The array of figures who deserve time and attention during Black History Month far exceeds the number who actually get taught in schools–a fact that’s been well-remarked upon in various ways over the years. But getting time for people besides Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and George Washington Carver can be a challenge, and it’s something that the campaign “Because Of Them, We Can” aims to change. The project was started by photographer Eunique Jones, to connect kids today to figures they might not know–and to do so, she began taking portraits of children dressed as various people who’ve contributed–and continue to contribute–to black history who might not get the same amount of time in the classroom.
Jones’s portraits include Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu, of course, but they extend well beyond them to feature people who are making black history every day: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mo’ne Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, John Legend, Stuart Scott, Spike Lee, and more. There’s also a focus on names who haven’t spent much time being taught in school, with little girls dressed like 1972 Democratic Presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, or activist Angela Davis.
“Because Of Them, We Can” is running on TV this month, as well–the campaign has a series of minute-long videos that air on Nickelodeon, with a handful of kids dressed as Maya Angelou, Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X, and reciting words spoken by the iconic figures. It’s a compelling combination of appealing features: Little kids dressed like adults are adorable, the words they’re speaking still ring true, and the figures they represent deserve time on television–especially on a children’s network like Nick. If we can’t make February longer, at least a campaign like this makes the most of the month.