Join Us For A Special Workshop Inspired by Carrie Mae Weems

Iconic American photographer Carrie Mae Weems comes to University of Carolina-Chapel Hill on Wednesday, April 10 to present Past Tense, a striking lecture-style performance in which she examines the right to justice and peace through the lens of the classic play Antigone. Accompanied by startling imagery projected onscreen behind her, Weems explores themes of social justice, escalating violence, gender relations, politics, and personal identity within the context of contemporary history—recurrent subjects in her practice as a visual artist. Learn more about the performance and the artist’s motivation for creating this work.

We are excited and honored to partner with Carolina Performing Arts in a pre-performance workshop event before Carrie Mae Weems’ performance of Past Tense. Join us as we explore the impact of Weems’ art and celebrate the revolutionary power of words and images.

Our creative workshop, free and open to the public, will take place on April 10th at 6:00pm at Gerrard Hall, which is located right next door to UNC’s Memorial Hall. Also, friends of TBP who plan to attend Weems’ performance (and you should!) can receive discounted tickets ($15) by using our promo code:

TBPFRIEND can be redeemed online, by phone (919.843.3333), or in person at the CPA Box Office at Memorial Hall (M-F, 10 AM-5 PM). To redeem online: Select desired date on performance page. On next page, you must enter the code in the top right corner of the page before selecting desired number of tickets for the code to work properly.

Creative Workshop
April 10, 6pm
UNC’s Gerrard Hall
226-234 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Past Tense
April 10, 7:30pm
UNC’s Memorial Hall
114 E Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

We’ve been dreaming of new places, occupying new spaces, linking arms with new partners, and taking our art out and before more audiences in the world. They say dreaming is like planning . . . they say the more you dream, the more in touch you remain with all of the possibilities . . . good thing we never stopped dreaming. . . because now we get to experience what it feels like when they come true.

As part of an unprecedented $6 million program launched by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, The Met, NYU, and 19 New York City organizations will explore how arts-based organizations can serve as positive, relevant, and inspiring forces in the daily lives of diverse communities. While the North Carolina-based Kenan Trust has a history of supporting New York City, this funding marks its first investment of this kind and is a significant expansion of its path-breaking work to be a catalyst for cultural organizations to increase their relationship with individual communities.”

We are elated to share that The Beautiful Project is one of 19 organizations linking arms with a host of diverse image and space makers invested in voice.

The Kenan Trust invited The Metropolitan Museum of Art to serve as an anchor organization alongside New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. Representing a wide range of groups—from the National Dance Institute to the Weeksville Heritage Center, to Sadie Nash Leadership Project, to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—these organizations, together, exemplify a broad scope of engagement and artistic exploration. The Met and NYU will document the group’s practices and discussions in an effort to share lessons, outcomes, and tools with communities and the field. The project will culminate in a conference and Publication.

“Philanthropic efforts in the arts must make a fundamental shift from charitable gifts that exclude to justice-oriented giving that creates equitable access for all. We believe the arts are core to giving creative voice to individuals to combat broken systems while building bridges across lines of difference,” said Dr. Dorian Burton, Assistant Executive Director of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust. “These 21 organizations range in size, scope, and history, but were all selected for funding because they have the ability, leadership, and platforms to  build networks that ensure the arts are not just an add-on or an optional budget line item waiting to be cut. The arts have long been a vehicle for social change and are the heartbeat of the American consciousness.”

To learn more, click here.
Photo Credit:  Khayla Deans for The Beautiful Project

Teacher took her place at the front of the room and stood  poised and eager to share all that life had endowed to her during their journey together thus far. She did not stand behind a podium. She did not center her body in alignment with the other spatial elements of the room. She stood off a bit to the left, confident that she was right and affirmed in the ways the world had unfolded itself before her, revealing the truth even though everyone else was convinced they already knew it. She did not ascribe to the norms and conventions that so often box us in as we try with all our might to define ourselves by a system that was never meant to accommodate or even hold us. That is what her lessons are often about; how to position ourselves to think and how to activate our way out of said systems by dismantling them.

She opens her lecture with the statement, “Patriarchy has no gender”, putting everyone on notice and positioning us all to pick up mirrors and turn them on ourselves– in order that we may see clearly how we have upheld and participated in the measures of oppression–before we pick up picket signs in peaceful protest perpetuating tyrannical “ideals” by only marking time, but never truly gaining any ground in the march for change. There is no room for presumption here. Teacher implores us to dig deeper in order to dismantle.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins but known best by her pen name, derived from her maternal great grandmother, bell hooks is a wonder and a champion. Teacher, writer, social activist, feminist theorist, poet, thinker, this woman is a living monument, an example of the change we can inspire if we dare to be bold and educate ourselves about the world we live in and then put our hand to the plow to uproot the wild weeds characteristic of a culture of domination.

I want to sit in awe of her, and admire her. I want to stay at her feet and assume the position of learner for all my days because she tells the truth and she tells it plain. It has always been her goal to make her truth available to everyone who dared tune in, to not belabor her audience with the conventions of academia which often perpetuate their own systems of oppression. But she doesn’t want to be pedestaled. She does not want emblems of her glory blazing in our skies. She wants us to link arms with her and her colleagues and do the work. She wants us to experience true freedom but is so keenly aware that we will never enjoy that feast unless and until we get real about the society in which we live and the pillars of sexism, patriarchy, imperialism, white supremacy and classicism upon which it is built, which creates a hierarchy that reduces to the bottom everyone who “doesn’t fit” its ideals. She makes me want to ask another question, think past the surface, be bold in my anger and search for its roots, disrupt, theorize, start conversations and never settle. I just believe that she has seen some things and she possesses a knowing that if we listen to her closely, we can actually get us closer to the reality we seek. And although closer is not the goal, closer will be the start our daughters, little nieces, little cousins, and little sisters will begin with. The distance we put between them and the goal has been shortened for us because of the work of the great mind of bell hooks. So, what are we going to do now?


To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal well-being and joy. In that world, the making and drinking of lemonade will be a fresh and zestful delight, a real life mixture of the bitter and the sweet, and not a measure of our capacity to endure pain, but rather a celebration of our moving beyond pain.

Born black and female.

Carl and Nanny’s fourth baby.

Once the wife of Robert.





Intellectual revolutionary.

Forever young, gifted and black.

Lorraine Hansberry.

It all matters. Every single subtlety of her life matters. It all matters most because it is the stuff of which her activism was created and propelled. As many now know, A Raisin in the Sun, the play she was most famous for, as it garnered her the title of first black female playwright to have her work produced on Broadway in 1959, was born of her life. Heavily autobiographical in nature, A Raisin in the Sun is a picture of a moment in Lorraine Hansberry’s life when her family integrated a white neighborhood with a restrictive policies prohibiting them from doing so. Amid violent protests and harassment, the Hansberry family refused to move until they were forced to do so after the matter had been settled in court. This journey started for the family when Lorraine was 8 years old. It all matters.

Her parents were social change agents and fought fearlessly to see equal rights for themselves and their people. Lorraine grew up to continue the work of her parents, joining political protest lines, black fist clenched around the handles of many picket signs. But she also used her writing as a means of awareness, protest and activism. Writing for the stage and the screen, A Raisin in the Sun, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, The Drinking Gourd, What Use Are Flowers?, are just a few of the pieces she authored into platforms. Conversations were started, change happened, and she provided fuel for the fight and the revolution as she drew from the life she knew and the experiences it offered. Nothing was wasted. Everything mattered.

And today, as our great, great auntie, she remains a reminder for us to do the same; use what we have, our lives, our gifts, to make people aware, help change happen, transform the world. But it is not the change that we work toward. Working that way will weary the journey before we’re able to offer our best stuff. No, our work is to continue to look inside of ourselves for our best material and to offer, it, relentlessly, because everything matters, including our voices.


The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely. –Lorraine Hansberry


They sang lullabies, wooing us away from our insecurities and fears and hang-ups and let downs . . .

Beautiful black girl, it’s okay to have those curls, it’s okay to have brown skin, you don’t have to be of the world you’re in.


They sang empowerment chants, strengthening us to confront the lies that have been told about us, encouraging us to face ourselves full on in the mirror again, daring us to remember and know that we are brilliant, we are beautiful, we are bold and we are better, together . . .

Now that I know the truth, time to show and prove. . . Every part of me is beautiful and I finally see, I’m a work of art, a masterpiece. . . I”ll show my picture to the world, I’m not afraid to let it show, anymore.


They moaned sacred hymns, original compositions, those that could only be written by black women who know what it is to be misunderstood, mistreated, left out, under appreciated, offering these words hummed out in harmony as a salve, soothing the ache, making us know it’s going to be okay; we do not stand alone . . .



If she could dance naked under palms trees and see her reflection in the river, she would know she is beautiful. But there are no palm trees and dish water bears no image.

For the length of two hours they used God given instruments; combinations of soprano, alto, tenor, notes in between and notes not yet named, creatively syncopated and composed to confirm our existence, appreciate our presence, and give earnest unto our future . . .


It was the ultimate act of sisterhood, a story worthy of being told with black, blocked letters on manilla colored pages, but, make no mistake, this was no fairytale. This was real, and they pounded out note upon note, line for line, putting in work to passionately make us to know it is so:

sisterhood is activism.

The Sisterhood Soundscape was an experience. The lyrics have carried me and continue to do so. I hear them in my head and I let them do their work of pushing me forward, making space for me to explore myself, love myself, be myself. We were all so captivated by the work of the remarkable, significantly impressive sisters from the North Carolina Central University Jazz Studies Program Tyra Scott, Dupresha Townsend and Natalie Wallace, under the leadership of the fierce, incomparable, gracious and giving, Lenora Zenzalai Helm.


To these women, we offer a humble thank you, understanding that there is no gift or words we could render to accurately and appropriately honor them for the myriad ways they blessed all of us that hot summer Sunday in June. They have imprinted on our hearts the messages of sisterhood that keep echoing back to us, like an audible boomerang, relentlessly reminding us that sisterhood says

I see you,
       I stand with you,
                                     I stand for you,
       I will keep you,
                                     I celebrate you.
I will hold you up and hold you down,
      I will walk with you,
                              I will weep with you and for you,
                   you are not alone.

And so, we simply say back to them, what they beautifully cantillated out to us in sweet song, with our right fists clenched tight with conviction and pride over our heart, as our anthem unto one another, determined to stay in the fight and make it, together,

We must go on this way; getting stronger everyday, can’t be too shy to say, that I really love you, sister, I love you.

Our deep thanks to the Beyu Caffe family for supporting the wonder of the Sisterhood Soundscape!


Recently I watched A Ballerina’s Tale, a documentary telling the story of Misty Copeland’s life and journey to becoming the first black principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre and it was then that it was confirmed for me, something that I have always known intuitively, but am coming to know more as I grow and experience life in my brown frame; the sisterhood can not only give you life, but it can save your life.

Misty described a period of her life as a young girl when she had moved to New York, away from her family, spending most of her time between school and ballet rehearsals. As she was the only black dancer in her company at that time, she felt estranged from a space that she identified as home. She was distracted and as a result, her ballet instructors noticed and called upon board member of the ABT, Susan Fales Hill, to yield to Misty and mentor her, provide care for her as a woman of color for another woman of color. But Mrs. Fales Hill did better than that. She called upon other black women that she knew had travailed and broken through, becoming the first black women in their fields to achieve their brand of greatness. In this space, Misty found her wings again. She remembered who she was and saw that her purpose as a dancer in that time, in that space, was about so much more than herself. The sisterhood that Susan Fales Hill curated for Misty Copeland’s benefit saved her life. It gave her purpose and it facilitated her ability to care for herself so that she could be well and move forward in her calling.

What we hope you will see as you read and reflect on the stories we have gathered, is that black women are invested in caring for one another. And when black women take care of one another, it’s as if we are using our very arms, legs and backs to uphold the infrastructure of every functioning system where Black women are present. That is how sisterhood becomes activism; determined and persistent, we take up our places in each others lives, ready to do whatever it takes so that we can live, be well, and stay alive in a world that can be so harsh and hostile.

It is profound.

It is undeniable.

It is true.

It is effective.

It is the sisterhood.


You can still join us. The deadline is fast approaching. We’d love to hear your story about sisterhood and how it has played out in your life.


Photo Credit: A Ballerina’s Tale, directed by Nelson George


Take up your cameras!

Now accepting submissions for the Self Care Exhibit: A Word and Image Act of Self-Preservation and Political Warfare

The stunning women featured in our Self Care Exhibit range in age and experience. But their stories are just a peak at the depth and wealth of insight of how we take care of ourselves day to day. We invite Black women to join us in capturing the stories of other Black women in your everyday lives ages 25yrs-90yrs.


1) ASK a Black woman in your everyday community the questions below:
What is your name? How old are you?  Where are you from?
Who are you?/What roles do you play?
How do you take care of yourself?
When do you feel most alive?
When do you feel the most like you?

2) PHOTOGRAPH the woman you interviewed. Use what you have! Digital cameras, camera phones, etc.

3) ABOUT YOU: Take a photo with the woman you interviewed, tell us your name and why you chose to ‘take up your camera’ for this project.

Best photograph from your photo shoot
All quotes from the interview *Be sure to identify your favorite quote!
Your photo with the woman you interviewed
Why you chose to take up your camera for this project


The top 10 submissions from you fabulous Black women image-makers will be announced Tuesday, August 11, 2015 and featured on our FB page.

The 2 submissions with the most FB likes will be awarded:

1st prize: Cannon EOS Rebel T5 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Digital SLR Kit & Journal

2nd prize: Viewfinders by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe & a Nikon Coolpix S2800 20.1MP

*One submission per photographer. JPEG format.
*Copyright of all entries remains with the photographer, but The Beautiful Project reserves the right to use, publish and republish entries in connection with the competition, without payment.

This woman. What can I say? She is a history lesson, a storyteller, an image-maker. She is culture, love, beauty, goodness and so many other things. I cannot get enough of her. Her album, Sing to the Moon, has been on repeat in my ears and in my head for quite some time now and I know that it will only continue to be and increasingly so because the work is timeless. It’s just that wonderful. She woos and thrills with her vocals. She evokes and enthralls with her lyrics. This woman is everything. If you haven’t already, take some time to get to know her and her work.

This video made me smile.



Photo Credit: Le Poisson Rouge

Video Credit: Laura Mvula Vevo

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

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Photo & Video Credit: Ted Talks Channel on YouTube