067: Nurturing empowerment. The Beautiful Project reframes the images of Black girls and women.

The vision of The Beautiful Project is to use photography and reflective workshops to empower Black girls and women to confront and investigate what it means to be beautiful inside and out. I was honored to sit down and converse with 2 staff members of The Beautiful Project, Khayla Deans and Pamela Thompson. We discuss the programming and impact of The Beautiful Project, the Sisterhood Creed, and plans for the future. Listen in and soak up the wisdom and grace of  Khayla, Pamela, and the whole Beautiful team as they hold space for each other and the participants in their program

Jamaica Gilmer, Pamela Thompson, Khayla Deans, and Erin Stephens (the core team of The Beautiful Project). Photo by Jamaica Gilmer.

Khayla Deans is a music and film enthusiast, storyteller and image activist who cares deeply about amplifying the voices and images of people who are often unheard or unseen. She believes that media, art, and history can be used as powerful tools for empowerment when placed in the right hands. Khayla is a photographer and writer for The Beautiful Project and currently holds the position of the Creative Producer where she develops the media strategy for TBP exhibits, manages all of the organization’s communications channels, and implements the macro and micro details involved in the creative concepts of TBP’s programming and presence.

Pamela Thompson is a writer, artisan and activist. Inspired by the work of Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, she believes that because the experience of being a Black girl or woman is so dynamic, nuanced and rich, the full story of Black girlhood and Black womanhood will never be known until all Black girls and women feel empowered and equipped to share their stories, their way. At The Beautiful Project she creates writing practices, tools and spaces designed to meet those aims as well as educate the masses on how to better think, speak and write about Black girls and women. Her activism starts at home where she is the proud mother of four of the future’s brightest and brilliant Black girls, Izzie, Ava, Elle and Lydia.

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The Beautiful Project is fiscally sponsored by the Southern Documentary Fund. If you would like to support the mission and vision of The Beautiful Project, donations can be made online or via check and mailed to: The Southern Documentary Fund RE: The Beautiful Project 1105 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701)

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NOTES FOR PAMELA AND KHAYLA

THE BEAUTIFUL PROJECT (GENERALLY)

Would you describe TBP and the work you do? Why was it founded? What are your roles in the organization? How/when did you become involved in the work of TBP?

Why is the work of TBP so important? How have you seen that reflected in the participants? (Could you share an example or story of a meaningful moment or moments with participants?)

Durham is the home base of operations, but is this also a national campaign?

THE SISTERHOOD STORYTELLING SERIES

Pamela, would you read the Sisterhood Creed, and talk about it? (Why you wrote it? The value it has for the organization?) And then we can transition into the Storytelling Series that’s based on the different tenets of the Creed? Do you have an example(s) of a woman who has played out one of those tenets for you?

LEADERSHIP (AND YOUR ART)

How do you manage the dual challenges of being a leader and being in process with this work yourself?

Did you participate in something like TBP when you were growing up? If not, how might TBP had an impact on you? If so, what impact did that experience have?

Would you talk about the art you practice outside of TBP? Has your association with TBP affected the art you make?

What are your hopes for TBP? What’s next?

How can people support TBP and find out more?

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