A mother from Washington state is helping her daughter learn more about iconic Black history figures by recreating some of their images and is educating social media in the process.
Cristi Smith-Jones, the parent of 5-year-old Lola Jones, launched a viral photo campaign on Feb. 1, posing her daughter as change-making Black women. She began with singer and activist Nina Simone and every day since then, Smith-Jones and her husband, Byron Jones, have depicted the kindergartener as another female heroine.
Smith-Jones, who describes herself as a woman of mixed heritage, told Atlanta Black Star she and her husband, who is Black, decided to teach Lola about enslavement and civil rights after their daughter told them about a Martin Luther King Jr. video she viewed.
“We talked about how far we’ve come and that there is still farther to go,” she said. “So, to inspire her, and get her engaged in learning more about Black history, I decided to use her love of playing dress up to teach her. I decided that we’d honor a woman each day for Black History Month and she’d get to transform into her and I could teach her about their legacies in the process.”
Smith-Jones showed her daughter as well-known women like Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and Angela Davis, but also lesser known individuals like Bridget “Biddy” Mason, who was an enslaved woman before becoming a real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist in the 19th century. Similarly, Missouri native Chauncia Boyd Rogers dressed up her young daughter, Ava Noelle Rogers, as iconic Black women in 2016 and 2015.
“She loves it,” Smith-Jones said of Lola’s feelings on dressing up. “And I have discovered that we are reaching and even teaching others along the way.”
— Cristi Smith-Jones (@MsKittiFatale) February 27, 2017
— Cristi Smith-Jones (@MsKittiFatale) February 22, 2017
Many online have responded positively to the posts, which regularly accumulate hundreds of reactions on Facebook and Twitter.
@MsKittiFatale from a fellow Seattleite from the south this is incredible especially in a sometimes culturally tone def city. Thank You
— psedoali (@psedoali) February 25, 2017
@MsKittiFatale Love that you’ve been doing this all month. What a fantastic way for a child to learn about her history. ??
— Lisa Bee (@lisabenjamin) February 24, 2017
@MsKittiFatale Im loving this and learning! Nearly 50 and admiring American heroes I didnt know about.
— Breezy (@DcSeeit) February 25, 2017
@MsKittiFatale it is awesome that you’re teaching your daughter black history through such a hands on approach.
— Keshia D. Keith (@LadyKK00) February 25, 2017
Smith-Jones’ project also attracted the attention of Black community leaders and organizers like Ohio Senator Nina Turner and NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks.
— Nina Turner (@ninaturner) February 25, 2017
Actually, thank you for what you have done for history, herstory, our story. Powerful. https://t.co/p4Stm7bqfj
— 𝐑𝐞𝐯. 𝐂𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐖𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐦 𝐁𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 (@CornellWBrooks) February 26, 2017
“The response has been overwhelming!” the Kent, Wash., resident said. “When I started, I thought this would just be a fun and educational project. … Never did I imagine that it would be so far-reaching! It’s surreal.”
Some reactions haven’t been as positive, which Smith-Jones acknowledged on Facebook.
Well, I knew it was only a matter of time… I want to thank you all for the overwhelmingly positive response to our…
“We’ve seen some negativity in response to the project, but the overall response has been so positive! And the negativity is just another reason example of how we have farther to go!” she said. “I hope Lola grows up to help change that.”