Cristi Jones of Kent, Wash. wanted to ensure her 5-year old daughter was fully aware of what Black History Month represented — so she devised an innovative way for them to celebrate and empower black women together. The resulting mom-and-daughter Black History Month photo project is nothing short of fabulous. Jones has been tweeting out an image of her daughter dressed as an iconic black woman every day during the month of February, highlighting not only those whom we should keep at the forefront of our knowledge from the past, but also drawing attention to where the future lies: In our children.
Black History Month has been celebrated every February in the United States since 1976. According to Mental Floss, historian Carter G. Woodson disagreed with the way black figures were omitted and their role minimized in U.S. history books. As a reaction, Woodson founded his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (which later became the Association for the Study of African American Life and History); he also chose the second week in February — which coincides with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln — to celebrate the achievements of black people.
But as many of us can attest, we're still fighting for the recognition of black women's achievements, both past and present, in communities around the world — hence why Jones has taken the opportunity this year during February to brilliantly educate her daughter Lola, as well as the internet at large, on the important roles in history black women have played.
Jones has dressed 5-year-old Lola as an iconic black woman each and every day of February, sharing the results on Twitter and attracting the attention and support of thousands of others. Through smart costume choices and with the help of Jones' photographer friend Kayleigh Stefanko, Lola has dressed as such extraordinary people as Condaleeza Rice, ballet dancer Misty Copeland, and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
Jones explains to Bustle that it was important for her to educate her daughter on black history in a fun and engaging way. "After beginning to teach Lola more about slavery and civil rights last month, around Martin Luther King Day, we decided to segue into Black History Month by teaching her about black women who were trailblazers," says Jones. "I began compiling a list of women I wanted to pay tribute to at the beginning of the month, then chose photos to recreate."
She continues, "Most of the outfits come from [Lola's] own wardrobe. ... One of her favorite things is dressing up and wearing costumes, so having her dress up as these women seemed to be a way to get her excited about learning about their lives."
Jones' efforts have since gone viral, with media outlets picking up her story across the globe. Of her new found fame she says, "We've had an overwhelmingly positive response. ... I'm so humbled and grateful to have been able to shine a spotlight on the legacies of incredible women, while uplifting my daughter. We've had some detractors as well, but I try to just tune them out, since they're so heavily outweighed by positivity."
It's hard to say if society is starting to acknowledge the contributions of black women from history more; however, parents like Jones are certainly helping to raise their profile, so here's hoping other organizations, including schools and media companies, will follow suit. The release of Hidden Figures, which told the story of three black women's contribution to NASA's efforts to launch John Glenn into space in the 1960s space launch, was one of 2016's most important cultural moments; only time will tell if we'll be able to go some way toward undoing the systemic erasure of black women from our history books, but I am hopeful for the future.
And with kids like Lola in it, there's a lot to be hopeful about.