is Jasmine L. Bowles. I’m 36 and I live in Durham, NC.

I’m very excited about living here. I’ve been trying to get here for nearly 10 years, or for at least as long as my sister has been here. I’m from Maryland. I was born in Delaware and I was raised all over the north— NY, DC, MD, Delaware. My mom was born and raised in Delaware so that was the place you could always go if you were in between something. When we lived there, we were in the lower part of Delaware where the cornfields and beaches were, so instead of going to the pool in the summertime, we would always go to the beach. I can remember when we were in New York, my sister was one, and my mom, sister and I would get up early and ride with my mom to the train station because she worked for the FBI at the time. We were in Deer Park, Long Island. Currently, I work for Frontline Solutions and I am a student. For Frontline I am on the project management support team. I am going back to school for Business Administration and Management. I first entered college in 1996/1998. However I started working at 14 and got a taste of regular money at the pay rate of someone with a degree, so, later, with family circumstances as they were I decided to put college on the back burner and then, vowed never to go back. But Durham has been so freeing that I am going back in February. Once I graduate I may start my own business.

Did you say your mom worked for the FBI?

She laughs, Yes! It seems so weird and funny. I’m not sure what she did there, but yes, she worked for the FBI.

What does a typical day in your life look like (your routine for the day)?

Wooooo Lord! I get up between 6:30 and 7:00 am which is actually late. I take a minute to get myself together, to pray, get a jumpstart for the day. This takes about ten minutes, then I get my girls up and start drop off; one gets on the bus, the other two get dropped off at school, and then I head to work, which is an outlet for me because it’s adult time. After a few hours I head out again to pick them up. I try to get all of my appointments done while the kids are at school. After everyone is home, we come in, talk, dinner, bath and bed, so I can have my sanity again. And that does not change.

Is there anything, anyone or any part of your day that dictates how you look, i.e. how you wear your hair, your style of dress, make-up or fresh face, etc?

I feel like I do. I am very adamant about not being a frumpy mom. I say that because I know that as moms you don’t worry about how you look, you worry about how your kids look and you are the only one who looks like you’ve been caught by a ball of fire. I always go “fresh face” unless I have an event. Otherwise I choose something that makes me feel good but is very comfortable, so I’m not necessarily walking around in stilettos all the time but I do have several pair. I also enjoy going to the salon to get my hair done because those kinds of things are very therapeutic, the conversations, coming out looking good, and feeling good. Oh and it’s good for my girls too, because since I’ve done that, they expect for me to look a certain way or they will call me out in a heartbeat!

Yes! I know what you mean. I sometimes find myself caught up in making sure I get things done, making sure I take care of my girls and my husband and I leave me as the last thing. There were many days that I looked like the fire ball victim. Ha!

We share a laugh here because she is not condemning or judging me. She is encouraging me, all of us, to see the value and joy of self care and count it as much a priority as we do taking care of others.

It’s so funny though because when I was married my husband could have a bad day and not look like it but when we have a bad day it looks like we have been through it! 

How would you define beauty?

I think beauty is kind of tied to your self worth. Through the years, I’ve come to think it’s tied to how you see yourself. So you see people with things in place on the outside; makeup, clothes, and all the pretty looks on the outside, but on the inside she could be very ugly. But when someone has accepted herself on the inside there is a wall that comes down and it’s just very beautiful.

You spoke earlier about the freedom you’ve found in your new home, Durham, NC and, in listening to you speak, I see beauty in this freedom. This change seems to be exposing a very beautiful side of you.

Being in North Carolina, for me, has been a freeing moment, where I finally get to feel and discover things, how I feel, or what I think about things, all the noise has been drowned out the longer I stay. It’s all been so freeing. Maryland is where I spent most of my life. Even if I moved, I moved somewhere else north. It was a safe place. There were great things happening there but it wasn’t the place that, I believe, God would have me stay. When I had an opportunity to come here, I fought it but then when it was really time, everything fell into place and I let go and everything was freeing. Also I wanted to be closer to my sister. And, for me, there is no struggle here. There is no race here.

So what would you say to women who want to move locations: How did you come to the place where you decided, “I’m going, but I’m not running away from anything.”?

I am known to be very strong, very hard, but I have cried more in NC than I ever did in the north! But here is what I would say, self evaluate and assess the common denominator in all situations. When I did this, I discovered that it was me. So I had to figure out why I wanted to leave because 9 times out of 10, to get the change you need you don’t have to go anywhere. I have had to process things by the example of my mom, family members, environment, school setting, but what is the real reason why I want to leave? So I had to self evaluate and assess because if you just take a step back you can get a better view of the whole picture. But a lot of times we don’t want to do that. I wouldn’t be where I am if I had brought all that stuff with me. Before, I was on “the plan.” I am 36, have three kids with my ex-husband, I was searching for the career I wanted, you know, the plan. But now I am here where I am finally saying, this is what I want to do, and get confirmation from God and then, it’s go time. People say you’ve gotta go to school, if you don’t find a husband between that time, you keep going to school, then you find a husband and have kids but then nobody says what happens after that! Then you become this frumpy old lady who looks caught on fire and nobody wants that. 

At this, we both crack up laughing!

I have one best friend since 7th grade and we have been able to walk through this stuff and see this stuff together. Women can be very complicated. There are things that can be miscommunicated all the time. So you have to make sure that you take a step, even if its a quick step, take a step back to think through how things happened and why they happened, what was your part and how do you move forward now.

Would you say that there is any relationship between beauty and power?

Yes! I would because knowing yourself and feeling beautiful is very empowering. And it may not necessarily be status–social or job- but if you’re in control of what’s happening, that is very powerful. When you interact with people, they can see that in you. They say, “she is so dynamic” or “it was a quick conversation but there is so much behind her eyes.” I think that it gets misconstrued but if it is handled the right way, they can come hand in hand. I really feel like right now, I am a Christian, go hard or go home, all day, but I feel like God has given me the power to control my life, under His guidance of course, but He is giving me free will to make good choices with my life and for the first time I feel very powerful. For the first time I can make decisions and that feels very empowering to me.

And does that make you feel beautiful? 

Yes. definitely. And so does my lipgloss. But it gets to the point where I don’t care what other people think. I just am finally able to settle down and accept myself. 

Do you think you’re beautiful?

Yes, and I really want for my girls to understand that they are as well and not materialistically. I know what that is to be looking for it in other things and people and not be able to see it in yourself. That’s really important to me with my girls. I try to tell them they are beautiful and why and it can’t be materialistic. For example, I tell them, you are beautiful because you are compassionate toward your sisters. I noticed the other day that Ahmadie asked me if I thought she was beautiful and why. So I told her and I asked her if I told her that enough and she said yes but I could tell that she needed to hear it more. I have to touch them and let them know from a woman to a little girl. I have written notes to myself and reminders in my phone to tell them and do it often each day because I can get caught up in my schedule and things going on that I miss my opportunity to tell them. 

What makes you beautiful?

I think that I am beautiful because I know what I want and I know who I am.  I am very simple and I think that simplicity is beauty.

Do you think your beauty empowers you? How?

It has created a confidence in me that has changed who I let in my life. It’s my life, and when I step back and look at myself, take time to assess, it builds my confidence and gives me power to accept what I want and reject what I don’t.

Has your beauty ever been challenged?  If so, how did you overcome those challenges?

Oh definitely. Everyone in my family looks very different. We are all the different colors of the crayon box. As a kid I was always that skinny, hairy, light skinned little girl. I mean I was odd; my feet were big, I was tall, I was just odd. But I had an uncle who would tell me all the time that I was beautiful. He would give detail, like your eyebrows, or your feet are getting big but in the long run that is going to be a beautiful feature. So I would have to close my eyes and accept the truth about how I looked but know that that didn’t make me ugly. Even now that I am gaining weight more than before I want to join a gym and women look at me and think why, and that can be very vicious. All the things that were crazy to me when I was younger, now I just think that being able to identify what those things are, well they are MINE, this is what God gave so I’m gonna love it! You don’t have to, but I do. It took a long time to feel that way but now that I do, I love it. 

What would say to your younger self to encourage her to embrace herself most fully and walk confidently in the world?

I would tell her: you don’t need anyone else to tell you how beautiful, powerful or strong you are. If I could have paired up with Christ then, I wouldn’t have needed so many other outside reinforcements to help me know it so that when others would say that I was beautiful, it would feel like confirmation and not new information because I would be sure of who God made me to be. I didn’t know any of that.

What advice would you give to moms?

We can’t take care of anybody else if we don’t take care of ourselves. If I don’t do these things for myself then what am I showing my children? They can’t see me paying the bills, they can’t see me paying the mortgage because they are kids and they don’t understand that. So I have to figure it out and know that everything is going to be okay. It’s not going to blow up if we don’t have dinner on the table at 6 or if we have to choose this job that has us at work all the time and someone else has to help us take care of our kids. Hey, everything is still going to be okay! We have to realize that so that things don’t feel so crazy all the time. I wish I had known all this time that everything is going to be okay and I’m not perfect and even that is okay. The hard decisions that we have to make for our well being, for our family, they don’t have to be an explosion in your mind! Everything is ok. You have to figure out what decisions you have to make, make them and remember that it is okay to ask for help. 

Well said, Ms. Bowles. Well said.

Looking for a healthy alternative to the traditional summer grilled burger? Some of you are thinking, heck nah! Well, just try this black bean burger recipe and it might change your life! Wendy and Jess of Food Heaven Show (YouTube) are fun, gorgeous, colorful and most of all, they know their ish. Their site and YouTube channel offer recipes that are mostly simple, and always healthy and flavorful. Wait, did I mention that the recipes are affordable?! They also give information on nutrition for life with informational vids and articles such as how to cure PMS with food, and healthy foods that help to prevent cancer. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching their videos and every recipe that I have tried has come out tasting so wonderful. This black bean burger recipe is one of them.

Hey now, we’ve got to adopt some healthier lifestyle choices. Black women have some of the leading numbers for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. A little butter, sugar and salt is good some of the time but we have to fill up our fridges and bellies with foods that will improve and sustain optimal health for life. Our food should support our goals, not slow us down and cause us to take a time out to get right. And remember, beauty is an inner work. Take care to feed your body good things as well as your mind, spirit and soul. Trust, you consistently take in beauty and it’ll radiate forth from you organically. We just have to make a start. Take a look at their site and try something out!

 

Photo Credit: Food Heaven Made Easy

Video Credit: Food Heaven Show

When I was a teacher, I had a parent pull me aside to talk to me about a concern she had for her child. Her child was a sweet girl, quiet, yet spunky and fun. She was very cooperative and helpful and she was kind to her classmates. I couldn’t imagine what her mom wanted to discuss with me, so, I quickly stopped what I was doing and leaned in, giving her my full attention as now my concern for her child was now rising in the moments it took for her to bottom line the issue. The mom, standing before me layered in tennis gear, dried sweat and faded perfume, laid out a short, short story that described how her daughter was eating less and inquiring more about her mother’s workout regimen and weight, saying things like, “I want a body like yours.” or “I want to be skinny like you.” Of course, the mother was worried and inquired about her daughter’s habits at school, was she eating all of her lunch, did I notice any changes in her attitude or behavior. . . Of course as children reach puberty their mental and emotional capacities change as their bodies change but this student of mine was in third grade. She was cute and she was appropriately baby fat. She had the sweetest little round face that boasted peach plump cheeks when she smiled, which she did most of her days at school. She was really an adorable little girl.

I understood the mother’s concern then but I understand it even more now as I watch my little girls watch me and listen to their questions about what I am doing and why. It’s a paradox; we work so hard to show and prove that we are “grown” however we are yet the taller, fuller, wiser version of these little girls. Our journey started the same way theirs did, we are but on the other side of the continuum. We have to live conscious of their ever watching eyes. We must take care of ourselves while we emphasize the real places that beauty comes from.

I’m sure that my student saw her mom’s habit of eating certain things (and not eating certain things), keeping active, the comments she made about herself/her body and wondered about her own simple habits in a very innocent way. I’m also sure that as she took her mom in everyday, admired all that she is and wanted to emulate that, she may have thought that she fell short because of the limitations presented to her by her age. Somehow we must figure out how to really see our girls and connect with the spirit in them that is still inside of us. We still have a sense of wonder, a great admiration for the woman we’d like to someday become, and a great deal of questions for how in the world we are going to get there. As we figure out how to embrace our journey, we have to grab their little hands and show them to how to do the same. Living beautifully is embracing our journey as fully as we can as we determine to live with intention, awareness and joy to aid in the journey of another. Oh yes, we are our sister’s keeper, and our daughter’s, our nieces . . . and our students’ too.

It’s August! Remember those goals you made back in January/February-ish? Some of us are soaring along, happily marking checkpoints as we go. To all of you I say, GO GIRL (with two snaps and a standing ovation!)!! Others of us are scratching our heads wondering where in the world the time has gone! If you belong to the latter crew, have no fear. It’s not too late for us to get it together and make some tracks. All we have to do is press refresh. Let’s not watch another day go by and miss the opportunity to work toward our desired end. Instead of spending time shaking our heads at ourselves, here are a couple of quick tips to get us back on track and give us a shot at getting some things done.

1. Re-evaluate your purpose.

Sometimes we get distracted and forget what we are all about and what it is that we are called to do. Some distractions are legitimate. These type of distractions often disguise themselves as responsibilities. Other distractions are enticing and seem to pull at us but they are often situations/issues/people/things sent to throw us off of our game. Think about what it is you are trying to do and why. Then, write it down and place it somewhere you can see it, daily. When you are clear about your purpose, you prioritize accordingly.

 

2. Re-visit your goals.

Break out that plan you made (or, in some cases, make a plan). Take a look at your goals. Do your goals reflect your purpose? Choose one goal on the list and start with 30 mins a day, taking small steps to accomplish that goal. Think you don’t have time? At the end of a seven day week you will have logged three and a half hours of work toward that goal. At the end of the month, 14 hours. As the months roll on, more time will be given to that goal and you may even see pockets in your schedule that are available for you to spend more time working toward the goal. The key here is to define the goal and make a start.

 

3. Refresh and GO!

Take a sabbath to get some rest, identify and rid yourself of unnecessary distractions, do some things you enjoy but most of all spend time alone encouraging yourself around your purpose. If you’re an extrovert, spend some time with people who know you and love you and tell them about your re-focusing. This will be great for your energy but it will also be great for accountability. Now that you feel good and are excited about what is ahead, go do the doggone thing!! No matter how many starts you have to make, make them until they lead you to a successful finish.

 

“You don’t need to go back in time to be awesome; you just have to start right now. Regretting that you didn’t start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow.” -Jon Acuff, Start

 

Photo Credit: Yoga Baby Mama

Found this very charming article and video on Vogue.com. Thought we’d share! Enjoy and click over to Vogue for the full article about Lupita’s braiding party!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo & Video Credits: Vogue Original Shorts

So! It’s summer and typically a great time for some leisure reading. Ok, before we dig in, I have a confession: I have a crazy habit of reading several books at once. So, on my summer list are quite a few that I’ve been snacking on all year. Others are some I read some time ago but am reheating for seconds, while still others on my list I will taste for the first time (mmmmm, food analogies . . . #hungrymuch? mmmkay) ;0). Either way, I’m so excited and have already begun digging in! Here are a few of the books in my basket:

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou

BLack Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins

Sula, Toni Morrison

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Seven, Jen Hatmaker

Changing My Mind, Zadie Smith

The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice, William Shakespeare

Keeping Faith, Jodi Piccoult

Light in August, William Faulkner

Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman

Crazy Love, Francis Chan

 

What’s on your list? Tweet it, leave a message on Facebook, or hop down to the comment section below and let us know! Let’s expand our beautiful minds together this summer!

 

Photo Credit: Pamela Thompson for The Beautiful Project

 

 

Happy Father’s Day to all of the Beautiful Father’s out there. There are some featured in #theblackgirltriptych. If you haven’t already, check it out on our Exhibits page, in the gallery here on the site.

Meanwhile, choose some of your favorite summer veggies and try this summer salad straight from my dad’s recipe stash!

Ingredients:

2 Yellow Squash

2 Zuchinni Squash

2 Cucumbers

1/2 Red Onion

Dash of salt and pepper

1 tbsp of sugar

2 cups of your favorite Italian Dressing

Directions:

Slice all of the veggies, please them in a bowl, then sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and sugar. Pour on the dressing, cover and shake it up, shake it up, to mix around all of the ingredients. Allow the salad to chill in fridge over night. This salad tastes best when it has had some time to sit so that the veggies can marinate and soak up all of the flavorful goodness! The next day, take the salad out of the fridge, dish it up, eat it up, and repeat!

Hope you enjoy this. I sure did. The garden fresh veggies were so crisp and very well seasoned. It’s so filling and great eaten alone or with a nice sandwich. If you try this, let us know in the comment section here on the blog. If you have a recipe from your dad’s stash that’s not top secret ;0), share it with us! Thanks, Daddy! Happy Father’s day!

 

Photo Credit: Pamela Thompson for The Beautiful Project

 

As you can tell, we’re so excited about our first online exhibit. Next Tuesday cannot get here soon enough! Today, we are happy to share the official promo card and it’s  . . . well  . . . beautiful!! Please, take a moment in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook to let us know what you think of it!