Today: A Poem by Elisabeth Michel

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


Each night I put my put baby girls to bed and I have no real thoughts about their safety. Sure, I visit their room throughout the night to ensure that they are cool enough, still tucked in, or haven’t fallen out of bed, but it is only in my mean, fearful imaginings (should I dare to go there) that I can see it plausible that someone would pry open their bedroom window and ease their vulnerable, sleeping bodies out of my home without my or my husband’s awareness. Even now, my body recoils at the thoughts my mind just produced. It is horrifying. And to make that thought wider and spread it across my small community to a mass kidnapping claiming several little girls as victims to dark, cricket-quiet nights as they are carried off  by the hands of evil men laden and led by deviant, salacious and broken minds . . .it is all just. too. much. Tonight I will re-engage our nightly routine. I will lay my girls down to sleep, and thanks to God’s good grace, I will awaken, the next day, to the little girl pitch of their voices, carelessly rolling out morning ramblings describing incomprehensible dreams dreamt in total comfort and safety. And I will no longer take that for granted. I’ll lift my hands and thank Him as I bow my knee to plead for my girls, my little sisters who are still prey to terrorists all over the world.

It’s a number that grows relentlessly ever.

Hashtags blazed a bright banner of awareness that flew across cyber skies and burned in the hearts of many for weeks, creating new activists, arousing mavens. Essentially everyone wanted someone, anyone, to #bringbackourgirls, and a few of them have returned home. Yet still so many of them remain at large. It’s been about 135 days since they were taken. That cyber banner boasts a new cause and it seems as though activism on behalf of our girls, in Nigeria and all over the world, is as quiet as a cricket-less night.

Please, let them know you still care. Reach out to your state and local representatives, reach out to our President and ask for help around causes effecting our girls everywhere. That’s a start.

Our Nigerian sisters still need our help, but if you are one who felt that it was equally as important to help the girls here in our own backyard, then that’s your call; galvanize and activate to get help for them! Sadly, there are so many girls who needs us. Too many girls have to fight for an education, everyday another girl becomes a victim of sex trafficking, everyday a girl stalks the streets of her community broken, lost, uncared for. They have so many issues and so many needs. We need not shame anyone for reaching out their arms to our sisters in Nigeria. We need not shame others for gathering close the sisters next door. The thing is, there are times when I gaze into the eyes of my two baby girls and see all the hurting little girls staring back at me, reminding me that mercy is for everyone, not just those who can afford it.




See what difference a little, hurt, Black girl can make. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for shining the light on us. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for seeing us.






Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

Video Credit: Visionary Project YouTube Channel

Khayla, a photographer and, currently, the facilitating social media intern for The Beautiful Project, was recently able to reflect on her time photographing Naa Kordei. Please take a moment to read her thoughts as she shares with us how getting “the winning shot,” wasn’t the jewel she walked away with after spending time with some beautiful little girls.


When I first spoke to Naa Kordei about the BGT exhibit, I asked her to identify one friend that she can trust for me to interview. Her eyes immediately lit up as she exclaimed, “Alyssa!! Interview Alyssa!”  Naa Kordei and Alyssa have been best friends since they met on the playground five years ago in 1st grade. Since then, they’ve been inseparable, and are often mistaken as sisters. I knew it was only right to invite Alyssa to the photo shoot.

At the start of the shoot, I could sense the girls’ excitement and nerves. Initially, I had a detailed list of poses and scenes that I wanted to take. For the first couple of shots, I positioned Naa Kordei and her friend in different poses, but something wasn’t right. They politely followed my direction, but they were a bit stiff. I knew the camera made them nervous. To loosen things up, I asked them what type of activities do they normally do when they hang out. “We usually laugh a lot and make music videos,” Naa Kordei answered. I asked to see one of their music videos and, to my surprise, they performed the entire routine. Careful not to distract the girls with my camera, I became a fly on the wall as I snapped photos of Naa Kordei and Alyssa giggling and dancing. They soon forgot that I was even there. It was amazing to see the girls open up and perform freely like no one was watching. During their 20 minute dance break, I didn’t capture a ‘winning shot’ of Naa Kordei and Alyssa. However, witnessing two beautiful young friends, carefree and content in their own skin, was well worth it.


Photo Credit: Khayla Deans for The Beautiful Project (Photo Also Featured in The Black Girl Triptych exhibit)

Here’s what our founder and co-director, Jamaica Gilmer, took away from her time with Marleigh during their photo shoot for #theblackgirltriptych!

One of the most memorable moments I had returning back to doing BGT photo shoots was with Marleigh. I did this process for years and years, then I stopped—instead taking the opportunity to train other Black women to do the work. But my time with Marleigh marked me the moment I picked my camera back up to create a Black Girl Triptych. I was nerve wrecked the whole morning—just kind of desperate to see the shot that would do her interviews justice. So, I arrive and Marleigh is almost ready. She was getting her hair done in this adorable, meticulous style. Her outfit matched just what her family described of her: Marleigh is fashion forward. Upstairs we went to get started, her brother Oliver joining us for the photo shoots. The warm up shots were fun, but not what I needed. About 15 shots in we are all getting comfortable with only a few distractions. But eventually, we hit a rhythm. So I call out “ok! let’s go to another room to dance!”. Off we go again and Oliver decides the lights need to be out, or at least occasionally blinking. And I agree because clearly, that will make the party better. They do their thing and I adjust my light in the camera so I don’t interrupt the world they just created. Then it happens. THE shot. Marleigh was feelin’ that thing, singing and dancing hard as Oliver danced around the room. I wish I could remember what she was singing, but I remember what I saw. She threw her fists in the air, threw her hip to the side, and belted a note like the world was her stage.
And I just thought, Marleigh is powerful and free.
Photo Credit: John Jackson for The Beautiful Project


We thought that it would be cool to give some insight into just how amazing it is to actually be the one behind the camera, capturing the girls you see featured in #theblackgirltriptych. As Black women, empowering Black girls and other Black women to unapologetically splay and celebrate their brand of beauty, being behind the camera is a very privileged position, and one that we do not take lightly. Our photographers learn so much from their time with the girls and are offering us a sneak peak into what that experience meant for them. This week, enjoy their reflections.
First up, Arielle on her experience with Arielle and Anjhanae:
I really enjoyed photographing Arielle and her best friend Ashanti. Honestly, conducting the shoot was a bit challenging, as they had secluded themselves in their own world of knowing glances and affectionate horseplay. Watching them was such a gift, though; in witnessing them I realized true love isn’t limited to a romantic form. I remembered I couldn’t help but smile despite their distraction.
Nae Nae had a quiet confidence that was evident in every photo I took of her. I loved seeing her certainty of self so matured despite her young age. She was also pretty reserved during the shoot, but she released her joy freely, as is captured in her cheering shot.

The Beautiful Project sends a sincere, huge thank you to everyone who has supported The Black Girl Triptych. Every visit to the site, every tweet, every post on Facebook, every parent who allowed us to spend time with and capture the beauty of their girls and especially to the girls who so fearlessly displayed their beauty, from our hearts to yours, thank you!! You have made each effort worth every moment. A million times, thank you!

. . .but it’s not over yet! Please stay tuned for what’s next!


Photo Credit: Jamaica Gilmer for The Beautiful Project (Image featured in The Black Girl Triptych)

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