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Playing dress-up is unique black history lesson for one preschooler

Oprah Winfrey, Zora Neale Hurston and Ida B. Wells, are just some of the figures 5-year-old Ava Noelle Rogers has embodied during Black History Month.

Ava’s mother, St. Louis native Chauncia Boyd Rogers, came up with a unique way to commemorate the month. She recreated photographs of remarkable black women using Ava as a stand-in.

Rogers, who recently moved to Florida, came across a picture of her old church in St. Louis hosting a black history program. She said it reminded her that she had not celebrated Black History Month since 2011.

“I hadn’t recognized Black History Month in a really long time and I realized that Ava is now old enough to celebrate and I really felt I need to do something,” she said.  

Especially since Ava's school wasn't doing anything.

Credit Chauncia Boyd Rogers
Ava as entertainer and activist Josephine Baker.

“I thought maybe her school — she’s in pre-kindergarten — would do something. But they hadn’t mentioned it on the calendar or anything,” she said. “So I just said, that’s fine. I’ll teach her something at home.”

Rogers found portraits of important black historical figures. She then used items from around her house to transform Ava into figures like supermodel Tyra Banks, poet Phillis Wheatley and chef Enda Lewis. After snapping the pictures, Rogers posted them to her Facebook page, where she received a lot of positive feedback on the project.

When Rogers initially compiled a list of individuals for Ava to learn about and embody, she chose well-known figures such as Rosa Parks and Bessie Coleman. As time progressed, and more people where commenting on her Facebook page, Rogers decided to look for individuals who aren’t as well-known.

“I wanted to choose people maybe not everyone had heard of and I wanted to teach people through the project,” Rogers said. "Because I decided to choose different people, I’ve learned a lot researching them.”

Ava says the project taught her a lot as well.  

“I liked when I did Phillis Wheatley,” Ava said. “Phyllis Wheatley is a poet and she wrote poems.”  

Credit Chauncia Boyd Rogers
Ava, a dancer herself, as Misty Copeland a soloist with American Ballet Theater.

Some of Ava’s other favorite photo-shoots included dressing in her dancing gear to portray Misty Copland, a dancer with the American Ballet Theater, and becoming First Lady Michelle Obama.

Rogers said she thinks the project will help her daughter remember the importance of Black History Month.

“She told me that she would do the same thing with her daughter when she’s a mom,” Rogers said.

Rogers said next month Ava will start writing sentences about what she learned about each person.