Reflective Revelations: A Poem by Deja Palmer-Reese

Thank you all for showing us love & support with our campaign on our instagram page. As we bring our #ReflectiveRevelations to a close, we offer the gift of poetry from our own Deja Palmer-Reese. Deja crafted this poem in response to what we learned & experienced during our apprenticeship. May these words inspire & carry you as you step into the new year. 

🧡 Noire, Deja, Chalina, & Aniya


Black queens

Let’s take off and fly above the

occasion. 

Focus on the things that physically

keep us grounded, but mentally place us in a superior 

elevation. 

And find a deeper passion and love for ourselves

as a form of meditation,

to ensure unadulterated positivity like a spiritual

ventilation.

Then use that halcyon mindset to reflect on your

spiritual revelations.  

***

Understand that you are unquestionably

strong. 

Became an entrepreneur when things around you

went wrong. 

And they transfix themselves on how you

the caged bird

finds strength to still sing your song.

Because you have hope.

Heart as pure as bullion gold.

And just like our alluring melanated skin,

that hope never grows old.

***

However 

If you do find it faltering 

and it leaves your light dwindling cold,

your community is there to be a backbone

and remind you that there is no need to impose

yourself into any societal mold.

Because we believe in you.

***

Stand statuesque tall,

and wipe your eyes because we see it

in you.

Do you see it in you?

Do you see

that you flourished so much

that now work has become less stressful and more healing?

Do you see how you have found new hobbies and ways

to express who you are, 

and in yourself?

You found a deeper meaning

Of beauty

Because beauty is you,

and that is something you uncontrollably

embody. 

***

Never let them tell you

Your bamboo hoops and diamond

studded acrylics are too gaudy. 

Never let anyone

strip away the time and dedication you apply

to your wellbeing.

Never let wavering friendships make you

hide your opinions and feelings.

Never let your fear of change and what it

may hold distance you from your manifestations

and the future you’re seeing. 

And most important of all, and queen

listen when I say this.

Never be silenced or afraid of speaking your

truths and being your genuine self.

Because no matter what, you as a black girl,

Without fear or harm,

are able to freely express yourself.

A few months back, we introduced our first cohort of youth apprentices: Aniya, Chalina, Deja, and Noire. We’re excited to share what they have gathered, learned, and created during their apprenticeship at TBP. In their own words, you will find a glimpse of their journey and introduction of their new campaign for Black girls. 

Photo by Winnie Okwakol

This year has significantly impacted how we think, feel, and interact with the world around us. We’ve heard a plethora of feel good stories, and not-so-good stories, but what about Black girls’ stories? Through this campaign, we explore the complexities of the Black girl experience during this time, and how isolation has taught them about themselves and the world around them. These are their reflective revelations.

The extension of the Her Testimony campaign hosted by The Beautiful Project has been led by us; TBP’s four newest youth apprentices, since the beginning of September. We’ve each combined our unique skills and talents including art, poetry, graphic design, and networking to accurately tell the stories of the Black girl experience in the Triangle Area.

The development of this campaign began with the assistance of TBP staff and special guests who trained us in a number of areas, namely interviewing and storytelling, which prepared us for conducting focus groups with other Black girls. From the many conversations we had with our peers, we’ve discovered one of the main impacts of the pandemic is the ability to adapt and respond to continuous change and losses. 

Our campaign, Reflective Revelations, illustrates the discoveries and personal growth Black girls have made during this heightened period of isolation and social injustices. Through reflections and affirmations, we celebrate the growth and discoveries that Black girls have made about themselves over the last few months. In response, we hope to create a safe and open space for Black girls, from Black girls. Over the course of this week, we will showcase the components of our campaign on TBP’s instagram page. Check us out on @thebeautifulprj!

In the short film below, we shared our own reflections and revelations about our inner journeys this year. Our hope is for others, especially our fellow Black girls, to share what they’ve learned about themselves this year. 

A couple of months ago, we announced the launching of our youth apprenticeship, a program that will provide training in research, analysis, and storytelling for Black girls in North Carolina. This apprenticeship will build upon the the work of the Her Testimony campaign, which lifted up the experiences of Black women in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the extension of this campaign, we are positioning our apprentices to be witnesses, storytellers, and champions of Black girl wellness amidst the converging threats of the pandemic and racial injustices.

At the start of the apprenticeship, we briefly met everyone in a park to officially welcome the apprentices into TBP with gifts and portraits taken by our very own Winnie Okwakol.

Since mid-September, we have been virtually meeting with our four dynamic apprentices. Led by Erin, our Program Director, each of our apprentices are learning how to bear witness with Black girls and women through dialogue, create narratives that heal and affirm, and take ownership of our voices and power. Along the way, our apprentices are connecting with Black women storytellers, such as our friends Janelle Harris Dixon and Shanelle Gabriel, who created space to sharpen our apprentices’ skills in bearing witness through interviews and crafting stories. 

A recent guest workshop on techniques to create a good story led by poet Shanelle Gabriel.

After facilitating listening sessions with other Black girls to gain insight on how the pandemic has impacted their lives, our apprentices will create a creative resource of wellness strategies for Black girls to focus on their well-being in light of intense and stressful times.

We are excited to officially introduce the Her Testimony Youth Apprentices: Aniya, Chalina, Deja, and Noire. Get to know them below.


Aniya Arnold

How do you want to impact the world?
I want to impact the world by creating screenplays that evolve into films about an array of experiences that introduce people to new perspectives that they haven’t come in contact with before.

What do you want to accomplish or take away as a result of your participation in this program?
I want to become better at finding my voice and using it effectively to make real change, and improve my collaboration skills.

 

Chalina Morgan-Lopez

How do you want to impact the world?
I want to be able to use my skills and knowledge to enact social justice in our communities, and to be a voice and amplify the voices of those who are most silenced.

What do you want to accomplish or take away as a result of your participation in this program?
I want to take away more connections that can further my success in the future, and a long-lasting sisterhood with those who I’ve connected with, as well as valuable skills and new perspectives through helping develop the #Hertestimony campaign with Beautiful.

 

Deja Palmer-Reese

How do you want to impact the world?
I want to impact the world by bringing light and putting the spotlight on the underdog stories in any way possible. I enjoy doing this by writing my poetry in different perspectives with different subjects being addressed. By writing, I am also able to let people know that someone connects with them and understands what they go through; thus making them feel comfortable and less lonely. I want to have a career in the medical field as well because I enjoy helping people and making people feel safe. After joining this apprenticeship, I realize how much more I want to do for the community. This is my first time contributing and I feel and know I could help much more.

What do you want to accomplish or take away as a result of your participation in this program?
I plan to accomplish bringing awareness to the struggle that Black women and girls face during the rise of COVID along with the steady uprising of police brutality. Stories like theirs can easily be brushed away or looked over, so to be able to make a campaign and interview people really makes me happy. I want to take away a new knowledge on their situations because I was unaware of the risk that black women/ people face dealing with COVID. I also want to take away a new knowledge when it comes to writing as well. Conducting interviews, writing and listening to reports, and learning about the new lenses that the program uses may help me in future writing situations.

 

Noire Meyers

How do you want to impact the world?
Short answer: I want to bring more representation to us Black girls in the media, and create more safe spaces. Long answer: I want to use my writing and artistic skills to bring diversity to the types of Black girls we see in the media. Yes, there are Black girls who are loud and outgoing and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they are not a monolith. And not to mention the extreme lack of diversity in fantasy/sci-fi like stories. I want to make my own stories, my own games, with girls we can all relate to on a personal level, not just a skin-deep level. I want to bring awareness to mental illness through these stories, an elephant in the room we’ve been ignoring for way too long, and provide access to effective resources that even girls from different nations can access.

What do you want to accomplish or take away as a result of your participation in this program?
I want to walk away with the ability to create my own campaigns that’ll reach people inside and outside my intended audience. I want to be able to organize interviews and projects properly with little procrastination. I want to know how to properly use people’s testimonies in my campaign along with how to properly manage data for said project/campaign and how to properly interview someone.


Khayla, our creative director, leads the group in a quick icebreaker.
Bria, our project coordinator, posing with Deja, Aniya, Chalina and Noire.

In our orientation a few weeks ago, we asked each apprentice this question: What would it look like if all Black girls were valued, respected, and free? After ten minutes of imagining what freedom looks like for themselves and each other, a vision statement of freedom and hope was developed. This is the intention and declaration that we have been holding on to throughout the apprenticeship.

“We as Black girls are able to freely express ourselves without fear of harm or being silenced for speaking our truth and being our genuine selves.”

We are excited to announce our first apprenticeship program for youth!

This virtual experience is designed for Black girls ages 14-18 who live or attend school in the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, or Cary) of North Carolina. 

In the summer of 2020, The Beautiful Project launched the campaign Her Testimony to uplift and explore Black women’s experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This extension of #HerTestimony explores the experience of Black girls, by positioning Black girls as witnesses, storytellers, and champions of Black girl wellness amidst the pandemic and the social change unfolding in the United States. This apprenticeship provides experience-based education to train Black girls ages 14-18 in The Beautiful Project’s methodology of centering and uplifting the narratives of Black girls and women.

Four apprentices will be selected and trained in storytelling, research, and analysis by Black women mentors. From September to December, apprentices will engage in the following work: 

  • Investigate the needs of Black girls in the Triangle during the pandemic using virtual research methods such as online interviews and listening sessions
  • Analyze their discoveries to identify themes and patterns in Black girls’ experiences
  • Create a virtual campaign that provides online resources for Black girls’ emotional and mental wellness
Eligibility
  • Live and/or go to school in the Triangle
  • Ages 14-18
  • Identify as a Black girl/young woman
  • Desire to positively impact Black girls through narrative-based work
  • Regular access to stable Internet Connection (laptop will be provided if needed)
Duration
  • September 12- December 12th 
Benefits
  • Exposure to Black women in various fields who are committed to centering the voices of Black girls and women 
  • Mentorship by The Beautiful Project staff and training by guest speakers in storytelling, research, and campaign design
  • All apprentices will receive a monetary stipend of $800, distributed monthly 
  • Apprentices will be provided with temporary laptops to conduct their activities 
Commitments
  • Participation in a virtual Orientation on Sept 12th (please confirm you can be available for this mandatory orientation prior to submitting an application)
  • Participation in weekly 1.5 hr virtual trainings and workshops from September 12- December 12, 2020
  • Weekly bridgework not to exceed 1 hr a week during Sept-October; During November, apprentices will work independently and collectively to develop campaign content
  • Working alongside other apprentices to develop a wellness campaign targeting Black girls in November
The Selection Process

This is a rapid selection process, so please pay attention to dates. 

  1. Complete Online Application: View the instructions for the online application here: Her Testimony Youth Apprenticeship Application Instructions. Complete and submit the online application by Friday, August 28th here
  2. Submit Letter of Reference: Ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation that shares why you are a good candidate for this apprenticeship. We recommend asking someone who knows you well and has supported or observed your work and/or leadership style, for example a teacher, mentor, coach, or boss. Letters must be signed and sent as a PDF or Microsoft Word by Friday, August 28th to estephens@thebeautifulproject.org
  3. Virtual Interviews: If selected, candidates will be invited by email to a 30 minute virtual interview with The Beautiful Project staff during the week of August 31st. This is our chance to learn more about you and figure out if this is the right program for you. 
  4. Final Selection: Selected Apprentices will be informed no later than September 5th

For more information about The Beautiful Project and the current #HerTestimony Campaign, visit www.thebeautifulproject.org. If you have questions about the apprenticeship program you can: 

 

Deep thanks to the Grantmakers for Girls of Color’s Love is Healing Covid-19 Response Fund for their support of our girls!

 

Our hearts are still full after reliving the opening of our first large-scale New York exhibition, Pen, Lens & Soul: The Story of The Beautiful Project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!  To our Friends, Families and Supporters:

We want to express our deep and heartfelt appreciation for those of you who were able to join us for the phenomenal opening reception of Pens, Lens, & Soul: The Story of the Beautiful Project at The Metropolitan Art Museum. For those of you who were unable to be physically present, we felt your love from afar. It is truly a dream come true for us to display the work of our collective of Black girls and women in this historic art institution; a dream made even sweeter by your presence and support throughout the years.

 

 

Pen, Lens, & Soul will remain up at The Uris Center for Education until February 24th. Please continue to share the exhibit with your family and friends and when you go, tag our social media accounts when you post online (@thebeautifulprj on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook).

 

Special thanks again to The Met for generously partnering with us for this powerful exhibition. Thanks also to The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and to the members of the Collaborative for Creative Practice and Social Justice for all of your support.

 

 

 

AlineSitoe, age 11

For our opening reception, a few of the young artists from our cohort were able to share their experiences as artists in the show. We are excited to bring our entire cohort of artists to see their work in the exhibition in January! We’ll leave you here with words from our girls’ reactions to their work being shown at The Met:

“I loved my experience at The Beautiful Project and still do. I hope my images inspire other Black girls and woman to accomplish their dreams by staying true to their origins.” ~Lacquen, 11 years old
“While participating in The Beautiful Project, I learned to take short, simple sentences and turn them into deeply detailed and meaningful sentences. To have my words in this exhibit makes me feel famous. I hope my words encourage and challenge Black girls to tell stories and write no matter what others think.” ~Israel, 9 years old
“The experience with The Beautiful Project was a fun learning experience. I learned different types of ways to write and that I can make a book my own way. I feel surprised and amazed to see my work in this exhibit, and I am very thankful for everybody that helped me get up here. I hope my words impact other girls to keep going and never stop. I want them to know that their thoughts and ideas are valuable.” ~Jocelyn, 10 years old
“Being with the girls in The Beautiful Project helped me learn there are many young ladies still trying to find their way. I’m feeling proud that my pictures were important enough to make it this far. I hope other Black girls and women see that they can express themselves through photography to anyone.”  ~Ahmadie, 16 years old

If you would like to schedule a group tour between January 6th and February 24th, contact Suhaly Bautista Carolina, Senior Managing Educator, Audience Development and Engagement (Suhaly.BautistaCarolina@metmuseum.org) and Alexis Gonzalez, Program Associate, Audience Development and Engagement (Alexis.Gonzalez@metmuseum.org).

Pen Lens & Soul graphic design by Winnie Okwakol, image by Jamaica Gilmer. Sweet thanks to Dannese and Jayden Mapanda, Ahmadie Bowles, and Elle Thompson for bringing the visual heart of Pen, Lens and Soul to life.

There are few things more fascinating and wonder-filled as the imagination of a Black girl. Teeming with thoughts, images, dreams and possibilities, she creates worlds that Hollywood execs spend millions trying to conjure. Consider the matter of her ancestry and the nuance and magic of Black womanhood being played out all around her, and you realize that the landscape of her mind is a labyrinth of majesty comparable to none.

Earlier this year, for two days, using journaling as an impetus for discovery and exploration, we got a peek into the brilliant minds of some incredible Black girls who decided to join us for this journey. During our time together, we used film, story and experiential learning to consider the importance of values like empathy and conventions of the English language such as simile and metaphor to deepen the way our girls share their voice and perspective with the world. Our refrain for the weekend was to ask ourselves, “When the pen is in my hand, what will I write? How will I leave my mark on the world?”

It was amazing to see the girls bloom under the idea that they had the power to impact the world with their flavor of telling. The staff at TBP present that weekend used positive affirmations, our smiles, hugs, love and good food to scaffold the girls and build their confidence so that they could focus their minds, relax and learn. At the end of the weekend, the girls had been given a spark, having many fires lit on five different modules in the curriculum, that we have stoked throughout the year since that time. They have been working on writing projects that will be published in our next edition of The Journal, later this year. We are so proud to know them and walk hand in hand in with them through this process.

It was an immensely fun, powerful and sweet time, watching the reality of their intelligence and their potential flourish right before our very eyes. These girls are unstoppable. 

Words by Pamela Thompson / Images by Madylin Nixon-Taplet

As a collective of Black women and girls image-makers, our interests are in how we can make use of photography, writing and other artistic tools, as a mechanism for cultivating our power and voice in ways that can disrupt cultural narratives and institutions that normalize and advance our unjust treatment. Towards this end, we explored a set of questions with our girls this spring: What does power look like in our lives? What does it mean for Black girls to hold power? How can Black girls disrupt power dynamics that negatively impact them?

We designed a series of workshops for girls meant to cultivate resiliency and aid in the growth of their voice and power to be able to speak to various issues that affect us. School pushout is one of the topics we explored this spring with the group of girls ages 8-15 who have been learning photography and writing with us over the year. Scholars like Kimberly Crenshaw, Monique W. Morris, Connie Wun and LeConté Dill have pointed to the myriad of ways that Black girls are challenged to navigate educational spaces with stereotypes, bias, and criminalization and institutionalized injustice. Too often interpreted as hostile, uncaring, arrogant and disruptive, the racialized and gendered dimensions of school pushout result in Black girls disproportionately experiencing punitive discipline measures like suspension and expulsion.

During our workshop, we dynamically engaged our voices and used a Theater of the Oppressed (a methodology for using theater for social change) exercise to illustrate and explore power as we experience it, as it can be, and as we will it to be. After defining school pushout, we listened to the stories of young activists with Girls for Gender Equity in NYC and discussed their experiences with school pushout. These stories engendered immediate and emotional responses from the girls. There was clear recognition and firm belief that their stories mattered. Our girls immediately extended sisterhood to these brave storytellers in the film and expressed a desire to stand up for them.

We asked them what they would say to the school administrators or to these girls if a microphone were in their hands. Here are some of their responses:

“I’m triggered about Black girls getting suspended for no reason or stupid reasons.”

“You don’t have to put down anyone to keep things calm and controlled. You should be putting the people up, not down. It’s unfair, some of the things that happen with school people and administration. But we need to continue sticking up for ourselves, each other and our rights and beliefs. Because we do matter, our voice matters, our rights matter. We all matter.”

“We need to change what happens in our schools and the way people look at it. Black people get suspended from the most annoying and stupidest thing. Sometimes Black girls at my school get in trouble for not doing their work, sleeping in class, etc and it’s so stupid.”

“The teachers at school are using their higher status as an advantage. Teachers need to start thinking more carefully about the consequences they give students.”

“We are our own beautiful bodies and we don’t deserve to be treated this way.”

We affirm the messages that the girls issue and encourage them as they continue to develop their own voices and power in expressions of care and justice for other black girls.

 

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.

Journaling as Art Form is a writing workshop designed by The Beautiful Project to help girls build confidence in producing written expression, establish their voice in writing and find greater purpose & stories within their personal insight & experiences. Journaling is a very friendly, personal and accessible form of writing. The hope of such a workshop is to create a space for girls who identify with and enjoy writing, and for those who do not, to stretch out and discover the gems in stream of consciousness and reflective writing practices.

This workshop is comprised of multiple dates in 2019 to include weekly writing studio sessions where girls can collaborate and complete writing projects, once a month Saturday sessions centering care for Black girls combined with concentrated journaling practices to make for a dynamic experience. In late February, girls will experience a 2-day writing intensive. This intensive will take place on Friday, February 22nd 7pm-9pm and Saturday 23rd 9am-3pm.

HOW DO I APPLY? Black girls and young women 8yrs-15yrs old are invited to apply using this form. If you need a printed copy, just let us know and we will get it to you! Continue reading “Journaling as Art Form: A Writing Workshop for Black Girls”

For years, we’ve dreamed of this special moment of placing cameras into the hands of girls and supporting their creativity more extensively as they develop into artists. At the beginning of this year, we shared this dream with our community as we put out a call to girls who would be interested in learning more about making photographs. In April, this dream came into fruition when we launched the Black Girl Image Maker workshop.

 

By Madylin Nixon-Taplet

The workshop was a beautiful and magical experience to witness our girls learn how to tell stories through images. For two days, our spectacular team of photography coaches led our girls on a journey in creating images that reflected and celebrated how they express themselves. In addition to learning how to take photographs, the girls also experienced our surprise exhibit The Wonder of You, which was specifically curated for them to see a small yet mighty example of images of Black women and girls made by Black women and girls.  

Our words cannot express the full gratitude and appreciation that we have for everyone who participated in the workshop and made it special. We would like to thank the girls who responded to our call to become image makers and their families for trusting us. We would also like to thank the women who responded to our call to link arms with us and become photography coaches and artists in our surprise exhibit: Kennedi, Morgan, Amber, Dawn, Cathy, and Jacqueline. To the Ngozi Design Collective, we adore you and you have our gratitude for the stunning coach care packages. Deep thanks to the amazing Wonder of You artists who joined us from afar: Trécii from the Schomburg Center Junior Scholars Program, Danielle & Amaya from A Long Walk Home, Inc & luminary Dr. Deborah Willis. We are forever grateful to Courtney Reid-Eaton and Ambria McNeill for their love and support during our time at the Center for Documentary Studies. Many thanks to Jasmine, Alex, and Aeran for giving us extra hands and assistance during the workshop. Thanks to the NU Community Development Center, Student U, Durham School of the Arts and everyone who helped get the word out to girls! We would like to give a huge thank you and shout out to Courtney and Erika, the women of Piri catering who kept us well fed. And thank you to Madylin and Pasha for being our extended eyes and documenting the workshop through photographs and video, which are featured below.

 

The Black Girl Image Maker workshop was just the gateway to exciting programming and trainings for girls and young women this year. It is our mission to raise a generation of Black girls and young women who are technically trained in photography and writing and can confidently see themselves as image makers. For a fuller glimpse into the workshop, check out our short video directed and filmed by our film fellow Pasha Gray.