The 2018 Nation of Neighbors℠ women’s empowerment grant allows Beautiful Spirited Women to offer a free all-day workshop to over 200 girls (ages 4-17) each year. The #WECANBSW Girls Explosion workshop includes education, panel discussions, a talent show, and an award ceremony for girlpreneur (girls who own their own business). The educational seminars consist of S.T.E.M, team building, leadership skills, public speaking, financial management, and so much more. In addition to the educational aspect of the workshop, each attendee receives lunch and a bag full of goodies, including items like journals, pens, t-shirts, and hygiene kits.
Since becoming a Nation of Neighbors award recipient, Beautiful Spirited Women has won over 30+ outstanding awards for service, commitment, and dedication including, the 2019 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth, the 2020 State of Tennessee Governor’s & Volunteer Memphis “Best Non-Profit of the Year,” the 2021 Leadership of Memphis Change Maker Honoree, and the West Tennessee Visionary – Tennessee Public Health Association.
Crystal Chatman, founder and director of Beautiful Spirited Women, a Memphis, Tennessee, based initiative created to empower girls and young women, is one of the recipients of a Royal Neighbors’ Nation of Neighbors℠ $10,000 empowerment grant. Here’s how she’s having a positive impact on women all over the world.
Looking back, Crystal still doesn’t know what exactly occurred on that fateful day. Armed with a recent Master’s degree, she’d landed a good job in finance and was doing well. She was both happy and grateful. But something was missing. “I knew in my spirit that there was something else God wanted me to do,” she recalls.
Hoping to find the answer, Crystal got more involved in her Bible studies, hoping that God would make His wishes known. Then it happened. “I was doodling, and BSW—Beautiful Spirited Women—just appeared, clear as day,” she says. “I had no money and no clue. But I knew I’d gotten my assignment and I was ready to get started.”
Although Crystal had no experience running an organization, she was all too familiar with the issues that plague young girls, particularly those in poverty. Growing up in a housing project, Crystal was bullied, sexually abused and regularly exposed to drugs. She suffered from depression and low self-esteem, too, but, thankfully, had a strong mother and three older sisters to help her through the tough times. But she realized that not all girls have the benefit of a strong family. Those were the girls she wanted to help. “We think we can deal with our issues ourselves, especially when we’re young,” she explains. “My purpose and passion became creating a place where these girls could get the support and advice they need to become strong, powerful, uplifting and productive women.”
The first thing Crystal did was take her own advice. “I went out and found a group of women who were just as passionate as I am,” she says. “I started with my wonderful sisters, and went from there.”
Next, she built her organization from the ground up, creating programs and workshops based on the needs she saw. She created rules, too, such as her firm “No Drama” admonition. “Our rules are one of the things that keep us from becoming just another social club,” she says. “I pound this one into everyone, including my own sisters, who were my mentors. We’re here to improve lives. There’s no room for drama.”
And improve them she does. In some cases, BSW fills the void of a missing parent, partnering a child with a mentor who has gone through a similar experience. “You have to fill your own cup before you can go out and face the world,” explains Crystal. “Sharing an experience helps the mentor and the mentee relate to each other.”
Some girls gain the motivation to improve their lives during informal gatherings, such as a group outing to purchase supplies for a local shelter for women who have escaped domestic violence. “We used that experience to explain what life is like with an abuser and how to avoid getting into that type of relationship,” says Crystal. “They hear those stories and don’t want their lives to be that way. We don’t play pattycake. We put real life in our meetings.” Other tools used during the group’s recent Domestic Violence Workshop included skits by theater group OVA Flow Productions depicting challenging life situations, messages of survival and tips for standing up and taking charge of your life.
BSW also holds seminars designed to boost confidence in nearly every area imaginable, from hygiene, self-esteem and purity, to writing and public speaking. The girls experience success, too: writers are given the opportunity to have their work published in Love Girls magazine, and youth speakers empower one another through BSW’s monthly radio show, Finding My Way, which is broadcast worldwide.
The group also volunteers throughout the community, offering assistance to groups like the Forgotten Souls Ministry, Meals on Wheels, Sickle Cell Awareness and city trash clean-ups. “We want our girls to understand that you have to give to receive,” shares Crystal. “There are no handouts in life.”
All in all, Crystal estimates that BSW has improved the lives of more than 3,000 women and girls since its founding in 2009. She’s just getting started. “I can’t wait to do more,” she says. “There are a lot of girls out there who need our help.”