Nailah Barnes, a junior, Bonner Scholar at Spelman College, is a student activist who takes an intersectional and global approach to combatting racial injustice and advocating for women’s rights and education reform. She is the founder of The Brains with Beauty Project (www.brainswithbeauty.org). Her non-profit equips young Black women and girls with the tools needed to excel academically and care for themselves holistically. As a student of the world, Nailah has seen firsthand how difficult it is for women living in developing countries to get the loans they need to start or sustain their small businesses. She is currently working on microfinancing models to help women living in developing countries to access capital equitably. As a student leader, Nailah has created robust civic engagement initiatives. Ahead of the 2018 gubernatorial election, Nailah became a Deputy Registrar and registered over 250 students to vote. She was asked to speak at Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote rally. Nailah is a transformational leader with myriad interests, passions, and skillsets and a knack for seeing the big picture. Her potential for rooting out the systemic inequities hindering marginalized populations, and for inspiring others to get involved, is unlimited.
In 2015, I founded “The Brains with Beauty Project” to affirm, celebrate, and empower Black girls’ brilliance and beauty. We provide education and wellness resources and promote a culture of liberatory learning tailored to the needs of the pluralistic schema of Black womanhood. Our methodology is two-fold: “The Salon Initiative” has placed 250+ books in hair salons nationwide for young women and girls to enjoy. Using my passion for design and the arts, I created a www.brainswithbeauty.org to house “The One-Stop Initiative” – an online database of academic and holistic wellness tips catered to Black girls. The COVID 19 pandemic created an opportunity for increased virtual engagement, which allowed The Brains with Beauty Project to expand its scope of impact. I recruited new team members among my Spelman peers and we added resources pages to our site, increased our social media presence, and began planning a holistic wellness workshop with SheaMoisture. The framework for the Brains with Beauty Project is rooted in social and educational policy reform. Literacy rates for students in Black communities are disproportionately below grade level. The Brains with Beauty Project brings awareness to this travesty and works toward solutions.