The Beautiful Project’s Writing Circle, Maya’s Room, Opens This Month

At The Beautiful Project, a primary goal is to create a space where Black women and girls can cultivate confidence in their artistic voices, whether that is through the pen or the lens. One of the spaces where we accomplish this is in Maya’s Room, a writing circle for Black women to gather, explore, discuss, and write. 

During her long, dynamic writing career, Maya Angelou had a practice of going to a hotel room with her legal pad, pen and a dictionary to be alone with her thoughts and write. Influenced by Maya’s commitment to a writing practice, we have decided to offer space for Black women to take up their crafts in community. 

In the fall of 2018, we launched our first year of Maya’s Room with a group of prolific and dynamic Black women. Over the course of a year, the women of Maya’s Room learned to embrace their inner artists and discover the words and stories that have been stirring inside of them. Below are a few reflections from the women in the writing circle about their time together.

“Participating in Maya’s Room has given me the courage to continue working on my writings without fear of criticism from those who come across my work.”

“Maya’s Room has impacted my confidence as a writer and an artist as well.”

“In some spiritually beautiful ways…the time has provided some beloved community and a much needed boost to my creativity.”

“The space has been incredibly affirming, encouraging, and fortifying. It has enhanced my ability to think about my life and, in so doing, it has strengthened my voice for my writing and the purposes behind my content.”

We are excited to welcome new members into Maya’s Room this month, starting on February 20th! If you’re looking to connect with Black Women writers and need some accountability to just sit down write, we hope you’ll join us. 

Maya’s Room will be open for new members during the following dates: February 20th, March 5th, and March 19th. In April, we will close the writing circle. 

Date: Thursday, February 20th 

Time: 7-8:30pm 

Where: The Beautiful Project’s office: 411 W. Chapel Hill Street C-2, Durham, NC 27701

For more information and to RSVP, please visit here.

During her long, dynamic writing career, Maya Angelou had a practice of going to a hotel room with her legal pad, pen and a dictionary to be alone with her thoughts and write. Influenced by Auntie Maya, we’re taking up time and space to foster our craft, in community, and we’d love to have you join us. We’ll meet twice monthly in Durham to encourage one another, be inspired and write. Together, we’ll go through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron as a thread connecting our experiences during and between our gatherings. If you’re looking to connect with Black women writers and need some accountability to just sit down write, we hope you’ll join us in Maya’s Room.

Our first gathering will be Thursday, November 8th from 7p-8p at Cocoa Cinnamon Lakewood. For more information and to RSVP, please visit here: http://bit.ly/MayasRoomTBP

*We will use the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron as a guide. You can purchase here.

Maya Angelou. Image by Stephen Parker, 1988

 

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

 

 

Her conviction and passion captured me. She could illustrate murals through the rasp in her voice and pierce the soul with conviction when she opened her eyes wide, forming round, heavy scopes of wisdom and truth.  She showed us how to love a man and how to move a man. Loving her man was as much her joy and mission as her work on the stage and screen. Beautiful as she was, she was able to position herself as never to be objectified; no one had her permission to decide who she was. Only she did that, with the expectation that others would oblige. She fought for civil rights for mankind and for the rights of her people. She did not allow fear to stifle or stop her. She seemed to thrive in it. Her small frame was heavy with determination and power and she knew she had influence. No matter what people said or will say, she was a monument.

I’m talking about Ruby Dee.

Talking to one of my sisters the other day about yet another great ancestor ascending into the clouds and she said, “Sometimes I just feel like we’re losing everybody at once.” I told her I know.

I know and I know.

Our faces are only barely dry from mourning our mother-teacher Maya Angelou. As soon as we lift our head to the sun, our broken heart beckons it back down to weep once more for yet another matriarch gone on. But I dared to peek open my eyes and take a look around, in the quiet mourning, I heard a whisper. Can’t you hear it? The great cloud of witnesses is expanding. One more soul is standing on the sidelines, calling our names, beckoning us forward to take our places in the struggle and fight. Fight for civil rights, fight for our children, lend our voices to the cries for help for the marginalized, ready our hands to take the plow, lace up our shoes for the journey ahead for there is yet work to be done. I can hear their whispers. I hear them saying,

Girl, stop worryin’ about what people think of you. Stop worryin’ about if they’ll like what you have to give. Stop worryin’ about if you’ll make it. Stop it! You are here for a purpose. You are Queen Esther, called for such a time as this, equipped, purposed and predestined to cover the deficits that move your heart and consume your mind. All that wonderin’ and worryin’ is but a distraction, to keep you focused on yourself, causing you to miss the bigger picture while you concentrate only on your own imperfection. This whole world, this whole production was put together by the greatest artist of the universe, the Great Creator. He knows it all. In His goodness, grace and mercy, He has given us a chance to participate in His work. It is art but it’s not complicated. Don’t overthink this. It’s paint my numbers and, baby, you already know your color and number. Pick up the brush, baby. Pick up the mic, the book, the math, the camera, the pen, the hammer, the ax, the broom, pick it all up and move. Move, for your time is now and we slid over and made for room for you because we knew that you could do it. So do it.

“Life exacts a high toll.” Ruby would say. “So stand up inside yourself and know that you are God’s child.” Maya would add.

And I would dab at my tears, square my shoulders and say, “Amen.”

 

Photo Credit: Gawker

Yesterday felt like the whole earth shook for a moment with the news of the passing of our mother, our sister, our auntie, our friend and our teacher, Dr. Maya Angelou.

Just like with a violent storm, our foundations were loosened, our tears collected and spilled over creating an unsettled, raucous ocean, we leaned over, broken, like the trees bent and rubberized by the wind, sunglasses that typically perfect and finish the day’s look and, more functionally, protect our eyes from the sun, were flung off as we were convinced that the sun was covered by a sad, hovering cloud while our dear Darling transitioned from this life into the next. We were undone. Our social media heavy culture gave indication to just how consumed we all were with the news that Maya Angelou had passed after recently being ill and dealing with heart complications. Heart complications. Seems we temporarily inherited her affliction as we clung to the affirmations offered through her words, watched old YouTube videos to gaze upon her essence once more and reflected on our best memories of her to soothe our aching, broken heart.

She was, for so many, something of a monument; a symbol of power, intelligence, perseverance, eloquence, and freedom. We kept her in the scope and sequence of our lives and there she lived in perpetuity, keeping the pulse to every beat we made, peppering the lyrics to the  theme songs we sang to ourselves when we wanted to be courageous and incredible in the world. I’m a woman, phenomenally. 

She was like a tree; strong, deeply rooted, provisional, life giving. She was like a tree; Her long brown legs as the trunk against which we rested our backs, leaning in to her, listening to the knowledge she lyrically laid on us, knowledge that fell on our minds like leaves loosened and free, falling softly to the ground to replenish and fertilize the earth. She was ever giving, giving, giving back. We sat there underneath her and her teaching, a respite from the heat of life, comfortable in the shade and cool provided by her ever outstretched limbs, limbs that always seemed to reach out for us, hold us up and embrace us synchronously. And we made ourselves comfortable, resting there, with her living in perpetuity, comfortable with her offerings. Just like reaching up to pluck fruit heavy on the limb, ripe and ready to fall to the ground, we knew which of her poems, essays or quotes to reach for when we needed comfort, when we needed nourishment and understanding, when we wanted to express ourselves more clearly.

And while she has left with us those same pieces of herself, it is as though this passing of her physical body is an awakening. For the past day and a half, reflections of her and all that she was have lit up the world and given us a reminder about the good we had present with us for 86 years. It’s time now for us to shake ourselves loose from our resting posture, dry our tear stained cheeks and put our hands to the plow. In salute to her and the amazingly full life she lived out here among us, I say, creatives, create! Writers, write! Singers, sing! Directors, direct! Lovers, love! Encouragers, encourage! Givers, give! We must go now and be fully ourselves and watch the world shine in effect. She, along with so many other mother teachers who have gone ahead of us, has given us her back and shoulders to stand upon so that we can see more clearly, listen more carefully, and be seen and heard with much more dignity. Don’t just stand there and weep. The backs and shoulders of our mother teachers have converged and they, together, have created for us, a grand stage. Let’s gather our daughters and tell them about who she was, what she did, and what she meant to us. Let’s give the world our own version of beauty to open up and brighten their minds and lives. Let’s rock this joint.

Dr. Maya Angelou, we salute you with our art and our lives. Until we meet again, rest in paradise.

“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”

-Maya Angelou  

Photo Credit: Maya Angelou’s Official Site