By Karen Stokes
Black History Month promotes the studying of African American history and to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans to our society.
Terrance Sims, a local Milwaukee photographer and former Milwaukee Public Schools teacher had the idea to bring history to life by having students research historic and famous African American figures like Michelle Obama, Spike Lee and Harriet Tubman and portray them in photographs.
Sims said the recurring theme for his project is ‘representation matters.’
“I was trying to keep my students engaged and I saw that they were running to their phones and YouTube all the time,” Sims said. “It started as something cool to have my students reenact those figures and after I saw the reception from both students and the public, I kept going.”
Sims, 33, said the way people reacted to the pictures showed him how important representation meant to the students, especially when positive reinforcement is so underrepresented on television.
One person that had a positive reaction to the project was First Lady Michelle Obama. When Obama was doing her book tour for “Becoming” she heard about the student reenacting the cover. The First Lady invited them to join her when the tour came to Milwaukee.
“She invited us backstage to meet her, she gave us some encouraging words and signed our books and invited the student who portrayed her to actually introduce her on stage and she posted it on her Instagram,” Sims said. “It changed my life but I think it changed the students’ life for a very long time.”
Another project Sims is planning is having the students participate in a video, talking as the historical figure person they are portraying.
“That will require them to learn more about the person. To really know what’s going on,” Sims said.
Sims’ studio, SimsStrong Media, 6103 W. Capitol Dr., has recently been completed.
“All my work can be found on my social media pages, Facebook and Instagram. On Info@SimsStrongmedia.com you can see my past work and information on future projects and also sign up to participate.”
SimsStrong Media does wedding photography and commercial photography for clients including MPS, Milwaukee Medical College and Versiti.
When asking Sims his thoughts on the importance of Black History Month for children, he said, “Black History Month is super important and essential for anybody of any culture to know what happened before them, cherish that and respect it.
I am constantly having those conversations with students and their teachers on the importance of Black History month and taking it beyond the scope of February and continuously showing kids that they’re important and powerful. It’s something you should see as normal in our culture and it’s up to you to make it even bigger but I want people to know that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and greatness that has been in our culture for years.”