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  • Dahlias are my favorite flower!

  • I love tuxedo cats.

  • Top 8 Anime: Yu Yu Hakusho, Cowboy Bebop, My Love Story, Fruits Basket, Shiki, Demon Slayer, Natsume Yuujinsho, and That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime

  • I know/understand more Japanese than Spanish.

My Story

Meet Arnicia (Nici) S. Gillyard, a soft soul with a complex background. Growing up in a traditional Southern Black Baptist household and raised mainly by a single mother, Nici, being the oldest of her mother’s four daughters, had to reluctantly grow up fast. Like most eldest children in single-parent households, Nici took on adult issues and worries at a young age. This led Nici to use the arts (music, painting, literature, etc.) to escape. By age 8, Nici had developed an identity crisis and began to display depression and anxiety issues, as well as symptoms associated with PTSD and C-PTSD, ADHD, and Autism after witnessing and being a victim of domestic violence. She is currently trying to get a formal diagnosis as an adult.


Growing up in rural Alabama during the Aughts, the crossroads of tradition and self-expression were real for Nici. Picture this: a vibrant, young Black girl with creativity bursting at the seams, yet constantly nudged to fit into a box, especially when that culture seemed to overlook her presence. Nici quickly realized she was diving into spaces considered taboo in her hometown. Instead of trustworthy guidance, some saw her curiosity as a ticket to appropriate and exploit. This led to discovering sex from Sue Johanson, learning about the occult through Anne Rice, and trying to find a tribe of amazing friends from J.R.R. Tolkien’s playbook. Once she discovered anime, it was ova! Her imagination had been unleashed! Though she often felt confined in real life, with her radiance misunderstood by many, Nici kept those eyes bright and that spirit unshakable, proving time and again that she was more than any label or expectation. 


Having faced unwanted sexual attention and harassment that no one should endure, she tried to find refuge in blending in, hoping the shadows would keep her safe. Thinking, “If I hide long enough, they’ll get bored and leave me in peace.” Her favorite attire began to be oversized t-shirts, baggy pants, a jacket, and tennis shoes. This unwanted attention would continue throughout her life until, at the age of 22, she was raped. By the summer of 2013, Nici was at her lowest. The world seemed to turn a blind eye, leaving her feeling unheard and isolated. As a result, in September 2013, Nici attempted suicide. As fate would have it, a friend talked her into adopting a tuxedo Maine Coon cat. This lil' furball didn't just make her smile — it breathed life back into her, reminding her that sometimes healing comes from the most unexpected places. 


After that life-altering September and recognizing the need to shield herself from witnessing intense family conflicts and constant boundary violations, she realized she ain’t ‘bout dat life. Nici decided to become hyper-independent to carve her own path. She became vegan, moved to Atlanta, GA, and started working in behavioral health. There, Nici finally learned the vocabulary and terms she needed to understand what she’d been going through her whole life. Now living life proudly as a bisexual woman and recovering people pleaser, Nici has dedicated herself to helping as many of her ex-Church Girls (boys and people) find the urge to smile and not be afraid of being a generational curse breaker! Being the first sucks, but someone’s gotta do it! 💪🏾🏳️‍🌈✊🏾 #IRLHeroes


“I ain't tryin' ta hurt nobody… tryin' to bring the life up in yo body…” —Church Girl by Beyoncé 

Holla At Me

“I’m finally on the other side! I finally have the urge to smile, swimming through the ocean of tears we cry.”

—Church Girl by Beyoncé


M Desiree Bansile


Executive Director

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