Announcing: #HerTestimony Youth Apprenticeship Program

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
  • 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)
  • September 12- December 12th 
  • 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 
  • 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
  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 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!


Today we are grateful to share an essay written by Rachel Singley, who is a member of our writing circle, Maya’s Room. Here is a reflection on how she is learning to manage her time in the midst of the pandemic.


“If you don’t come out of this quarantine with a new skill, your side-hustle started, or more knowledge gained… then you never lacked time, you lacked discipline.” -Unknown. 

This is just one of the many quotes I’ve seen on social media since we’ve all been sheltering in place due to COVID-19 (which I will affectionately refer to as Corona). This type of toxic messaging is one of the reasons I’ve had to be intentional about showing myself grace during this time. I often catch myself being self-critical because I’m not being as productive as I should be, I’m not working on my blog as much as I should be, or I’m not working out as often as I should be. I got to the point where I realized that I basically created a list of quarantine rules that I should be following based on the things I was seeing on my social media feeds. For the sake of brevity, I’ll talk about the top three “rules” that have been ringing in my head nonstop.

1) You’re not leaving the house therefore; you should be extremely productive.

2) You need to come out of this with tons of blog content.

3) You need to come out of this with the perfect body.

A question that I often find myself asking is: who says you have to be productive all of the time? I understand that some people are coping with these stressful times by throwing themselves into their work. But that just doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay. Once I came to this realization, it became a lot easier to take a step back and focus on what does work for me.

I find that my days go much smoother when I take it easy in the morning. I take full advantage of the fact that I no longer have a bus to catch to school. Once I’m “dressed” for the day (in my finest leggings and sweatshirt), I make my way to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea or coffee. From there, I take inventory of what projects I have in motion, and I make a choice about which one I feel able to devote my energy to for that day. And that’s what I work on. Deciding that I didn’t need to complete an astronomical amount of work on each project everyday was one of the kindest things I could do for myself.

This brings me to my next rule: the side hustle. Even before Corona, I was inundated with messages on social media telling me that one should have multiple streams of income and that if they only had one, they weren’t doing life right. Now that we’re all working from home and we don’t have the hassle of daily commutes, bosses lingering over our shoulders, or whatever, surely, we should devote that extra time to a new project that can generate income, right? Why does everything that we do have to bring money in? I found myself feeling guilty when I would sit and read a book for pleasure or do something else to relax. I would think to myself, “now that I’m done with schoolwork, now I need to start working on my blog. I have all of this extra time and I should use it to figure out how to take my blog from a hobby to a revenue-generating platform.” I wouldn’t even give myself the space to do something to relax and disconnect a bit. I have to remind myself that it’s my blog and if I don’t want to crank out content every single day, I don’t have to. And I don’t have to explain that to anybody. Once I came to this realization, I was able to breathe much easier.

Rachel’s spa day at home. Photo courtesy of Rachel.

Lastly, we’re at the rule that I’ve been struggling with the most: we should all be coming out of this quarantine with, “perfect,” bodies. Full transparency, I have put on some weight since being in quarantine. At first, I was so disappointed in myself. But I realized that I was doing the best that I could. While I wasn’t exercising as much as I was pre-Corona, I was improving my health in other ways. For starters, I was cooking for myself consistently which is something I had not done in a long time. I’ve started taking walks around my neighborhood with my dog and going on bike rides. For now, that’s enough for me and I’m ok with that.

I’m not an expert at how one should manage this new reality. None of us are. With that being said, I’m not going to tell anyone how they should handle our new normal. But I will share what I have learned so far. A little bit of grace goes a long way. When I find myself going down a rabbit hole of all the things that I feel like I’m doing wrong, I remind myself that this is not something that I’ve ever experienced before and that I am doing the absolute best that I can. The word, “should,” is not my friend. I can make an endless list of things that I should be doing at any point during the day, but the reality of the situation is that many of the things on that list are just not high on my list of priorities right now. What is high on my priorities list is loving myself and giving myself the space to just, “be”. I hope my story can inspire those who are struggling with how to thrive in quarantine, and to encourage them to be graceful with themselves. After all, you deserve it.


Rachel Singley is a writer, lover of food, and health researcher residing in Durham, NC. She is the author of Brown Sugar Soul, a blog that fuses the essence of cooking and mental health and how their connection can serve in prepping & simmering self-care & self-love. Rachel is also a PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, where she is studying Health Policy. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys taking walks with her fur baby, Zeus, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. 

Please enjoy a poem submitted by Beautiful Community member Elisabeth Michel. Perhaps it will inspire you to take up your pen. In fact, Elisabeth also shares a couple of writing prompts to help.

Today, I will write.

I do not consider myself a poet.

But I think of the voices now silent,

And I remember the writers.

The dancers.

The chefs.

The travelers.




All the ones who could. Whose individual songs rang with power, even when soft. Whose perspectives helped us see parts of life and truth that we would have otherwise missed.

The ones who, in pursuit of their purpose, shaped the world around us.

They may, at one point, have thought they couldn’t.

Yet they blessed us when they did.

So today I write.

Writing Prompts:

1. What’s something that made you smile this week?

2. For the next two minutes, write down all the activities you engaged in today, in reverse order. (Start with now, and then write what you did before this moment, what you did before that moment, etc.). Go as far as you can in 2 minutes. After the two minutes are up, review the list and see which activity/moment in your day thus far has the strongest emotions attached to it. What was that moment, and what are you feeling?

Note from Elisabeth: “A professor gave me this writing exercise in college, and I love it to this day.”

If you feel comfortable, feel free to share your answers from the writing prompts above in the comments.

Elisabeth Michel is a health equity advocate passionate about seeing a world where everyone has the opportunity to reach their maximum potential. Currently living in Michigan, Elisabeth enjoys photography, improv, playing the piano – and when spring and summer finally overtake the Michigan winters, she loves to lounge outdoors in the grass with a good book.

Photo by Kaci Kennedy


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

We all find ourselves in this particular season of uncertainty and anxiety as people across the world are forced to come to a stillness. We hope this blog post finds you well and in peace.


The personal essay below is written by Aeran Baskin, a member of The Beautiful Community and a dynamic writer who participates in Maya’s Room, our writing circle. This time we’re in is a good time to awaken the artists inside all of us. May Aeran’s words inspire you to encounter the artist within yourself, to reflect, and to create. 

At 14, I wrote in my closet with the door closed. The closet light had stopped working at some point. Daddy never committed to fixing it–there were more pressing things to do–so I would bring in a flashlight. I would bring others into that closet, too. My books. My pens. My thoughts. And God. We would giggle to each other on blank paper. Those times in the closet were girl talk. 

I can’t recall how much time would pass between when I would pull the doors of my closet shut–trapping myself in sanctuary–and when Momma would pull them apart–exposing me to the world. “It’s time to eat…you didn’t hear me calling your name?”

How could I hear her? I was creating worlds. I was speaking light. This was my way. This was my worship. Infinity bound by blank paper.

But I’ll tell you a secret. 

The girl in the closet grew up. I got tall and thick around the hips. I started thinking about my future instead of imagining it. 

And then I traded writing for security. 

Perhaps it was because I thought that artists starve (lies the devil tells). Or that writing ain’t a real career (another lie the devil tells). Or I just got scared of showing people what I wrote (there he goes again). 

I was committed to my lies. My security and I jumped between two coasts and 5 major cities. But, secretly, I kept a box of notebooks, loose pages, and napkins with poetry and scenes in the passenger seat of whatever U-Haul I was driving. I would sometimes revisit the box, wondering if I could fall back in love with the words it kept. 

Last year, Maya’s Room invaded my security. 

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps I thought that I would just attend and write a few scenes. Maybe I thought that I would just revisit the Artist’s Way and go on an artist date or two. I suspect that I had no expectations at all beyond being present. 

But whatever my expectations Maya’s Room took me on a journey. 

I lie. 

Maya’s Room took me on three journeys: A Journey Towards Self, A Journey Towards Sisterhood, and A Journey Towards Artistry.

A Journey Towards Self: If I’m honest, which I should be, writing had turned into a hustle. Writers write. My writing was limited to legal memoranda, grant reports and the occasional poem. When I wrote, it was because I was writing towards what I thought I should be. I wrote because writers are supposed to write. 

I discovered in Maya’s Room that I write because I am. I am before I write. Writing comes from a place of wholeness and rest and not hustle to become something or someone. 

A Journey Towards Sisterhood: The journey towards self was traveled alongside my sisters. At some point, our conversations evolved from exploring ourselves as writers to discovering ourselves. Even in those moments when I wanted to close the closet door to only sit in the darkness, I had women around me asking me if I heard them calling my name. 

A Journey Towards Artistry: I have always considered myself a good writer. One of the most exciting revelations was understanding why I am a good writer and where I can improve to become a better writer. Talking with other writers helped me to identify where I was strong. 

I often felt that I was writing towards a dragon that was constantly changing form or deliberately moving away from me. I also found myself engaged in a tug-o-war with myself because I did not want to dive into the personal details that would give my writing more meaning, more flesh. I suspect that these difficulties may occur when writing on any topic of personal significance. I suspect that they won’t go away. But I did notice that my comfort with the discomfort of writing towards the dragon increased each time I shared what I wrote. 

Maya’s Room has, unexpectedly, revived my love of writing. I no longer feel inclined to have security over wholeness. The question now is what will I do with this new love? I definitely don’t intend to abandon it again as I have before. I plan to make writing, even if for five minutes a day, part of my daily practice. Besides the daily practice of writing, I plan to develop further as a writer by continuing to let others read my work. This is Maya’s gift. 

I’m grateful. I suspect that the little girl in the closet, writing by flashlight, is grateful, too.

Aeran N. Baskin developed a love for words at a young age from her mother’s spontaneous storytelling about warrior princesses, crafty assassins, and misunderstood dragons. Aeran channeled this legacy of storytelling into an affection for building worlds through poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. She deeply believes that writing is a spiritual baptism that provides the writer and reader with an opportunity to commune with God. Through the word, Aeran has dedicated herself to tell the stories of and advocate with Black women, girls, and families.


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.

Our sister-sojourner and space making beloved is leaving her staff role at The Beautiful Project to deeply pursue her dreams. We celebrate and honor the contributions of our wordsmith, Pamela Thompson. Read her reflection in today’s blog post:

“When I wrote the Sisterhood Creed, present with me throughout the process was a nagging inner critic that tried to keep me from writing it by convincing me it was too idealistic, no one would believe it, women would scoff at it, roll their eyes and carry on relating to each other however they had grown accustomed. I knew that writing the Creed according to its tenets was presenting an opportunity for women to take a risk on each other and to take a risk on themselves. In presenting these ideas, I was taking a personal risk, being vulnerable to share what my heart felt we could achieve if we pushed forward a different perspective for Black women, on how to relate to one another. Throughout my work at TBP, I’ve carried the idea of kindred vs. alien, purporting that we are more alike than we may present and there, on those common grounds, we should build together, celebrating the depth our differences provide instead of allowing those differences to clique us, or worse, silo us. Now that the creed is written and living in the world, in the hearts of girls and women, affecting our lives and impacting our relationships, I’m so glad that I didn’t allow my inner critic to rule. Things would have been so different.

In this present space of transition I’m in, I am experiencing movement of the same cycle. I am on the precipice of awakening to new realities, walking into plans laid out for me since before my birth and my inner critic is on the front row heckling, beckoning me to stay where I am, and threatening failure & shame if I dare to defy her. She wants me to keep to the comfort and safety I have cultivated for myself and forsake the courage and audacity it takes to pursue and lay claim to the life I want. I know so many women have been here, are here or are headed here. So, taking in hand my best option and giving ear to the louder voices in my head shouting epithets of love and moxie, I’m writing to share with you that I’m transitioning out of my staff role at The Beautiful Project.

This new journey will include deepening my presence and attentiveness to my four daughters. I have chosen as part of my parenting to homeschool my children. It is a great adventure, one where I am learning as I go. I believe that, in this moment of their lives and development, I need to focus in more as they continue to evolve into women who will contribute to the transformation needed in the world. You can also expect to see me consult with organizations in the field to support Black women and girls, as well as continue to grow as a creative making products for my product line, Peiea Grace and, finally, publishing the works I’ve been writing for years.

Boyz II Men got it right, it’s so hard to say goodbye. That’s why I’m not saying it. I have chosen to be part of the Beautiful Community and am looking forward to staying connected as an image maker for The Beautiful Project there.

So, here’s to 2020! May you link arms with me and walk bravely into the wonder, challenge and growth that undoubtedly awaits all of us. ”

pamela t.

a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.


Here’s a reminder:


As you step into the new year and the new decade, may you learn to embrace the desires of your heart with wonder and have the audacity to bring them to life.

Allow the beautiful words of Alice Walker inspire you. Happy New Year!


My desire
is always the same; wherever Life
deposits me:
I want to stick my toe
& soon my whole body
into the water.
I want to shake out a fat broom
& sweep dried leaves
bruised blossoms
dead insects
& dust.
I want to grow
It seems impossible that desire
can sometimes transform into devotion;
but this has happened.
And that is how I’ve survived:
how the hole
I carefully tended
in the garden of my heart
grew a heart
to fill it.

~Alice Walker

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 ( and Alexis Gonzalez, Program Associate, Audience Development and Engagement (

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.

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