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Journaá„ Winter 2018 - Issue 3

The Beautiful Project

Images & Text Contributers Frances Adomako Dawn Downey Ahmadie Bowles Pasha Gray Zoey Bowles Jamaica Gilmer Jade Clauden Alexandria Miller Morgan Crutchfield Cecilia Moore Khayla Deans Della V. Mosley Madylin Nixon-Taplet Avery Patterson Sydney Patterson AlineSitoe A. Sy Pamela Thompson

Graphic Design Winnie Okwakol

Front Cover Image by Jamaica Gilmer Featuring Lacquen Tolbert & Timisha Blue

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Editors Khayla Deans Pamela Thompson

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͇hats inside?

This publication is a product of The Beautiful Project. The Beautiful Project is supported by the NoVo Foundation, William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, Annie E. Casey Foundation, United Way of the Greater Triangle and the Southern Documentary Fund. For more information about our organization and our work, please visit us online at www. thebeautifulproject.org







Letter from the Editor

Self-Care According to Audre Lorde by Pamela Thompson

Living Room Talk: An Intergenerational Discussion on Self-Care

For the Girls -- Featured photos from our Black Girl Imagemakers

From Hustlin’ to Healin’: My Journey to Find a Healthy Balance by Alexandria Miller





From Her Lens: Defining Sisterhood & Liberation Images by Jamaica Gilmer

I Watered My Plants Today by Madylin NixonTaplet

Collective Care for Liberation - Q & A with Healing x Justice

Resources for Practice

Our love to Timisha, Lacquen, Margaret, Lisa, Nadia, Ashley, Krystyn, Shyla, Alex, April, Najauna, and Joan for blessing us with your presence.


Winter 2018 - Issue 3

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The Beautiful Project Journal

Letter from the editoá„Ś Winter 2018 - Issue 3 4

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Living in and witnessing a society that is increasingly violent and oppressive against Black and Brown folks has pushed us to seek care strategies for ourselves and the community of people that surround us. At The Beautiful Project, one of our key approaches to our work is rooted in care. We do this work to learn how to navigate hostile and unjust spaces as Black girls and women. We work hard to implement transformative care strategies, for the individual and the collective. This Journal issue focuses on the notion of wellness and healing for Black women and girls. We are interrogating the nuances of self-care, recognizing that self-care has become a superficial buzzword these days. While taking time to take care of oneself is necessary and important, we are also exploring the necessity of collective care and the journey to pursue wellness and healing together, as a community. It is our hope that you will find solace in the words and images throughout these pages and the inspiration to take the time to practice care for yourself. Be Well,

Khayla Deans Khayla Deans Co-Editor


Winter 2018 - Issue 3

et’s be honest, things are tense. Everytime we turn on the news, scroll through social media, or just look outside of the window, we are bombarded with the reminder of political and societal turmoil. I realized that most of the conversations that I am having with myself and others, as of late, center around healing from systemic trauma and pursuing holistic wellness. Whenever I see a friend or a family member, these questions spring up in my heart: How are you really doing? How is your spirit? How can I support you? What care do you need? Are you well? Sometimes the answers are clear and succinct. Other times, we search for the answers.

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Winter 2018 - Issue 3 Photo by Madylin Nixon-Taplet


Winter 2018 - Issue 3

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“A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves - a special kind of double.” - TO N I M O RRI SO N


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Winter 2018 - Issue 3

According to Audre Lorde by Pamela Thompson

Jerico Mandybur, Self Care 101: Where Did “Self Care” Even Come From?, (Girlboss (https://www.girlboss.com/wellness/self-care-history)) 2


Aisha Harris, A History of Self Care, (Slate Magazine (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/ culturebox/2017/04/the_history_of_self_care.html))


he first time I opened my music streaming app and hit that little sideways triangle, I expected to be provoked, encouraged, questioned and affirmed. My expectations were met and exceeded. Solange hummed, wailed and harmonized me through the complexities of how I cope and comeback from the mundane and profound happenings of my life. Just past midway through the track list she reminded me to leave the borderline because baby, it’s war outside these walls and you’ve been more than a woman, you’ve been a lover on a mission (and what’s love without a mission?) so know when to let go, ‘cause baby you know you’re tired. She was then and remains on point. As I listened and reflected on the messages in

her latest body of work, I started to imagine that she, somehow, decades later, had firmly grasped the extended end of the baton as Audre Lorde unclasped her strained, tightly coiled fingers from the opposite end, releasing her grip to finish this part of her race for our freedom and finally receive her rest. So when I cracked open the spine of A Burst of Light, written throughout the late seventies into the late eighties, to learn from the essays and journal entries of our Auntie Audre, I found her prose to be an abiding place for me as she navigated some of the same topics sister Solange did in A Seat at the Table. Self-care. The term and topic are said to have originated with the Greeks, with some historians noting phrases from Socrates that point


to managing and caring for the self.1 If we were to trace a history of the phrase, we would see that throughout time the term, “self-care,” has taken on many definitions derived from various motives spanning from early colonization where oppressive forces used it to massage assimilation and uniformity, insisting that immigrants and later, more specifically, Black people, didn’t know how to properly care for themselves and needed to be given a direct set of norms to follow in order to care for themselves well.2 With cultural shifts, particularly those related to civil rights and activism, there are swells of awareness and concentration of the term to fit the growing needs of the people in the culture. One particular example

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The latest presidential inauguration occurred two years ago but the term is still very relevant and prevalent in our culture and is becoming increasingly more widely used. In the collage of uses of this term, it’s difficult to know not only what folks mean when they speak about self-care, but it is also difficult to discern why they think it’s important. While understanding the history of the term is helpful, I couldn’t help but notice the response of Black women when we were reminded of how Auntie Audre spoke about self-care a few decades ago. In the epilogue of A Burst of Light, she writes,

I had to examine, in my dreams as well as in my immune-function tests, the devastating effects of overextension. Overextending myself is not stretching myself. I had to accept how difficult it is to monitor the difference. Necessary for me as cutting down on sugar. Crucial. Physically. Psychically. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is selfpreservation, and that is an act of political warfare.3 Most often, we hear the very last line, in isolation of the rest of the paragraph and absent from the context of this whole section of the book, a section also known as the Cancer Journals. As I went back to spend some time in those pages, I thought about how our understanding of self-care has been compromised because we’ve missed the depth from which Auntie Audre spoke

based on the fight she engaged for her very life. Similar to previous patterns where the conversation about self-care takes on the personality of the culture and times, the current, predominate rhetoric of the topic seems to center on vain practices that make us feel good and help us endure the week until we reach Fri-Yay. But we are presently facing many of the same vices positioned to destroy countless generations of Black women before us and, frankly, we need so much more. For a just a moment, I’d like to enlighten some and remind others of Auntie Audre’s convictions so that as we take up our positions as lovers on a mission, we may do so with more determination to love and stoke the firelight that fuels our life. Audre Lorde opens the Cancer Journals describing the joy and celebration with which she anticipated her fiftieth birthday and then, with precision and intrigue, she quickly knocks us back a few paces as she informs us that before she could open the door to the bliss and wonder of fifty, she was notified that she had liver cancer, metastasized from the breast cancer she battled six years prior. It seems as though she sensed that she may journey through to the end of her life as a result of this cancer. So she endeavored to face this intrusion upon her liver her way, electing not to have the invasive surgery her doctors were insisting on, instead choosing homeopathic methods which she believed prolonged her life and added quality to the life she lived. The pages that follow are filled with the everyday instances of what life was like for her as she kept with things like her travel schedule of lecturing around the world, faithfully loving Frances, enjoying the presence and care of Black women in social settings, as well as the darker days of intrinsic racism and penetrating patriarchy of white feminist spaces and the bullying, pessimism and oppression she encountered in the medical scene both stateside and abroad. Essentially, Auntie Audre believed that while, “The struggle with cancer now informs all my days, [but] it is only another face of that continuing battle for self determination and survival that Black women fight daily, often in triumph.”(41)4 And so she goes on, in what felt like for me a sort of manual, using her own life experiences, to teach us how to know what is happening inside of us


as it relates to and in isolation of what is happening around us, in the fight for and preservation of our lives, lived our way. The self-care she referenced focused on an autonomy and audacity with which Black women would govern and direct our own lives. It was clear in the way she wrote that this wouldn’t come easy. To demonstrate this, she wrote about the opposition she faced as she held to her conviction not to have surgery in the face of opposition from doctors. “Now that the doctors here have decided I have liver cancer, they insist on reading all their findings as if that were a fait accompli. They refuse to look for any other reason for the irregularities in the x-rays, and they’re treating my resistance to their diagnosis as a personal affront. But it’s my body and my life and the goddess knows I’m paying enough for all this, I ought to have a say.”(70)5 She described the boldness and courage it took for her to call out the implicit bias and racism of a group of white Australian women writers who had gathered in Melbourne, Australia, for a writing conference to listen to her speak about “The Language of Difference.” She did not use that opportunity to adulate their egos or protect her chances of being invited back. Auntie Audre invited them to “decide what mistress [their] art must serve”(66)6 as they learned to hear and feel the language of the Black Aboriginal women of that country, whose voices she described as haunting, brave and sad. (65)7 Yes, she meant it when she said, “I am saving my life by using my life in the service of what must be done. I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out my ears, my eyes, my noseholes—everywhere.

Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light, (New York, Ixia, 1988), 130. 3

Lorde, A Burst, 41


Lorde, A Burst, 70


Lorde, A Burst, 66


Lorde, A Burst, 65


Self-Care According to Audre Lorde

was seen after the last presidential election. When 45 took his position in the oval office there was an upsurge of awareness and tips given to encourage people to take care of their mental and emotional health in the wake of what felt like a thick, wet, phlegm filled spit ejected directly in the face of most minorities living in this country.

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Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a f**cking meteor!”(71) Auntie Audre took everything that came against her existence; racism, sexism, homophobia, and more, lined them up, made them face her and then bow to the expression of how she envisioned and desired to live her life. She invited us to consider along with her, “Where does our power lie and how do we school ourselves to use it in the service of what we believe?”(68) This was her understanding and iteration of self care. This is why it is so important that we understand what she meant when she spoke the term. If we continue to focus on taking up practices to restore our joy and balance instead of focusing on preserving our lives we miss a more abiding and enduring experience of living. The current and most often heard conversations on self-care seem to settle on girls trips, spa days, and me time. We need to have some version of those components in our rotation as they, too, have value. But none of those are the focus of the kind

of self-care Auntie Audre’s principles encourage us to observe for ourselves. Her brand of self-care helps us guarantee that we’ll be alive and present to enjoy those practices and, more, that we will create a livable future for the generations of Black and indigenous generations following us. “This is why we cannot be silent, because our silences will come to testify against us out of the mouths of our children.”(69) This is why we cannot make a lord of the activities that can bring us joy or idolize the people who faithfully offer us their love and support. Both aspects are important but they take on new meaning when thoughtfully and strategically situated inside of our whole plan of knowing, understanding and taking care of ourselves. I’d love to end this with some witty or thought provoking epithet for us to consider. However, I am at a loss for words as I sit in the shadow of the burst of light cast by Auntie Audre Lorde’s reflections and wisdom. So, I’ll offer her words and pray we’ll carry them with us back to the borderline.

Lorde, A Burst, 71


Lorde, A Burst, 68



Lorde, A Burst, 69


Lorde, A Burst, 53


How do I hold faith with sun in a sunless place? It is so hard not to counter this despair with a refusal to see. But I have to stay open and filtering no matter what’s coming at me, because that arms me in a particularly Black woman’s way. When I ’m open, I ’m also less despairing. The more clearly I see what I ’m up against, the more able I am to fight this process going on in my body that they’re calling liver cancer. And I am determined to fight it even when I am not sure of the terms of the battle nor the face of the victory. I just know I must not surrender my body to others unless I completely understand and agree with what they think should be done to it. I ’ve got to look at all of my options carefully, even the ones I find distasteful. I know I can broaden the definition of winning to the point where I can’t lose. (53)

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

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Courtesy: CSU Archives / Everett Collection

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Winter 2018 - Issue 3 Photo by Morgan Crutchfield


Winter 2018 - Issue 3

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Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Left to right: Avery Patterson Kenady Holloway Sydney Patterson Ava Thompson Israel Thompson





any of us remember sunny summer afternoons sitting on the front porch or hanging around the living room with our mamas and aunties as they talked, until the conversation shifted and they either began to speak in a code that our little girl minds had to work too hard to decipher or they’d give us eyes and, pointing elsewhere say, “Go in the other room. Grown folks are talking.” Even though we may not have actually had any interest in what they were talking about, their mannerisms, the familiar names mentioned, the bursts of laughter, the deeps sighs and soulful groanings of “mmmm hmmmms” echoing from their conversation made us want to plant ourselves at their feet and soak up each drop as we anticipated growing up and having full conversations just like this with our friends and sisters some day. Just like our mamas did then, we value the voices and brilliance of our girls and we know that they still want to be included in on “grown folk conversations” so we invited them to do just that. With the topic of self-care before us, we set the scene with music, delicious food and freedom, creating space for a collective of Black girls and women to do what they do best; be majestic.

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Izzie and I like to draw and dance and play with my sister. My name is Ava and I like to compete with my sister. AVA THOMPSON:

My name is Sydney and I like art and theatre. SYDNEY PATTERSON:

My name is Kenady and I like to cheer, dance and sing. KENADY HOLLOWAY:


name is Avery and I love photography, theatre and writing. Hi, my name is Aeran and I like books, travel and expression through writing. AERAN BASKIN:


name is Jamaica. I love books for teens and kids, specifically. I love photography and I really love food. CHRISTINA ALBRIGHT: My

name is Christina and I really like fashion as a form of expression and I also really enjoy food, cooking it, eating it, smelling it, yes! KYLA KURIAN: Hi,

my name is Kyla and I love family. I love arts and crafts, food and cooking. My name is Yana and I love tacos. I love breakfast tacos. I love all kinds of tacos! I am embracing my love for writing and I really love my friends. YANA CONNER:

Hi everybody, my name is Geralyn and I love being a mom. I love running and walking on my treadmill in my room by myself while watching Netflix at the same time. I love coffee and donuts, specifically together. If I can get them both together, that would be great and I love when I can eat those donuts and not gain any weight. That doesn’t happen, but…! (laughter from the room). GERALYN PATTERSON:


Shanti. I am Kenady’s mom and I love being her mom. I love being a real estate agent. I love mentoring young girls and I love food but I hate that it makes me gain weight.

Understand that you know what you’re doing.

What comes to mind when you hear the term, “self-care”? Girls first.


I think self care is taking care of yourself and being healthy, being aware of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and aware of who’s around you and what you’re around. KENADY:

I think self care is taking care of yourself, like, both physically and mentally, and doing stuff like meditating and stuff to blow off steam and also doing things like exercising and eating healthy foods. AVERY:


think it means taking care of yourself and also taking care of others around you, like seeing a person in need, if they’re on the streets…You have to care for yourself and also those around you…I think that’s what it means. IZZIE: I

think taking care of yourself is doing what’s right and eating what’s healthy, exercising, praying, obeying, and also doing what others tell you. Sometimes when you listen to what others are telling you, it might be good advice. Sometimes you shouldn’t listen to what others are telling you because it might be bad advice. SYDNEY: I

think that self care is when you take time to kind of think about yourself and you think about others and kind of take a deep breath. It’s when you do what you need to do to create a healthy mind and a healthy body. I was just gonna add something, in terms of being confident and talking to yourself the right way. That’s a huge part of self care. Just making sure you know that you’re on the right path. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. AVERY:


Ladies? What about you? think that self care has to be intentional and planned because it’s easy to have things get away from you and with self care, if you don’t think about what you’re going to do to take care of yourself ahead of time, other things take precedent. I know for me, as a professor of counseling along with my students and other clinicians I know, we always are giving out and then the well becomes dry. But, you should have a plan to replenish and refill and then to have people around you that will support your intentionality. I think part of self care for me is knowing my limits, the things that push me over the edge, knowing when to say no to certain things, even if it’s a good thing. Saying I do or I don’t have space for this or that. So, I just think it’s setting personal boundaries and limitations and operating within them. CHRISTINA:


would say that self care is a form of love and I think it is the recognition that in order for you to truly be able to love others you have to first be able to love and appreciate yourself. To your point [Kyla] in terms of recognizing that the well runs dry, that the well starts with you and if you’re able to love and appreciate yourself, you’re available to give to others in kind of a limitless way.

To the girls, do you see the women in your lives doing what you consider to be self care? Sometimes I see people not really taking care of themselves. Some people, either they try and hurt theirselves, like either trying to pick off a scab or trying to pop bumps or then they say mean things about theirselves. Like, usually in my classroom they say, KENADY:

Living Room Talk

Introduce yourselves.

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Left: Shanti Holloway (Far Left) and Gerrelyn Patteson (Far Right) Right: Christina Albright and Jamaica Gilmer

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

‘Well, I can’t do this, I give up! This is crazy! Why should I be doing this? I can never accomplish this. I’ll never make it.’ and, I mean, that’s hurting yourself in words not necessarily physically but mentally, inside your heart, and the way that other people think about you is not the way that you should think about yourself. I’ve seen [my mom] take good care of us but I know how my mom likes to sit and listen to the music on the tv and how she writes down scripture and how before we get up, she says, “Wait until 11, I need to have my prayer time.” (laughter from the room) IZZIE:

I see my mom take care of herself when she acknowledges that she is stressed and she just takes time to breathe and drink her coffee. A lot of times she goes into her exercise room— sometimes she just sits there and does nothing, and she takes time for herself. She tells us when we’re stepping too far and that she needs a break. AVERY:

I think I see everybody take care of theirselves at times but especially my mom. As an example, when you realize something isn’t going your way and you have to acknowledge it, but then you have to start thinking about what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want to happen because it gets you in a different mindset and makes way for good things to happen instead of bad things and realizing when you’re not in that right mindset and switching it off. SYDNEY:

What has that taught you? What have you learned watching the women in your life take care of themselves? I’ve learned that if I feel stressed or anything, I just need to tell the people who are stressing me out to take a step back and let them know that I know what I am doing. Yea. And that I should take time for myself and unwind.



Have you had to do that? Have you had to ask your friends or even a family member to give you some space? AVERY: Yea,

mmm hmm.

How’d it go? It went ok, (giggles). After. It took a little bit of time for them to get that in their head but sometimes I tell my friends that I need them to support me, so yea. They usually do it. AVERY:

Can any of the ladies say that you recall seeing the women in your life take care of themselves? I think this generation, our generation, is the first generation of women that have realized that we have to self soothe, get ourselves together. I think a lot of us saw our grandmothers, our mothers sacrifice their happiness, SHANTI:

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Two things I wanted to say. One is, I think looking back on it now, I saw my mom do some self care but at the time I didn’t realize that’s what it was. So, she would go into these sewing frenzies where she would sew all weekend and she’d be watching tv and cooking at the same time. There’d be a fire going on in the fireplace and she was talking on the phone at the same time. I don’t think I realized that was self care at the time but looking back on it now, I know that was an outlet for her. Or, like, all those hours in the fabric store, or just sitting with a pattern for hours and hours, I think that was an outlet for her, for self care, that I didn’t realize at the time. But I also think, at least from the women in my life, when I look back on it, I think they misunderstood care for others as self care, because they felt fulfilled by doing things for the people that they loved, whether it was making a dress for me or making something for the school or making all the costumes for the play… that was a way of feeling more than adequate, that was a way of showing love for the people around them and that showing love, I think, brought some fulfillment to them. I do think that the message that is taught to us GERALYN:

as Black women, is to do, and do, and do for others and so I think sometimes the narrative is that you are not really yourself unless you are connected to this circle that you are also caring for. That’s one of the things that makes it challenging for us, in terms of, we get weary because we are constantly caring because you are also a part of me. (echos of ‘yea’ fill the room) YANA: I

saw my grandmother have this really cool balance of being generous but also caring for herself. She owned her own beauty shop. She knew that she couldn’t work for anybody else so she was like, let me just do this by myself. That’s her care for herself and knowing herself in that. She’d do people’s hair and she would pick me up from school and drop off my lunches because I was a really picky eater. She cared for me a lot but my grandmother read books, she went to the library because she really loved going to the library. She walked every morning with her walking stick because she enjoyed that. During the week she would wear sweatpants all the time because she was doing hair but on Sunday, she would get dressed. And, I mean, homie would look so good! Hat, scarf, handkerchief, all of that! And so, I can see how she really modeled to me this balance and I don’t think I ever really paid attention to that or caught that until you asked this question. But she found a way to be generous but also to have boundaries around her life. It was really cool. JAMAICA: I

think I saw my mom do a lot of things to take care of herself that was a personality difference so I didn’t catch that it was self care. I was just like, ‘What is happening? Why are you doing this? This show is not that impressive. I don’t know why we can’t talk to you during it.’ So, you know what I mean,


it felt rude! (laughter) It was like, ‘Oh gosh, she’s not listening to me!’ but she listened to me all the other hours of the day until X-Y-Z came on. So there was that but the things that I could see more easily were the things that we had the same personality around, like the beach. There was always a lot of other stuff in our lives that I could agree or disagree with as far as style but not the beach was where my mother was the most happy. She just kind of relished it and she would just stretch out. She was a very dark skinned woman who was like, ‘Girl, I’ve got to get some sun!’ And we’d be like, ‘For what?’ And she’d say, ‘Girl, to tan!’ (laughter) So the beach, her self care place, was the baseline to teach almost anything cause that’s where she was most happy.

One major component of self care is knowing the self. In order to offer oneself the best care, there must be intentionality and space made for self learning. How have you learned about yourself ? How I learned about myself was trying it out many different times and when I try these things out, I usually look for what gets me more angry and what makes my body very uncomfortable or what makes it comfortable and what makes me happy and what makes me not happy, or upset or sad or angry. I depend on my emotions to give me this kind of feeling on what I think about these things and using my five senses. Also, figuring out what I like and what I don’t like. Sometimes it gets a little frustrating trying to know who you are and trying KENADY:

Living Room Talk

their dreams, their everything for the kids. Us, on the other hand, we have flipped the script. It’s this whole, (singing) “Living my best life!” You know, like we just like, look, we gone take this girl’s trip, you know, really making a concerted effort to really make time for ourselves. And, like Kenady was saying, I definitely take time for myself. I mean, me and my girlfriends once a year we get together and we take a girl’s trip and we go get our nails done and we have spa days. We make it happen because we only have ourselves at the end of the day.

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Winter 2018 - Issue 3

What role does the love and camaraderie you feel for a sister or a good friend play in self-care?


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to find what you are. It can be a little frustrating at times but as you said there is a therapeutic way that you can get yourself over these things. Since I have an older sister and a twin, sometimes it’s a little harder to know what I like because based on what the other person says, then I shift my opinion. But what I’ve noticed is the way that my body reacts. Like, when I watch dancing, I automatically wanna dance with them or write. I wanna get better at writing. So, if it’s something that I wanna get better at or it’s something that I really enjoy doing or watching or listening to, then I know that it’s something that I like.

love being a real estate agent. These are things that I love to do, that’s my choice. It’s not because I’m trying to be something that I’m not. These are things that I enjoy doing.


think, like Avery said, it has to do with sometimes who you are hanging out with because they do shift your opinion. For me, if somebody says they didn’t like something then I am more likely to say I didn’t like because I haven’t had time to form an opinion before they’ve said something. So, I just kind of go with them. I think it’s important to watch some things by yourself to form your own opinions and listen to how your body, heart and mind reacts rather than waiting for other people to say something, or ask for something or say anything like that and just decide what you feel instead of what other people feel. For me, it’s trying things out. At first I was like, I really don’t wanna do math. Every time [my mom would say] ‘Ok girls, clean up your devotion, it’s time to do math,’ I would be like (long sigh). Then when I really got to do math it helped me make up more activities and it got fun! So, I think it’s just trying things out. When my dad talked about coding, I was like this doesn’t sound so fun. But when I played an app on coding, I was like, this is fun! So, it’s trying things out. AVA:

What role does the love and camaraderie you feel for a sister or good friend play in self care? I think that, in this day and age, we care too much about the perspective of others and social media has a lot to do with that. There’s a lot of pressure, I don’t know about for you all but for me, to be this superwoman. I work, I take care of my family, I do volunteering, I’m a great mom, I’m a great worker, I’m an entrepreneur… we have to do all these great things and show everybody that we are doing all these great things and we’re happy and everything is honky dory. But in the background, we’re exhausted. Well, at least I can say that. I’m exhausted. There’s some days where I am exhausted. But, I do love being a mom. I do love mentoring. I do SHANTI:


You know, so I just wish that we didn’t have those pressures but, we all do, of how people perceive our lives and how happy we are and are you doing what you’re supposed to do at this age. That was one pressure that I had to deal with; ‘Oh you’re going up on thirty. Are you married yet? Do you have kids yet? Oh, are you at the top of your career? Are you making this certain amount of money? Are you living in that house? Are you driving that nice car? I mean, just all these check marks that we thought we had to have? My mom said, ‘Ball it up. Toss it away. You live your best life. Whatever your life is, you live that and don’t apologize for it.’ So I think that was a struggle for me because myself at forty, in my mind, when I was twenty, this picture? Nah, nothing like it. Nothing like it. But that’s fine. That’s my story. My greatest champions were parents. They always told my brother and I, ‘There’s gonna be no one in the world that’s gonna love you as much as we do. God loves you the most but we’re gonna love you more than anybody else and we’re your champions.’ Even though there were moments, many moments, of uncertainty for me as far as what I wanted to do— I wanted to be an MD, PhD, I wanted to do all these things as I kind of went through the various stages. My view of myself has changed, as you were saying. Would I have thought, talking to the twenty year old Kyla, what does she think about the fortysix year old Kyla, ‘Wow, that’s not what I would’ve planned for myself at all.’ But learning through my relationship with the Lord that I have to be open to the possibilities of where He can take me. And if I’m open to Him, and the more I know who He is, the more I know who I am. I have a very small set of close friends that are tried and true that have demonstrated character, love and I feed off of them. KYLA:

Living Room Talk


But I do feel the pressures of wanting to appear that everything is all good and I get influence from my mom and my grandmother, some of the other women that came before me that, you know what, it ain’t gone always be good. Things are not going to always be perfect but it’s about your perspective on things that changes the whole storyline and that, yea, you may be exhausted but that’s where you have to take that day off and drop your kid off at school and go do whatever you want to do whether it’s going to the house and laying up in the bed and watching court shows (giggles) all day or going to the gym or going to Starbucks and having your coffee and your donut and don’t have to answer to nobody about ‘Well, where were you today?’ ‘Doing me.’

The Beautiful Project Journal

As one of my favorite pastors says, I need somebody to tell me if there is dirt on the back of my neck because you can’t see the back of your neck without assistance. At the end of the day, I have my life and I have choices to make. I have air in my lungs and there is another day where I can make another decision but it’s really important to be able to have a circle of godly women, who reflect God’s character and always remind me of who I am in Him which gives me strength to go on the next day. CHRISTINA: I

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

think for me a lot of my decisions early on were shaped by the things I didn’t want to be true for my life. My personality, in a sense has been built around opposition to the outside. That’s been good and bad but I think that it’s allowed me to have confidence in myself so that the choices I make are for me and not for others. So if you don’t like this or that, it doesn’t matter, I’m gonna do that thing, wear that thing—whatever it means for me. A lot of my personality or who I am or how I’ve taken care of myself, has been in the vein of what I do not want to be true. So how do I make choices that will lead me down the path that I do want to be on? I’m still a human so I can’t say this totally that I haven’t been affected by others, but I think less so, for me, others have played a role in shaping who I am.

Girls, what would you like the women to take with them from this conversation? Well, sometimes when I’m upset, I get ahead of myself and I get like, messed up and I just start going crazy. My emotions get ahead of me and my anger takes over me. In those moments, my mom says, ‘Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and think. Think about what you’re doing. Think about where you’re going. Think about what could happen to you if you do things like this.’ IZZIE:

Well, sometimes you have to look on the brighter side of things. The grass is gonna not always be greener on the other side. Sometimes you’re gonna have bad days and good days. Sometimes you’re gonna have good days and bad days but that’s ok. We need to stand up to what is going on in the world. We need to make a huge difference and a huge change. We are not just fighting for ourselves, but we are fighting for other people. We need to take care of ourselves and we can live the life we want to live. KENADY:

Has that ever been lonely?

I think, especially for the parents in here, there are a lot of times they get mad at themselves for having emotions because a lot of times, it looks like everyone has to be a supermom but I think that it’s important to know that it’s ok not to feel certain ways and not to beat yourself up about it. Take time and acknowledge that you are feeling this way and realize what you can do to stop feeling this way.



Yea, I think so. I still struggle with feeling like nobody understands, nobody gets it and nobody sees me how I really am. And that’s not always true but it’s easy to put myself there and I think it’s gonna be easier to do that than to enter in with someone.


think that they need to stop living up to the expectation of being a perfect parent. You just need to do it how you think it should be done and how you think it should go and that’s the way it should go because it’s your life and it’s different from anybody elses. There is no set way you can be a good parent.


Ladies, what would you offer the girls? I would offer two things. These are things I am relearning now. One of them is to always remember to play and even as you grow older, play should always be a part of your life. Playing in your vocation, playing in your friendships, playing in your relationships. Do not lose the playfulness because that is where growth happens. There is beauty and art in play. Secondly, manifest your power. Don’t allow anyone to tell that you are powerless, that you are less than and that you are not enough. Just by virtue of the fact that you are, you are powerful beyond belief. AERAN:

I would say, be the kind of person that you need. You need folks to be nice to you. You need folks to be thoughtful and graceful. You need folks to tell you when it’s’ too much. You need folks to tell you it never is. Be willing to grow and learn and think highly of yourself and be nice to yourself when it’s tough to be nice to yourself. Be nice to yourself when you think you deserve it and be nice to yourself when you think you don’t deserve it. JAMAICA:


words have power. Always speak life. Positive things always—even when you’re doubting yourself always speak very positively because that will manifest in your thoughts and those energies that you put out there, it’s energy. So, when you put out good energy, you get back good energy. Always be careful about your thoughts and what you say about yourself. When you are having a bad day, whatever it is, just speak positivity. “I’m gonna do great on this test! I’m gonna rock it out! I look good today!” Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. They say, if you talk to yourself, you crazy. No! Look yourself in the mirror and be like, ‘Girl, you doing it today. You gone ace that test today. You gone do good on that interview today!’ You have to talk to yourself. You’d just be amazed at the amount of power that your words have over your life and how things manifest themselves. If you ever notice someone who is always talking negatively to themselves or always down on themselves, ‘I’m so ugly. I’m not gonna do well.’ Those things come to pass because they’ve drawn that negative energy to them. So be cognizant of that, meaning, be very aware of the things you say about yourself to yourself in your mind

The Beautiful Project Journal


of the things I would say to add to that is something I say to all my girls and to myself, and that is to use your words to help you, not hurt you. So whatever it is that you’re saying to yourself make sure that it’s positive, right, and that it’s helping to reinforce who you are. Something else i would say to all the girls is you are uniquely you. I say that especially because I have twins and they often get compared. I remind the girls that each of you is here for a purpose and you are different and individual and distinct and it’s a good thing to be you ‘cause nobody can be you. I would like to be Beyonce, but I am not. I have told the girls if I could sing, I would be a gospel singer, but I am not. I am just uniquely me and I have come to celebrate that with all that comes with being me. It’s important for you to remember that you are here for a reason, right, and the specific gifts that you have that God, the universe, your creator, whoever you believe in, has equipped you with, is everything you need to be successful. So if you don’t have something it’s because you don’t need it, for whatever it is that He has set for you. I say, be you, but I also say, you can handle whatever comes your way, right, and remind yourself when you start freaking out about the test, I can handle whatever comes my way, but you also have to be honest about who you are, right? You can handle whatever comes your way when you are being authentically you and if that means you’re like me and you want to go shop at the habitat store everyday and piddle around, and you like show tunes or you like your coffee with your donuts, that’s who you are and that is what you like and that is a gift that you should celebrate whether the people around you celebrate it or not. You celebrate it.


me it’s Father God, and understanding why He created me, that He didn’t make a mistake and He created me unto a purpose and there are things I have to do and dreams that I have. What I hope my sons realize is that everything that I imagine or want to do—that every good thing may not be something for me, it might be good for Linda, or Felicia, or Sharon, but it may not be good for me and I am okay with that. Sometimes the dreams and expectations that I have of myself, saying that I must or I should, can create the greatest issues in our hearts. By saying, I should do this, I should be married, I should be a size ten, I should be this, rather than embracing yourself where you are, loving yourself for who God made you. Everything that you may want, may not come, and that’s ok. But if you’re ok with understanding your destiny and purpose, you can be flexible and you can move with the situations that come your way. If you’re equipped, if you understand your destiny, if you understand your purpose, you can have hopes, but be open to those hopes changing and growing. A lot of times, in my life, that which I thought that I wanted, was a snake, or it was poisonous and I needed a barrier to be like, uh-uh-uh, that’s not good for you. So, just because it doesn’t happen for you, doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing— be open. I think two things: One is learn to agree with God about what He made you, because He created you as you are and that’s good. So learn to say with God, ‘Yes I am good as I am.’ Whatever that means for you. I think that’s like what other people were saying about not comparing yourself with others and knowing what’s good for you even if it’s not good for someone else. So, agreeing with God that, ‘Yes you have made me good as I am even if I don’t look or act like someone else.’ And then I think, two, be the first person to compliment yourself. Whether on a day to day basis, or however that works for you. I look myself in the mirror and say, ‘I look good today!’ You can do that and not be afraid of that and I think what CHRISTINA:


that does is allows you to be confident in yourself without the affirmation of others so that when someone does compliment you, you don’t crave that but it’s just added on to what you know to be true about yourself anyway. YANA: One

of the things you were talking about was living with authenticity and for me that has been living with integrity, where I enter into a space and I don’t alter who I am to accommodate the people around me. So if I like tacos, I like tacos. If I don’t like country music, I just don’t like country music. So, just, trying to be true to who I am so that I can live with integrity regardless of any space that I enter into. I also think you had said something about being drawn to the right people. I think about high school for me, and there is this hierarchy of people, same with college, there is a hierarchy of people. So, because I want to be seen in a certain way, I pursue relationships with certain people that are really built around popularity and really vain and temporal things when there is a really good person right next door that I could build a friendship with that is based on things that are not temporal and things that really matter. There is someone from my high school that I should have been friends with. Me and her, we should have just been “ride or dies” but here I was trying to break into this other friend group because to be a part of that, everybody would see me in a particular way. Live with integrity but also be drawn to people for the right reasons.

Living Room Talk

and externally. And then speak positively and speak life to those around you. So, your girlfriends, your sisters—always speak very positively amongst each other. If you ever see your girlfriend down say, ‘Girl, wear that! Your hair looks good just like that!’ You have to surround yourself with people who are going to speak life into you as well.

The Beautiful Project Journal

Winter 2018 - Issue 3 Photography by: Khayla Deans


For Girls It has always been our dream to raise and cultivate a collective of girls who are well versed and equipped in our methodology and the technical skills of photography. In the spring of this year, we put out a call for Black girls and young women to join our growing collective of image makers. Since the launch of our Black Girl Image Maker Workshop in April, we had monthly photography trainings-working alongside a phenomenal group of Black girls who are on the journey to becoming photographers. During our monthly sessions known as Beautiful Days, our girls are learning how to masterfully operate a camera, design photo concepts, and capture stories through images and words, all while cultivating a caring sisterhood with each other. Here are a few snapshots of our time together so far captured by a few of our rising image makers.


For the Girls


The Beautiful Project Journal

Top Photography by Sydney Patterson

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Bottom Photography by Ahmadie Bowles


For the Girls

The Beautiful Project Journal

Top Photography by Avery Patterson Bottom Photography by Cecilia Moore


The Beautiful Project Journal

Top Photography by Zoey Bowles

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Bottom Photography by AlineSitoe A. Sy


For the Girls

The Beautiful Project Journal

Top Jade Clauden Bottom Avery Patterson


The Beautiful Project Journal

Winter 2018 - Issue 3 28

The Beautiful Project Journal

My Journey to Find a Healthy Balance By Alexandria Miller


was born with a hustler’s mentality, which I often credit to my immigrant parents. Hustling was survival. Hustling got me to college. In fact, it was my academic hustle that got me through college without paying a dime. I was dubbed “psychotically determined” in high school, and damn proud of it. I was proud that I read whole textbooks before AP exams, wore sleepless nights, and experienced the Final Exam Struggle Bus with pride. These were all badges of honor on my shiny academic journey… until they weren’t. I managed to keep consistent in my studies while the rest of my life faltered. I got through whole books, papers, and even a senior thesis, but I couldn’t tell you what my favorite thing to do was or where I liked to spend my free time. My studies and my drive actually confined me, but I kept cranking out pages of work because I believed it was the only way to happiness.

The greatest gift I ever gave myself was the freedom and liberation of these now two gap years. Despite my fear of failure, despite my family’s worrisome comments about “life catching up with me,” despite my friends’ Facebook posts about where they were enrolling next, for the first time in my life I chose my wellness over whatever future I had been working towards because I realized that future would only be incongruous if I didn’t listen to my heart. I allowed myself to feel, to cry, to explore and figure out what made me happy. I altered my way of thinking because I knew to change the life I had into what I wanted, it had to start from within me. This journey through selfdiscovery has not been easy. I called turning twenty-two “The Year of Loneliness” because that is exactly how I felt on my birthday.


This year has been the ultimate rebirth. From owning my first car, getting a therapist, and learning to implement healthy eating habits, the ultimate freedom in my life came when I began prioritizing my healing and working through my past traumas. I was no longer consumed with the questions of who and what will be and started focusing on who and what I am. What parts of my life did I want to improve? What changes did I foresee for myself ? Who were the people in my life who no longer served me in this moment? I had to find acceptance and self-love to get free. I had to acknowledge the things I disliked about myself to become the woman I want to be. Today, I stand proudly rooted, grounded and liberated in my existence and the choices I’ve made to better myself, and I am more open to possibilities. Through this process, my hustle hasn’t dissipated either; I just now hustle for my healing and my heart, and those things have been the greatest gift.

From Hustlin’ to Healin’

From Hustlin’ to Healin’:

We get so caught up in the drive and ambition---the faith in the American Dream that doesn’t lend itself equally to immigrants and people of color---that we lose sight of our souls, our wellness, and that’s exactly what happened to me. I was a prisoner to my degree, ignoring free events, free food (gasp), and friends for the sake of this future I had been locked up and fighting for. My self-confidence was at an all-time low. My weight had spiraled out of control. I could not even tell you what made me happy anymore. In a world that is constantly denying the beauty of my Black womanhood, the last thing I needed to be doing was denying my own heart and mental health. So as a result, I quickly decided that I wouldn’t go straight to graduate school after graduation.

I drove to Food Lion and asked the baker to write “Happy Birthday to Me” on the lone carrot cake in the freezer. In retrospect, this year has taught me the difference between loneliness and solitude. It forced me to get acquainted with myself. I allowed every thought, every worry, every increment of hope to reside within me and me solely. I learned to be okay with pain and that you have to sit with it to get through it. And other times, it is okay to put on my diffuser, a big t-shirt and paint abstractly on some canvases I bought from Walmart.

The Beautiful Project Journal


Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Defining Sisterhood &Liberatioá„Ł By Jamaica Gilmer


hrough the capturing of stunning portraits and honest conversations with a few amazing Black women in our community, this photo collection is an exploration of experiencing liberating sisterhood. We would like to thank April Ellerbie, Najauna White, and Joan Yabani for discussing what practicing sisterhood and pursuing liberation means to them.


The Beautiful Project Journal

April Ellerbie Sisterhood is a movement that liberates women. In sisterhood, there is no hierarchy. All women are equal. Sisterhood is celebrating and fighting for your voiceless sister or carrying someone else’s responsibilities who is afraid to engage, speak, or stand.

Uncovering the truths for our sisters may be difficult and even at times very painful, but in the end, extremely liberating.


From Her Lens

Sisterhood is standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us and demanding their work not be diminished.

The Beautiful Project Journal

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

іajauna ͇hite For others,

I want sisterhood to be a space of relief and growth.


I think as young ambitious women we are taught to compete with each other. But forget that! Let’s go after these men, the men that ignore our ideas, our feedback and our presence. Let’s learn to support each other in meetings, at networking events, conferences, speaking engagements even at the grocery store. I want sisterhood and liberation to be a moment of listening to listen, not to always correct or judge. Sometimes we need one another when we don’t know it. We need one another just to say this day was hard and not be judged for being weak. I want it to show up for others DAILY. Let’s celebrate each other every day and always.

The Beautiful Project Journal

Joan ͈abani

From Her Lens

Liberation by definition is the freedom from oppression or imprisonment, but it also means freedom from limits on your thoughts and behavior. There are moments when those limits creep into how I approach my day, my goals, and my successes. Whenever those self deprecating thoughts pop up, my sisters are yelling from the sidelines: You are unlimited! You are capable! Your ideas are worthy! And what’s so powerful about sisterhood is - It’s not always the actual voice of a close girl friend. It’s Issa Rae presenting our Insecurities every Sunday. It’s Bozoma Saint John revamping corporations with a large fro and red lipstick.

it’s seeing women who look like you break the mold and give you the courage and freedom to do the same.


Winter 2018 - Issue 3 Text and Images by Madylin Nixon-Taplet.

I watered my The Beautiful Project Journal

Model: Ashley Dixon


The Beautiful Project Journal

– Robert Brault

you’re insolvent and lost and alone? You walk into Home Depot and purchase your first plant. Ithica, I called her. I had no idea what kind of flower she was, or what I was supposed to do with her, but I knew I needed to surround myself with something that brought the light back into my world. And oh, she brought such light!

plants todaȸ... ͇

e can truly learn so much from plants. When a plant is dying, the best way to save it is to cut the branch that’s killing it. Within some time – given the disease has not reached its roots – the plant will eventually sprout something new and stronger from where it was cut. Now wouldn’t that be something miraculous? To be able to grow more beautiful from something that was once so toxic by simply cutting off the thing that made it that way in the first place? About two years ago I lost an entire life and gained a brand new one. And yes, it was definitely as dramatic as it sounds. In December 2016, I graduated from undergrad. Finally, my life was beginning. That shining light ahead had been made so clear for me by the promises of the American higher education system. I had no idea where I was headed, but I’d dreamt it’d be somewhere wonderful and beautiful and not without clarity. Because all that I have worked for – i.e. the sheet of paper that said I accomplished one of the hardest parts of life – was finally in my grasp. Right? Right? Within four weeks of my graduation, I was homeless. I was alone. I was struggling. I hated my job. It was the kind of work only meant to be a temporary salary while in school, but was quickly becoming my only means of financial survival. I was stuck and I felt all but accomplished. Something deeply and profoundly dark was creeping into a life that was supposed to be meaningful. So what do you do when you feel so bound to that kind of darkness? When

One night I turned to my love and said, “I resonate so deeply with these plants, like recreating something from my past life. But I don’t think I was a plant back then. I think I’ve just always been meant to care for them.”

I found my peace in my garden. I discovered gardening and plant care as the most wonderful form of self care. Aside from the days of obsessing over whether my tomato and pepper plants would produce fruit, I enjoyed the time I spent singing to, loving on, and watering my beautiful, green babies. Most days my plants heard my rants and secrets. They saw my tears and laughter. Both witnessed and experienced struggle. They grew as I grew. By the end of the summer, after they’d grown tall and bared gifts, I felt an overwhelming sense of ecstatic pride– that is until I tasted my first tomato and immediately curled my lips with the bitter taste of accomplishment gone awry. I loved my babies, and I worked the rest of the summer to make them just as delicious as they looked.

I found meaning in my garden. I am a person who needs to be needed. I am unafraid to admit that. My plants needed me, and I them. As sentimental as it seems, they allowed me to be lost without retribution, but instead with redemption. If I messed up and had to cut them down, they promised to


grow back, as long as I kept trying. If I neglected them for too long – because not every day was a good one – they promised to take care of themselves until I returned. Because I always returned and it felt as if they knew I would. That kind of bond is the spiritual kind. The faithful kind.

I found my identity in my garden. I am a creative. It is so hard for me to admit that sometimes. But I created this space. I planted a seed and nurtured and watched it grow into the beauty that is this space. And it wasn’t simply the remarkability of my created space that meant so much, as it was the fact that I’d proven to myself the extent of my multifaceted nature. I’ve always been an eclectic person, one who takes on bits and pieces of each spirit she encounters. Why was I not allowed that in my professional work? Why must I only be good at one thing? My existence was my power, being broken was my vice, but my ability to regrow time and again was my gift. And I was hell bent on using and sharing that gift. As the warmth of summer died and winter came along, I turned my attention to houseplants. I’d already had a few here and there that were pretty low maintenance, but I wanted to know what it was to REALLY experience plant care. Now I’m the proud mother of over 50 house plants, all unique and majestic in their own way. I am a plant mom and photographer. I allow people to see the beauty within themselves and I nurture the spirits of those around me. Weirdly, my plants help me to see that. I want to share some of that energy with anyone who is interested in the lives of plants.

I Watered My Plants Today

“If you’ve never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden.”

The Beautiful Project Journal

Winter 2018 - Issue 3 Model: Krystyn Whitty


The Beautiful Project Journal


Chlorophytum comosum


“Airplane” plants meaning they are great for hanging planters.

Form “babies” that can be cultivated: just clip them at the base of where they grow with garden trimmers and put in a small glass container filled with distilled water, and place in a window for a few weeks. Once roots grow to at least 2-3 inches, you can plant in soil.

Preferable to plant babies in the Spring in a small planter.



They prefer well draining soil: potting medium of vermiculite or coco coir

Love to be “root-bound” = tight roots/small containers

Only repot once per year in the Spring or when the roots

begin to show through the bottom of the pot. •

New pot should only be about 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the previous pot.

NO CLAY POTS – they need moist soil and clay pots absorb moisture too quickly.

front of a west facing window (or any window that gets a decent amount of light throughout the day) with blinds or light/translucent curtains. THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR!

Burned Leaves: the tips of the leaves will burn if there is too much light or if any other type of water but distilled or spring is used. Every now and again you may still see some burnt leaves. I normally just trim these back as is necessary. Trimming also helps the plant produce more leaves. ONLY use garden shears or trimmers, no scissors. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. I got mine at the dollar store lol.

Root Rot: leaves will turn black if roots are left in sitting water for too long.


(I also occasionally use rain water) •

Water at room temperature

Moist soil but not soggy

You can also water from the bottom

Water once per week or when top 1 inch of soil is dry

Don’t allow it to sit in water for more than about 20 minutes

LIGHT: Bright

but Indirect

Hanging planters are perfect for spider plants. Hang in


I Watered My Plants Today


The Beautiful Project Journal

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Pothos Plant (Devil’s Ivy) NOT PET FRIENDLY!  NAME: TYPE:

Epipremnum aureum


Most popular is the Jade Pothos or Golden Pothos

Perfect beginner’s houseplant

Can grow almost anywhere!


Your standard or everyday potting soil works well with this plant. You can also use quick draining soil. Love to be root-bound which, like our friend the spider plant, means small planters! Only repot once the roots have filled the container and the new pot should only be about 2-3 inches larger.

Let soil dry out about 50% before watering again. Usually about once every week to once every two weeks. Bright yellow leaves on these plants = TOO LITTLE WATER! That baby is thirsty. Check her soil and water her up!

SOIL: Standard


Black new leaves = TOO MUCH WATER! Slow down. She’s got enough. Let her rest a week or so. •

You can water these plants from the top or bottom. Just depends on where they’re placed.




These are low light houseplants. The shadier the space they’re put in, the darker and greener their leaves become.


A. Propagation: Pothos plants can be regrown from cuttlings.

Cuttlings = the leaf AND stem that falls from the plant

Just place the cuttling in distilled water and place in a sunny window until they grow roots. This can take a few weeks. Then place the plant in well draining potting soil in a small, root bound pot. Place in a nice shaded spot and watch her grow!

The Beautiful Project Journal SOIL: FREE-DRAINING


This plant is SUPER prone to root rot so you always want your soil to drain well. Cactus or Succulent potting soil is great for this baby! Terracotta/ Clay pots are great for this purpose because they dry soil out very quickly.

Only replant once the terracotta or clay pot has cracked.



Only water once per month. Allow the soil in the pot to completely dry out before watering again.

Remove any standing water from the saucer underneath the pot.

These plants prefer to be watered from the top.



These plants are amazing because they grow well in dark/shaded spaces! They also do really well with fluorescent or artificial lighting which makes them great for office spaces.

I Watered My Plants Today


Snake Plant

(Mother-in-Laws Tongue) NOT PET FRIENDLY!  NAME:

Sansevieria trifasciata


This plant is classified as an evergreen perennial plant – meaning with proper care it can live quite a while – and is apart of the Asparagaceae family.

Its easily identified by its stiff vertical leaves growing from a basal rosette (simply put it has a circular arrangement of leaves).

The Snake Plant is perfect for an on-the-go working woman because it’s low maintenance and doesn’t require a lot of attention. 39

The Beautiful Project Journal


Best way to tell if a plants needs watering is to feel the soil. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY! It’s ok, I promise. It’s an amazing way to get in touch with your plants and their soil. Wash your hands, rinse well and dive in! If the soil sticks to your hand and feels wet, there is plenty of water there for the plant to thrive on. Leave it alone! If the soil sticks under your nails but doesn’t exactly have that super moist feel watch the plant and its soil over the next few days. She doesn’t need water yet, but she’s definitely getting there. If the soil is cracked and hard and crumbles in your hands like a sad little mess, WATER LIKE CRAY CRAY! In some cases, if the soil is too dry and the plant seems “stuck” you may need to move the soil around a bit with your hands as you water, but be VERY careful not to break or disrupt the roots.

Winter 2018 - Issue 3

I heard once that watering most plants is best done in two stages: soaking and soaking again. Fill the container with water until it drains out of the bottom and then do it once more for good measure. It’s important because while the soil within one inch or so looks soaked, everything else below it is untouched and just needs a little extra to get done to those thirsty roots. I water everything with distilled water. You don’t have to because I know people have bills to pay and adding gallons on gallons of distilled waters is not in the budget, but I would definitely stray as far away from tap as possible. It’s full of fluoride and can cause shock in many plants. If you’re serious keeping your plants healthy but want to save some dough in the long run, you can invest in a apparatus that collects rain water. There are many available online or in garden shops and nurseries. I don’t think you should be as extra as I am about my plants, but I do encourage you to pay as close attention as you can. For my personal growth I keep a pretty detailed Plant journal that has kept me on track with watering, damage, growth, etc. Its time consuming but hey it helped me write this guide for you! Sing to your plants. Or play something nice for them. There are studies that show that plant growth is affected by different vibrations, sounds and energies around them. Everyone experiences care differently. Though it doesn’t always seem it, I’m introverted at heart, so being at home with my plants, my photography, my pet and my thoughts is a kind of indulgence that I don’t take for granted. You may find some inclination in it as well.


I Watered My Plants Today

The Beautiful Project Journal


The Beautiful Project Journal

Winter 2018 - Issue 3 Photo by Dawn Downey


The Beautiful Project Journal


Winter 2018 - Issue 3

Della V. Mosley | Photo by @aaronwbanks - #ABanks

The Beautiful Project Journal

Collective Care for Liberatioá„Ł

- Q & A with Healing x Justice



his year, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Frances Y. Adomako and Della V. Mosley, two dynamic friends, scholars, activists, and wellness warriors. They are both pursuing a career in Counseling Psychology and are committed to educating community organizers, individual and collective wellness strategies through their organization, Healing x Justice. We asked them a few questions about their journeys in this line of work, tools for building care strategies, and their visions of collective healing.

Frances Care Y. Adomako: Collective for Liberation

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How did you come to this specific work of Counseling Psychology that is grounded in a Black feminist social justice lens and why do you believe this perspective in psychology is important? I was led to the field of Counseling DELLA V. MOSLEY:

Psychology after having an incredibly beautiful and challenging work experience at a Job Corps center. There was a disproportionate number of Black youth, and particularly Black queer youth, being enrolled in this “second chance� program and I got curious as to why. These students shared with me story after story of systemic failures (e.g., having teachers who would allow homonegative speech in class go unchecked and subsequently dropping out, being discriminated against when they applied for

jobs based on their gender presentation and therefore experiencing chronic unemployment) and I was moved to see what I could do to change this system. I thought that by getting an advanced degree I could not only help these students directly, as I was doing at the Job Corps, but to make an impact on the system. And that is why a Black feminist social justice lens became critical. So often, people seek to improve outcomes for folks experiencing oppression by


working with the individuals and ignoring the systems creating the experiences of oppression. Black feminism provided the tools to understand and intervene against the interlocking systems of oppression (thank you Combahee River Collective, Kimberle Crenshaw, and all the Black feminists who gave us this lens) impacting Black queer youth. In addition to the system-level analysis tools, Black feminism helped me to also see and work with the communities I cared about in a way that was empowering,

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collectivistic, strengths-focused, and holistic. The Black feminist works I was consuming taught me how to simply be with people through their joys and their struggles (Dr. Chamara Kwakye, Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, and SOLHOT stand out) and to help people increase their critical consciousness so they could externalize those experiences that were not about the individual but connected to a bigger systemic issue (Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, Dr. Helen Neville, Dr. Beverly Greene stand out).

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Because Counseling Psychologists are concerned with prevention, holistic wellness, social justice, and development over the lifespan, it seemed like the perfect discipline for me to integrate this Black feminist lens as I focused my clinical and research work primarily on Black and queer youth and communities. FRANCES Y. ADOMAKO: For

me, Counseling Psychology was a natural choice in the field of psychology. I recall my 7th-grade report card when my social studies teacher commented that “Frances is very outspoken and never hesitates to share what’s on her mind.” I think most people who know me understands this about me and would say that it underlies my beliefs and values in social justice and Black Feminism in my personal and professional life. As a child, I was moved by the works of Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and Maya Angelou. My undergraduate career, at St. John’s University, was rooted in Black social movements and Black Feminism. I was and continue to be inspired by the Black feminist praxis of the Black women of Combahee, Black Feminists like Patricia Hill Collins, as well as my mentors and educators Drs. Roderick Bush and Natalie Byfield. They modeled for me the

definition and importance of social justice identity, emphasizing the interconnections of race, gender, and class oppression within and outside the academy.

and recognize when we need to take a break to take care of ourselves?

After leaving college, I worked in nonprofit as a case manager, where many of my clients were Black women involved with the civil court system. There, I came face to face with the personal cost(s) of systemic racism and injustice within mental health and the justice system. During this experience, I longed for the knowledge and skill set to be able to address their issues. I often found myself in disagreement with supervisors, attorneys, and judges over the ways in which to support and enhance their well-being, leading me to pursue an advanced degree in Counseling Psychology.


The work of Counseling Psychologists is to not only recognize the impact of systemic oppression on the well-being of the individual but also to work to change it. My experiences formed a solid foundation from which to think about, express, and put into action the vision of The Black Feminist project (understanding and moving beyond the interlocking systems of oppression in the creation of a new reality). In my research and clinical practice (I am grateful for the encouragement and support of Drs. Gizelle Carr and Kevin Washington), I utilize this lens, investigating and incorporating approaches in Black mental health that are strength focused, empowering, and culturally affirming.

What are the tools and tips Black women and girls can use to become more self aware


One strategy that I would recommend for Black women and girls involves taking ten minutes a day for silence and self-reflection. Some people may call it mindfulness, others may call it prayer time, and others just lay in bed and reflect before waking or falling asleep. But intentionally gifting yourself with just ten minutes of “me time” can be so impactful. Different days we need different things. So beginning a practice of setting aside time to check in with what may be needed and how that need can be met is a real liberatory gift. This is particularly important for us Black girls and women who are constantly giving and externally focused. So I’d say permit yourself to regularly pause and indulge in self-reflection without shame. You are worthy of wellness. FRANCES: One

strategy that I suggest is taking time for self, to be. This can be 30 minutes, 1 hour, or an entire day. Do something you enjoy by yourself. This can be lounging on the couch watching your favorite show or movie, getting your hair/nails done, reading, listening to music or your favorite podcast, or journaling. It’s important to make this practice a habit and as a way to check in with self, slow down, and just be. I also recommend looking at the different parts of your life, explore where most of your energy is being spent, reflect on ways in which you can prioritize and rearrange. Think about what aspects bring you joy and peace, and find ways to infuse that throughout all the different areas. Writing it down may be helpful.

How do you define collective healing and how does it impact the pursuit of liberation for all? Collective healing is about sharing your truth with those you trust and going where that sharing guides you. Black girls and women been healing one another as long as we have been around. It takes so many forms. I experience collective healing when I travel home and cook with my sister and mom, when I talk with women in my loctician’s shop, and when I laughcry-strategize with my girlfriends. I also help facilitate it in more formal ways by hosting healing circles, therapy groups, and workshops. Collective healing is just a process of recognizing that we heal through vulnerability and relationship with others. As we share our truths and work toward wellness publicly, others tend to feel more comfortable to do the same. I have watched so many people start a wave of connection and wellness by being that first person to say “hey friend(s)/fam I need space to talk, in a real way” or “hey cuz I’m hurting and I need y’all to squad up around me right now.” Folks are literally changing the way their relationships look and feel, and subsequently how well they feel, by taking these initial “risks” of vulnerability. DELLA:

FRANCES: Collective

healing has two components. The first is interpersonal and the recognition that your individual wellness is in relation to the wellness of others. That is in caring for yourself, you are caring for your relationship with others (e.g. family, romantic partners, and friends). For example, in engaging in the self-care practice of listening to my favorite podcast, it improves my mood/intrapersonal health, thereby ultimately healing my relationship with myself and those who are connected to me. The second component is group wellness. Group wellness occurs when we take steps to improve the well-being of our communities. For group wellness, activities that include working with local community organizations around different issues ( e.g. #BlackLivesMatter and police brutality, mass incarceration, and school to prison pipeline) or informing the public via social media or online blog about mental health issues in the Black community or other marginalized group is engaging in collective healing. Both the interpersonal and group healing must occur simultaneously. It is healing that recognizes that individual liberation goes hand in hand with group liberation and is firmly rooted in the African tradition of Ubuntu, “I am because we are.”


What are some of the resources and selfcare practices that you believe are critical for Black girls to learn and practice while they are young? DELLA: The

Shine app is amazing for Black girls! I highly recommend at least signing up for the daily text by Shine if you do not want the app. You give your number and indicate the time you want the message to come and it gives just the perfect self-care message to center you as you start your day. Journaling is a classic recommendation but is really healing as it can help you sort out and clarify your thoughts and so I have to urge folks to journal. Be creative with it, keep a photo journal, a gratitude journal, use an app like Day One, get a gorgeous notebook, whatever fits you at the time. And though it is repetitive, taking ten minutes a day for self, one way or another, is clutch! In the age of technology and social media, self-care can come in many forms. I recommend listening to podcasts by Therapy for Black Girls, and Melanin & Mental Health. They also have social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) so follow them, as they are a great resource! If you need to step away from social media (or this can FRANCES:

Collective Care for Liberation

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be in addition to), I recommend starting/ organizing a group with classmates and peers. You can establish a safe space with some ground rules and explore different topics that are relevant to your experiences. This can be really helpful in developing a support system, enhancing interpersonal skills, and promoting collective wellness.

watch via social media or listen to on podcasts that help me see my potential and imagine possibilities for myself that I may not have otherwise. I guess there is a theme of connection in all of my responses, as I feel that we grow through relationships. My experiences have shown me that fostering positive relationships can be time-consuming, difficult, risky, and more (particularly in a society that is highly transactional, competitive, and focused on productivity) but that they are growthpromoting, healing, and worth the effort.

In your journey so far as activists, therapists, and Black women, what have you learned while doing this work? Winter 2018 - Issue 3

To echo a mentor, “you must always be with and about the people, Frances.” I have learned many lessons, but this is perhaps the most important lesson I have learned. I have also learned that it is not easy, it comes at a cost, and it can sometimes be overwhelming. As a result, for me, it has been important to connect with my sources of power in engaging in work that is both challenging and fulfilling. This includes the support of my family, friends, and professional mentors and colleagues. I am encouraged by the work that they do in their own lives and the ways in which they support and encourage my work. During my most difficult times, they have imagined possibilities that I have failed to see and lifted my spirits in immeasurable ways. We build, we collaborate, we connect, and we affirm each other. In essence, they are my tribe, helping me to not only survive but to thrive. The goal of our project as activists, therapists, and Black women, must always be to thrive for self, each other, and the community! FRANCES:

Wow, what a question. I have learned so much about myself, about the beauty and challenges our community faces, about how this world oppresses folks similarly and differently, and about how we resist and find joy in the face of all that. So many lessons to share from this journey. I guess, to choose one, maybe the lesson that has been on my mind recently is around the power in finding possibility models and maintaining relationships with mentors. I have learned the importance of being in community with people who have your back, who are smart, who are loving, who are giving, who are “about you” in terms of your all-around wellness. I learned that when there isn’t a structure for these connections, you can and have to create them. And that when you create them you need to nurture them. DELLA:

There is so much wisdom around each of us and we can allow ourselves to tap into it to honor the people and stories we are gifted with. I have mentors who I talk to monthly and I know that I am being healed and growing into the woman I want to be as a direct result of these relationships. I also have possibility models (brilliant activists, healers, therapists, artists, researchers, etc.) who I do not know personally but

Editor’s Note: Della and Frances shared so many amazing resources and nuggets of wisdom through their interviews. If you want to learn more about Black feminist theory or gain new self-care tools, head to our Resource in Practice section on page 50.


Collective Care for Liberation

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Photo by Pasha Gray


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Winter 2018 - Issue 3

the Black feminist framework in today’s political and social movements. These connections are made through insightful interviews with founding members of The Combahee River Collective, a queer Black feminist collective of women that formed in response to the lack of representation of Black women’s unique issues in antiracist and women’s liberation movements. How We Get Free is a critical book reflecting on the legacy of Black feminism and its impact on liberation work today.


by adrienne marie brown Emergent Strategy is a book about the exploration of obtaining freedom through radical imagination, intentional collaboration, and adaptability to inevitable change. Writer adrienne marie brown is a social justice facilitator, healer, and activist who collects wisdom and practices from her experiences in movement building work. In her words, “Emergent strategy is how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for.” Drawing from teachings of science fiction legend Octavia Butler, revolutionary activist Grace Lee Boggs, and many others, Emergent Strategy is a visionary book that serves as a roadmap for anyone who is interested in shaping and changing the world.


by Audre Lorde “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is selfpreservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” This popular quote comes from Lorde’s collection of essays in the 1988 book, A Burst of Light, and was actually stated during a very difficult time in her life during a battle with cancer. As with her other writings, the prose in A Burst of Light gives important critique on the American political and cultural landscape through her lens of intersectionality and radical Black feminism.


by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Presented by scholar-activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, How We Get Free connects the radical roots of Black feminism that grew from the 1970s to the re-emergence of 50


by bell hooks When she could not find selfhelp books written with Black women in mind, bell hooks decided to create the book she was searching for, one that can facilitate individual and community healing for Black women. Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery examines the detrimental effects of racism and sexism on the emotional health of Black women and provides restorative strategies for Black women to heal from the unique and specific societal pressures that we are forced to encounter. HEART TALK

by Cleo Wade Heart Talk is an empowering and encouraging book of poems and mantras that will surely speak to the heart. In a beautifully illustrated book, artist and poet Cleo Wade creates an useful and motivating guide that will truly replenish the souls of many as they journey through the book.

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free self-care app that will text a daily motivational text each morning to center your day.  @shinetext shinetext.com MELANIN AND MENTAL HEALTH:

an online resource that connects individuals with culturally competent clinicians committed to serving Black and Latinx communities.  @melaninandmentalhealth melaninandmentalhealth.com YOGA GREEN BOOK: an inclusive online platform that offers yoga and meditation resources.

 @yogagreenbook yogagreenbook.com a podcast that features powerful conversations about sisterhood and wellness between writer and self-care advocate Alex Elle and the dope women who inspire her.


 @theheygirlpodcast art19.com/shows/hey-girl

holding a negative attitude towards homosexuality. HOMONEGATIVE:

to share your truth with those you trust and to go where that sharing guides you. It is a process where we heal through vulnerability and relationships with others. COLLECTIVE HEALING:

interdependent oppressions that Black women face, including racism, sexism, and classism.

school of thought stating that sexism, class oppression, gender identity and racism are inextricably bound together.

A Black feminist scholar and professor of Sociology who penned the book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, which is an exploration of the thoughts and ideas of Black feminist writers and activists, such as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker.



a document written by a collective of Black feminists during the 1970s that identified the genesis of Black feminism and the commitment to fight against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression of Black women.

A professor of Gender and Women’s Studies who researches and analyzes the experiences of Black girlhood. Her books, Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip Hop Pedagogy and Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood celebrate the creative power of Black girls. She is also the founder of the organization SOLHOT, which stands for Save Our Lives Hear Our Truths.



a Black woman scholar known for coining the term “intersectionality” in her 1989 essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” Intersectionality is a framework that acknowledges the multiple overlapping and KIMBERLÉ CRENSHAW:



Resources for Practice

Wellness Toolkit

Black Feminisᄧ Starter Kit & Glossarȸ

The Beautiful Project www.thebeautifulproject.org    @thebeautifulprj

Profile for The Beautiful Project

The Beautiful Project Journal: Winter 2018 | Issue 3