Eunique Jones Gibson never expected to create a movement.
Eight years ago, the Maryland-based photographer began taking photos of children dressed as iconic figures for Black History Month.
She called the project “Because Of Them We Can.”
“I wanted to essentially refresh Black history,” Jones Gibson told Sheinelle Jones Monday on TODAY. “At the time, I just had two little sons. And we were also at the one-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's murder. And I was trying to think, well, how can I inject my kids with like, the self esteem that they'll need to be able to survive and thrive in this world?”
It all started when Jones Gibson noticed her son looked like Muhammed Ali.
“But he never knew why Muhammad Ali said he was the greatest,” the Maryland-based photographer shared. “He never knew why Muhammad Ali had to project the confidence before the world validated him. And so I thought, wow, what if I just put them in the shoes of these trailblazers? And then it just blew up.”
She assumed the campaign would last just 28 days. But it went viral.
“I remember Kerry Washington was tweeting me because she saw the picture of the little girl who was dressed like her,” Jones Gibson said. “And in that moment, I knew this was so much bigger than me.”
Jones Gibson began creating videos in hopes of making more representation for kids.
“It's important, because it impacts how you move throughout the world,” she told Sheinelle as part of TODAY's “Changemakers” series. “It impacts how you engage with people every single day. If we make sure that their foundation is solid, and we make sure that they are rooted with knowledge and information, no one can take that from them.”
In a YouTube video, Jones Gibson shared that her calling is bigger than taking pictures of cute kids.
“This is bigger than me and what I originally envisioned it would be,” she said. “Twenty eight days is not enough to tell history.”
Today, Jones Gibson’s 28-day project is an award-winning multimedia movement focused on amplifying Black innovators and trendsetters all year long.
“I'm proud to be Black (and) just wanting to inject that into other people just really started to grow in me,” she shared. “It's about empowering these kids by understanding what's already been done, what's being done, and what can be done and how they can play a role in shaping or reshaping the future.”
“One day, it just hit me, it was like a subscription box, you could put the same props that you use from your photographs. You could do a step further and provide them with (a) curriculum that would tie to math and science and reading and writing,” Jones Gibson said. “This is an investment, right? By getting this content on a monthly basis your child celebrates Black History every single month.”
More than anything, she said, her movement transcends images of cute kids.
“It's about the unique opportunity that we all have to double down on who we are and to appreciate our unique differences.”