Seattle-area girl is posing in photos as Rosa Parks, Zora Neale Hurston and other historic figures
Lola's mother came up with the project to help inspire her daughter
On the right is Rosa Parks, then 42. On the left is Lola, 5. They are years and worlds apart, and yet the resemblance is remarkable.
The photo is just one of this Seattle-area kindergartener’s incredible transformations to celebrate Black History Month.
Every day in February Lola’s mother, Cristi Smith-Jones, has been posting a photo to Twitter of her daughter dressed as a different famous black woman from history. Together, the images have a thing or two to show the world about #blackgirlmagic.
Over the past month Lola has emulated a range of change makers, from writers like novelist Zora Neale Hurston …
To ballet dancers like Misty Copeland …
To political leaders like Shirley Chisolm, the first black woman elected to Congress and the first to run for president of the United States.
The project has sparked the interest of people all over the country, including Copeland, who retweeted Smith-Jones’ post honoring her.
But Smith-Jones, who lives in Kent, Washington, says that from the start it’s been about empowering Lola with the legacies of boundary-breaking women.
It all started on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, when Lola came home from school and told her parents that she had learned about the civil rights leader. Her parents recognized an opportunity to talk to their daughter about slavery and civil rights.
“She seemed to understand where we were coming from,” Cristi Smith-Jones told CNN.
But how do you explain a long history of oppression and injustice to a 5-year-old?
“Since it’s a heavy topic, we wanted to find a way to make learning about black history fun for her,” Cristi Smith-Jones said.
So the family decided to take advantage of Lola’s love for dress-up.
Smith-Jones began by compiling a list of women to teach Lola about. She then showed their photos to Lola, who chose the pictures she wanted to recreate.
They searched for wigs, rummaged through the family’s closets and borrowed old glasses from Lola’s father. Smith-Jones shot and edited most of the shots on her phone and a photographer friend volunteered to help with some of the others.
One of Lola’s favorite historic figures became Dr. Mae Jemison, a scientist and astronaut who was the first African-American woman to travel in space. Lola shares Jemison’s love of science, and the astronaut “taught (Lola) that she can be anything she wants and that you can change your mind – you don’t have to be the same thing forever,” Cristi Smith-Jones said.
That’s a powerful message for an impressionable young child who may be imagining a career in race-car driving, princessing or dolphin training. Smith-Jones says the project has helped give her daughter the power and confidence to choose her own future.
She also hopes the tweets have been daily reminders of black women’s vital contributions to American history.
Lola, who is “by nature very quiet and serious in school,” has come to identify with the women she has studied, her mother said. “Her ability to emulate them is uncanny.”