Atlanta photographers showcase young Black beauty in ‘Glory’ book

The book comes as the nation and the world grapple with a pandemic and racial and cultural divisions.

“Growing up, I didn’t have these types of images,” said Kahran Bethencourt, a native of South Carolina. “I’m putting out there what I would have wanted my younger self to be able to see. I want young people to see themselves and see that the sky’s the limit. They can look and see a 13-year-old pilot or a 3-year-old who can read. I want them to feel powerful and limitless.”

The photographs in the 243-page book are divided into the past, the present and the future with the young people featured not only showcasing their beauty and individuality but what makes them special.

The Bethencourts took about 10 months to shoot the book, and their travels took them across the United States and to London, Kenya and South Africa.

Some of the young people are interested in the arts, aerospace and teaching.

In the future, there’s 10-year-old Amoy Antunet of Cobb County, who wants to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. In 2018, young Amoy spoke at a Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program conference at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Photo of 10-year-old Amoy Antunet of of Cobb County, who wants to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. Courtesy of CreativeSoul Photography

Credit: CreativeSoul Photography

Credit: CreativeSoul Photography

“I think what they’re doing is amazing,” said Amoy, a fifth grader, who loves reading and writing. “Black children just need to see themselves as heroes. They just need to see themselves as beautiful and just positive things overall, especially with what’s going on in the world right now.”

There’s Erica Armah Bra-Bulu Tandoh, also known as DJ Switch, from Ghana. Erica began deejaying when she was 9 and has been featured on BBC News Africa and in 2018 became the youngest person to win Ghana’s annual DJ award.

The only adult featured is Richard Appiah Akoto, who teaches computer science in Ghana. He was photographed with some of his students.

With few computers around, Akoto drew the computer or application on the blackboard and taught his students to launch Microsoft Word. His solution went viral and the school received two new computer labs.

Back in Georgia, from Gwinnett County is Nailah Stallworth, who knew 100 words by the time she was 15 months old. A video of her reading went viral on social media and got millions of views.

Today, Nailah is “being a toddler” in kindergarten and “having a blast with it,” said her mother, Malica Stallworth. “When she’s reading, she’s reading for fun.”

Trinity Simone, dubbed “The Freedom Fighter,” is also profiled. Simone, a 17-year-old home-schooled senior, is CEO and founder of Black Vibe Tribe, an apparel and home goods brand, and also created a nonprofit, The Youth Will Be All Write. The nonprofit donates composition notebooks to youth detention centers in hopes of providing the youths an outlet to create through the power of the written word.

“As with all of the other beautiful children shown in this phenomenal piece of art, CreativeSoul highlighted us in a way that celebrates us, our history, and our glory; depicted as heroes of the past, present, and future,” she said. “There’s so much beauty and strength to be seen in that.”

The Bethencourts worked with several hairstylists, including Shanna Anise Thomasson of Atlanta, who styled the cover and other work in the book.

“We do it to inspire and show girls and boys they can be whatever they want to be,” she said.

It’s also about being happy with the skin they’re in.

“Your skin is beautiful,” said Thomasson. “Your hair is beautiful. It doesn’t matter if it’s loose curls or kinky curls.”

This is not the first time the Bethencourts have been noticed.

“Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty” by Kahran and Regis Bethencourt.

Credit: St. Martin’s Press

Credit: St. Martin’s Press

In 2017, the couple released the AfroArt series that showed the beauty and versatility of Black hair. That and other work have received celebrity shoutouts from the likes of Tyra Banks, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Common, Taraji P. Henson, Morris Chestnut and Tia Mowry.

ExploreAtlanta duo goes viral with photos of black girls with natural hair

The two, who met during an online graphics design forum, enjoyed a bicoastal romance before marrying in 2011.

Kahran lived in Oregon and Regis lived in his native Maryland. They decided to move to Atlanta, when Regis enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College to study photography.

Kahran grew up in the South, where she was the first person in her family to go to college. Although she had strong parents and grandparents, she didn’t see a lot of people in the community doing “some of the things these kids are doing.”

Their next project will likely be a children’s book and a 2022 calendar.

Davin Shepherd, Amoy’s father, remembers coming home from class and finding his daughter dressed in a lab coat and holding his lab coat in her outstretched arms.

The book, he said, is “absolutely breathtaking, so empowering and embodies a different level of spirituality — visual spirituality.”

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