A Dose of Wellness Resources For You

It is our hope that this post finds you, your family and friends, as well as can be. A lot has changed over the course of the last month and we are encountering steady shifts in our lives as we navigate a new normal. And real talk, navigating this global crisis is stressful. Over the last few weeks, our team has been digging deep into our toolboxes of care practices as well as articles and resources we’ve gathered from other individuals via the internet. We hope this list of resources can help ease the various levels of mental and emotional stress that we are all encountering during this difficult season. Please take what you need and feel free to share with us if you have any additional resources. 

Be well.


Resources from TBP

The Beautiful Project Journal is our annual publication where we share insights on the inner workings of Black girls and women. In this third issue, we interrogated 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.


Other Great Resources

For Black Girls Everywhere – A Relaxing Mediation

Evelyn From The Internets is a digital storyteller with a humorous personality. Her youtube page has a plethora of videos that will make anyone giggle. Most recently, she created a short documentary about the stress that Black girls encounter in schools and the power of mindfulness that can help combat mental stressors. As a result, she partnered with Lauren Ash, Founder of Black Girl in Om, to create a beautiful and relaxing mediation for young Black girls.

Remember to Breathe by Teni Ayo-Ariyo

Our friend Teni, who is a dynamic writer from our writing circle, wrote a helpful article about how she is managing stress and anxiety during this time by practicing the lessons she learned as a yoga instructor. She outlined really great techniques. Here’s an excerpt:

Two years ago I embarked on a journey to become a yoga teacher. I was getting ready to move across the country for business school, and wanted to develop a new wellness routine and mindset before going through a huge transition. During training, I learned the fundamentals of yoga, as well as the connection between my body, mind, and soul. I learned how to take care of myself holistically and picked up tools to help me maintain a life of wellness. Needless to say, the 200-hr one month training was a transformative experience, and now, more than ever, I find myself leaning heavily on some of these principles during the current pandemic.The panic and anxiety brought on by coronavirus and quarantining can be crippling. To stay grounded and sane, I am finding solace in these lessons from Yoga Teacher Training.

Check out her full article here.

Young Poets Contest hosted by Shaunna Barbee

Shaunna is another friend of TBP, author, educator, and member of our writing circle Maya’s Room. For the month of April, which is National Poetry Month, Shaunna is hosting a contest for young writers, ages 10-18 years old, to write and submit a poem about the impact of this pandemic on their lives. Their will be a cash prize for the chosen poem. The deadline is April 30th. You can find more details here.

Therapy for Black Girls

The Therapy for Black Girls podcast hosted by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a great resource for mental health and personal development for Black women. In one of her recent episodes, Session 147: How Are You Doing?, Dr. Joy shares great tips on how to make sense of how we may be feeling in this season.

Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety: A Project by Shine

Shine is an app that is designed to make self-care easy with motivational messages, meditations, and resources to address anxiety and depression. The app is worthy to check out in general, but specifically for this moment, Shine released a comprehensive digital toolkit, Care for Your Corona Anxiety , that is full of resources from mental health experts, coping strategies to manage fear, and tools to address outcomes such as isolation and financial anxieties.

Black Womxn United has a plethora of virtual support gatherings that range from homeschooling 101 to yoga. Check them out!

We are grateful for this honest and personal reflection on relationships from our friend Margaret A. Brunson. Read her hopeful words on love below.

Although I have enough stories to create a pretty entertaining web-series, I choose not to write about romantic relationships, too often.  For a long time, I’ve felt ill-equipped, and often insecure, to share anything that would be helpful to those seeking love; especially my sisters.  

One side of my insecurity is grounded in the pervasive popularity of our very curated understanding of relationships.  Many Black women who are single and desire to be married or partnered, are constantly consumed by beautiful wedding photos (#blacklove) or photos of beautiful couples traveling or working out together (#relationshipgoals).  I’ve even heard friends speak of placing certain dreams (buying a home, traveling to an unknown place, etc.) on hold until they have a partner. I also see many of my counterparts suffer disappointment after disappointment but continue dating in hopes of finding the right one.  

However, the other side of my insecurity is grounded in a sense of vulnerability with the assumptions and preconceived notions that accompany the reality of being both a “great catch” (intelligent, kind, successful, attractive, bright, funny, free-spirited) and a single Black woman.

Like many others who’ve dared to be in relationship with other flawed humans, I’ve experienced unfulfilled expectations, unrequited love, and emotional unavailability.  I’ve hurt others and I’ve been hurt by others. Yet, I continue to believe in both the benefit and blessing of partnership.

As I ease into my 40th birthday, I’m finally beginning to wholly embrace the beauty of my journey as a Black woman; including this messy part.  I’m beginning to speak out about my singleness and invalidate the myth that it is a condition of brokenness that requires a fix. I’m beginning to share that our hearts still have the capacity to experience, express and hold love in the absence of romantic partnership. I’m beginning to share my own stories of healing, with my sisters, as an act of solidarity in this common experience and to be a guiding light as we hold, in one hand, our hope for partnership and, in the other, a zeal to live a life of love, now.   

Holding hope often feels like an emotional rollercoaster of hope.  We dip down into doubt and uncertainty on the bad days, then, find ourselves in a high place of joy and gratitude on the good days.  

On one of my bad days, during my daily meditation, I had a life-changing vision about my broken heart.  As I meditated on and prayed for healing, I felt led to visualize myself sending a warm and bright light to my heart.  As I went deeper into this vision, I moved closer and closer into my pain and quickly realized that it wasn’t a warm light I needed.  I saw my perfectly healthy, beating heart sitting inside of a large glass case filled with sand. My heart actually wasn’t broken, it was trapped.  

At some point on this annoyingly chaotic and unstable journey (or rollercoaster) of love, I’d tossed my heart into this case as an act of protection.  In doing so, I was protecting my heart from being broken again, but I inadvertently imprisoned her; no love in, no love out.  

In that moment of meditation, I visualized myself hammering the glass until it broke open.  As the sand rushed out of the case, my heart began to beat faster and stronger. I gasped back into the present moment, took a deep breath and as I exhaled, I felt exhausted, but free.  At that moment, I invited love in and committed myself to a regular practice of cultivating open-heartedness, so that love would freely flow to and from me.  

Life did not instantly change, however, I consciously decided to do the work.   While I know the work is different for each one of us, I want to share what my regular practice of open-hearted living looks like:

  • Maintaining spiritual disciplines that remind me to center my identity on my connection to the Spirit/Divine and not my ego. 
  • Meditating, consistently, on words of affirmation that replace my old thought patterns about who I am and what is important.  My favorite affirmation: I Am Enough
  • Challenging my flawed tendency to have all the answers by seeking counsel/therapy for support.  
  • Sharing my journey of doing hard things (overcoming divorce, unemployment, low self-confidence, and feelings of hopelessness) with other Black women to encourage my personal and our collective healing.   
  • Practicing rituals of letting go, such as writing down painful memories and burning them. 
  • Doing what I love, even if I have to do it afraid and/or alone: Dancing, traveling, trying new restaurants, going to concerts and parties, etc.
  • Letting go of my prejudgment of men, opening my eyes and heart to their humanity, and going on pressure-free dates for fun.
  • Maintaining healthy connections with my people as a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.  
  • Genuinely celebrating joy and excitement with those who find love and partnership.
  • Accepting my solitude as a gift and using my time to care for myself and  incorporate healthy practices: rest, eating clean, movement, communion with nature, journaling.
  • Seeking meaningful and impactful opportunities to be of service to my community.

What am I saying to you?

If you desire and hope for a loving partnership, I encourage you to hold on to that hope.  Simultaneously, I’d like to invite you to fervently embrace the idea that love is here, now.  

Embrace the truth that every day, you are presented with opportunities to live in loving partnership with yourself, your community, and with a beautiful creation.  We are here, now, to experience the fullness of all that life is and all that life can be. We will find peace, clarity, and joy when we capture the wonder of love and alchemize it into the supernatural strength that we need to live as flawed, vulnerable, open-hearted human beings.  

May we see that love is here, now, and follow her, wholeheartedly.     

Dr. Margaret A. Brunson is a leader and luminary who considers brunch a verb, has an affinity for trap music, gets giddy over passport stamps, and has never left a dance floor untouched.  Margaret leads people to purpose through writing, speaking, coaching and consulting. Throughout her life’s journey, she has learned the spiritual discipline of relinquishing control and regularly yields to the power of Love to share stories that cultivate authenticity, healing, and liberation.  She calls it, The Love Life.

Photo by Sonja Matheny of Matheny Media

For everything, there is a time and a season. And now, it is time to rest.

During the month of July, the women of The Beautiful Project will take some time to realign with ourselves and our purpose, reconnect with our hobbies, our gifts, our people and remember who we are and why we do this work. We are a collective of scholars and artistic activists careful not to leave ourselves out of the work we engage for Black women and girls. We believe in practicing regular rhythms of rest while we work and we also know that there must be times of refreshing, where the focus is the rest.

As we close our doors and our eyes, for just a little while, we challenge you to figure out your rest rhythms. What are the practices you have in place to offer yourself respite in the middle of the fullness of your life? Deeper, how do you intentionally take time away from it all to burrow in simplicity and comfort so that you can experience physical, mental and emotional rest?

Whether you choose to meditate or sit outside in the summer heat with your face to the sun for just a few minutes each day, simple practices like these can offer so much peace and joy for the journey in those moments when walking away is not an option. But please figure out a way to walk away because restoration is its own kind of work and thus needs its own space to be carried out well.

The world moves to a steady hum. Whether we provide instrumentation by way of the contributions we make through our work and other efforts, the hum penetrates consistently, relentlessly. More simply stated, life goes on, with or without us. So, let’s take care of ourselves. It’ll be there when we get back and if it isn’t, it either wasn’t ours or wasn’t time. Identify the “it” that threatens to hinder your ability to rest and reposition the energy it consumes.

Take the time you need to give yourself the love you need.

There’s only one you. Love her well.

See you in August.

 

Words by Pamela Thompson

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.

“Stretch or drown

Evolve or die

The bridge I must be

Is the bridge to my own power”

— The Bridge Poem, Donna Kate Rushin (1981)

 

I don’t know how it is that Black literature written decades before the moment you read it can somehow perfectly capture your current experience, but that’s what The Bridge Poem by Donna Kate Rushin did for me.

For most of my three decades (plus) on this earth I have either been a student or some type of educator. I have been in many rooms as either one of few people of color, and even more as the only girl/woman of color. At many times I have been a token whether or not I wanted to be. In these rooms I have felt the pressure to choose whether to ‘represent’ or be silent. But when I discovered this poem not only did I find words that so aptly captured my distress and frustration, but I found an answer on how to better navigate these rooms. The answer? I must be a bridge to my own power.

A couple years ago I was participating in a class discussion about a book on social control, and I found it fascinating. But part of my fascination was the distinct impression that the race and nationality of these authors (white, European and Australian) had shaped their analysis and ideas. Hoping to discuss this with the class, I brought it up— and my professor immediately shut it down. I forget his exact words, but it was something along the lines of that being “too simple” of a question. I immediately experienced intense frustration, felt many times before when White teachers had failed to recognize or address the way “whiteness” dominates the classroom. A couple examples: a reading list that fails to include a person of color author or a white guest speaker making an off-hand stereotypical comment about “those people,” which goes unchallenged by the teacher. In these cases, and countless more, I had previously become overwhelmed with emotion. I would find myself shaking in anger when I or another student of color would speak up and be ignored— and it was even worse when my voice failed me. In my distress I would find myself unable to participate in the class, sometimes to the detriment of my grades.

Now I don’t know if in that particular moment it was my professor’s inability to facilitate that discussion or his ignorance of its importance, but I caught myself before my frustration overwhelmed me. I took a deep breath, jotted down a note for myself, and followed the class to the next discussion point. I didn’t need him to validate my question, because I knew it mattered. When I left that room, I did my own research on how whiteness shapes social theory.

At some point in my twenties I discovered this poem. I learned from it that there is another option than representing us all or being silent.  I must be a bridge to my own power.

The Bridge Poem  by Donna Kate Rushin (1981)

I’ve had enough

I’m sick of seeing and touching

Both sides of things

Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Nobody

Can talk to anybody

Without me Right?

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister

My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists

The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks

To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the

Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…

Then

I’ve got the explain myself

To everybody

I do more translating

Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it

I’m sick of it

I’m sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against

The isolation of your self-imposed limitations

Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners

Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches

Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world

Find something else to make you legitimate

Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood

Your manhood

Your human-ness

I’m sick of reminding you not to

Close off too tight for too long

I’m sick of mediating with your worst self

On behalf you your better selves

I am sick

Of having to remind you

To breathe

Before you suffocate

Your own fool self

Forget it

Stretch or drown

Evolve or die

The bridge I must be

Is the bridge to my own power

I must translate

My own fears

Mediate

My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere

But my true self

And then

I will be useful

    -from This Bridge Called My Back

     edited by: Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

 

Written by Erin Stephens for TBP

Over the last few years we have seen a rise in conversations about self-care. And let’s be real, these conversations are so necessary. In TBP, care-for-self is a central value and we create space for regular check-ins around our individual wellness. But we also realized a long time ago that self-care wasn’t enough— we needed to put in practice strategies for collective care.  But what does it mean to pursue wellness in and as a collective?

There have been a few different strategies we have employed over the years to center wellness as part of our collective work as image-activists, such as:

  1. Dedicating group conversations to reflecting on the ways gender, race and other intersecting identities shape our lives and the tensions that arise from these intersections.
  2. Creating spaces for us to experience physical and emotional wellness as a collective. This has included coming together to visit exhibits in a local museum, gathering together over good home-cooked food (shout out to Pamela!), always having feel good music playing at our meetings.
  3. Mobilizing Sisterhood As Activism to care for, cover, defend and hold space for one another.
  4. More recently, reflecting on the emotional labor involved in our image-activist work, which  validates the emotional and mental demand of this work while also affirming the relational and personal benefits that come out of it.

Ultimately, we have realized that a collective-care strategy is about creating and holding space for ourselves and our sisters to be real about our mental and emotional state of being, while also instituting accountability in our sisterhood for engaging in relational and individual care work.

While groups spaces and practices are key to our collective-care, relationships are at the core of this type of care work. It’s those “hey girl, hey” check-ins we do within our group that push past the surface “I’m ok” answers to get to vulnerable truths. It’s in these smaller conversations where we ask, “Did you go outside today?” Or “How are you taking care of yourself?” These conversations can range from easy to difficult, particularly when we see or experience the evidence of self-harm, self-sabotage, or selfishness (disguised as self-care) in our sisters.

Davia Roberts from Redefine Enough (a community of women devoted to wellness and wholeness), talks about the importance of checking-in with our sisters in an episode from their podcast “Affirm.”  She offers tips for having these tough conversations, especially when there are red flags of mental health issues. As we each continue to practice care-for-self, consider, what does it mean to care for my sister? How can I make collective care a part of my care strategies this year? Find the episode, “My Sister’s Keeper” here: https://www.redefineenough.com/blog/ep-13-my-sisters-keeper

written by Erin Stephens for TBP

“Take a day to heal from the lies you’ve told yourself and the ones that have been told to you.”

-Maya Angelou

 

 

 

photography by Kaci Kennedy for TBP

 

 

 

 

Lena sat at the table contentedly flipping through the latest issue of her favorite magazine while her sister, Mone, turned out dough for the pizzas she had been promising Lena she’d make for the past month. This was their ritual; spending Friday nights together doing any assortment of things they enjoyed doing together.

“I remember hearing a saying once that went something like, ‘The mighty know when to celebrate.’ What you think about that?” Lena asked her sister without looking up from her magazine.

“I disagree. The mighty don’t have time to celebrate, or rest, for that matter. They have too much going on. They’ve got to keep going, keep being mighty.” Mone replied.

Lena, now, fully engaged in the conversation, flipped her magazine over so that the spine faced upward, the pages and covers lazily laid out to the sides, creating am elegant triangle of the periodical.  “No, girl. You’re not talking about the mighty. You’re talking about the busy. I can’t remember who said it and I don’t know the full philosophy behind it but I agree. I can imagine that you have to be aware of your victories in order to stay encouraged to keep reaching for more victories, or to have hope that you’ll be victorious even once more. I imagine that if you take time to celebrate those wins, no matter the caliber of the celebration, all the more encouraged you’d be! I’m with it. I’m pouring a glass for all my victories, because I am mighty. Gotta be to make it out here in these streets.”

“I hear you. Just sounds contradictory and a little contrary to what I imagine mighty personas to be like.”

“That’s just it. You know what a mighty woman looks like. The mighty women around us have worked themselves to the bone. Mama, Grandma, Auntie, all of ’em go all out for everyone else and forget to take care of themselves,” Lena said, growing more annoyed with each breath. “They know how to throw a party to celebrate everyone else’s accomplishments, but we are hard pressed to get them to even recognize their own successes. Maybe it’s the generation. Maybe it’s just them. I don’t know, but what I do know is I don’t aspire to be that. I love ’em. I do. But, I want to know I’m dope, first, not be surprised or have to convince myself that it’s true when someone else tells me I am.”

Mone took a moment of silence to think about these ideas. As the older sister, she had taken responsibility for her little sister for as long as she could remember. It was the same at work and even in instances when she didn’t have to such as with her friends. She didn’t feel free to celebrate her wins because she was always so preoccupied with working toward the win. And she could see her mother’s handprint all over this habit that she had learned how to execute so well. She admired Lena. And she wanted to be able to speak as confidently and boldly as her little sister.

“Alright. I hear you,” she remarked, beginning to be convinced.

There are twenty seven days left in 2017. As you prepare to make mighty moves in 2018, don’t forget to take some time to celebrate the mighty moves you’ve already made in 2017.

 

Onward, sisters!

“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 

won’t you celebrate with me

Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate 

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

HaPpY NeW YeAr Beautiful Ones!!

2017 is here and we, the staff of The Beautiful Project, are very grateful to be alive, healthy, and committed to the work of our organization. We have big plans that we can’t wait to share with you at the proper time! Until then, there is yet much work to do.

As we all well know this new year commences with the inception of new leadership in our government. For many of us, this is a scary, confusing, maddening time. While we proceed to experience all the feels and processes, we must emphasize the importance of caring for ourselves. Wellness practices are integral to our survival and armor for the fight we have ahead of ourselves as we continue to make space for ourselves to make our art, speak to the people, make moves in business, teach our children, love our people, care for our babies, and do whatever else it is that we believe we have been purposed to do. In order to ward off distractions, stay centered, clear and focused, we must be well. What is in your wellness plan? Check below for a few elements to include in your plan. Choose which components will suit your needs and be sure to implement them, choosing one practice per day, for at least thirty minutes. Be well, dear sisters, BE well.

 

Engage Spiritual practice: Whether you connect your spirit to power through prayer, reading truth or meditation, there are a number of spiritual practices that are helpful in realigning and anchoring your your soul.

Fitness and Nutrition: Eating healthy, delicious food and moving your body regularly are practical means to preserving your health from the inside out. Drinking plenty of water, or at the very least, more than usual, fuels your energy and aids in flushing out toxins with one simple move. If you’ve had your morning cup of coffee or tea, make the next two water.

Connect with Community: Who are your people? Reach out to them. Be with your people, either all at once, or one on one meetings over a span of time.

Make Time for your Hobby: I heard someone say, time isn’t something you find, it’s something you make. Whether its reading, writing, crafting, photography, hiking, anything that you enjoy doing, make the time for it. You will walk away with more energy and inspiration than you can imagine.

Make a Playlist: You know the songs, the ones that you jam to, the ones that make you feel seen and heard, those that make you think and those that get you going? Yeah, all of ’em. Make a playlist and put it on while you work or just as the soundtrack for whatever you are doing in your day. No time to make a playlist? Connect to Spotify, Pandora or other such streaming apps that have them already available to you.

Rest: It may seem like a given, but getting plenty of rest is a must when considering how to care of oneself well. While having the leisure to take a midday nap would be ideal, most of us can’t enjoy that luxury. Perhaps you can start by going to bed 30 mins to an hour earlier than usual? If your schedule doesn’t allow for this either, then consider observing practices that are restful. For example, cut your screen time. Avoid rousing conversations and situations where possible. Choose to be alone and spend that time being conscious of and enjoying your solitude.

We’re certain there are other practices that should be on this list. What do you do for self care? Share with the group and lets equip each other to care for ourselves well.

Move in power.

We’ve got this.

Image Credit: Weekend Collective