In February 2013, Eunique Jones Gibson set on a mission to tell a story about black history in a more visual and compelling way – and in just a year, she has completed a powerful photo series that tells this narrative through her campaign, Because of Them, We Can.
Gibson first earned recognition last year after she published a series of photos showing African-American children portraying iconic black history leaders, both past and present.
“Last year, right before black history month I started to think about the progress we have made as a people, as a community and how that progress translates into opportunities for my children,” Gibson told theGrio’s Lilly Workneh. “I started to think about the individuals who pretty much paved the way, past and present. Thinking in that vein, I started to think, because of them, we can.”
Following her initial release, Gibson receive a tremendous outpouring of support and was encouraged to continue the campaign to highlight numerous other influential figures.
It soon became her personal mission to use her passion for photography to further enhance black history, engage minority youth and empower the African-American community.
“With so many achievers to highlight, and thousands of children to engage and inspire, 28 days wasn’t enough. On the last day of February, with just 28 photographs in my collection, I decided to resign from my job in order to continue the campaign,” Gibson wrote on her website.
Instead, Gibson committed her time, effort and resources to launching a movement that has since earned national recognition.
Over the past year, she continued to recruit, select and photograph young kids, which continued to expand her captivating campaign to now include a mesmerizing coffee table book, entitled none other than Because of Them, We Can.
“There’s a total of 375 pictures,” Gibson said. “Everyone said, ‘we love the photos but how can we get all of these images in one place outside of the Internet?’ and so the book was the great solution.”
The cover of the book shows an image of Muhammad Ali portrayed by an adorable little boy who so happens to be Gibson’s son – she is the mother of two young boys.
As for the photos in the book, they are enthralling – each shows significant prominence that ties the essence of the African-American community’s past, present and future together in just one shot.
Kids of various ages, backgrounds and personalities take on the great personas of some of most celebrated and distinguished figures.
There are images of kids portraying everyone from activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Harry Belafonte, Marcus Garvey and Rosa Parks to entertainers like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Chaka Khan.
Photos of influential media professionals like Melissa Harris-Perry, Soledad O’Brien, Robin Roberts and Rev. Al Sharpton are included along with famous actresses like Kerry Washington, Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg.
Then there are photos of history makers who may not be as known, such as Thomas Mundy, the first African-American to cast a vote under the 15th Amendment and Ruth Carol Taylor, the first African-American flight attendant in the United States.
Overall, the powerful imagery collectively sheds another light on the intricate work of hundreds of influential people while inspiring the next generation of leaders.
For Gibson, her camera is her microphone, allowing her to tell a story that adds to the robust and resilient cultural fabric of black history.
When asked to share the message behind her mission, Gibson said:
“We’re worthy, we’re worth it. There is greatness that exists within us. We’re not to be feared, we’re not to be overlooked, we’re not to be undermined, we are a powerful, great people with an amazing history, an amazing past and I want to be able to capture that on camera and tell that story because we’re worth it.”
Learn more at Because of Them, We Can and watch Lilly Workneh’s interview with Gibson above.
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works