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Raleigh girl's celebration of black history makes it to the Met in New York

Posted February 17, 2020 6:15 a.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2020 12:30 p.m. EST

— A Raleigh sixth-grader's photography is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, celebrating Black History Month.

Lacquen Tolbert, a student at Pre-Eminent Charter school in Raleigh, accepted a creative challenge from her mom, Timisha Blue.

Blue follows the Durham-based blog "The Beautiful Project", which announced a photography and writing challenge for young women and girls. The idea was to help fight negative representations with positive images in photographs and personal stories.

Raleigh girl's celebration of black history makes it to the Met in New York

The group offered a training course called "Pen, Lens and Soul." Lacquen learned how to take self-portraits, pose and convey deeper meaning in her pictures.

For Lacquen and a few friends in the same program, it led to an invitation to show their work in a special exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Lacquen's school principal, Melanie Williams, was a bit taken aback when she learned Lacquen and her mom would spend a few days at the Met.

"I was surprised when I heard she was at the Met,” Williams said. “Like, the Met?"

The 10-year-old didn't understand Williams' surprise. "I didn't even know the Met was real. I didn't even know that thing exists," Lacquen said.

Her self-portrait and a photograph of her grandmother in her kitchen earned a place in the exhibit. "We had to pick someone who inspired us, so I chose my grandmother," Lacquen said.

Lacquen Tolbert with photograph of her grandmother

In the photo, her grandmother is cooking one of Lacquen’s favorite things: Baked beans. Blue said she admires her daughter's pictures but has a wider range of family experience in mind.

"When her grandmother was her age, she probably wasn't allowed to be in that museum, just walking around to observe art pieces,” Blue said. “And now there's a picture of her hanging there."

"We shed a lot of tears just thinking about how powerful it is of a message for our family, for other black girls, for other families," Blue added. "It's just good to see yourself represented."

It was a true learning experience for the young student. That fact was not lost on Williams. "I'm just so proud of her,” Williams said. “I don't even know what to say. I'm so proud of her."

The exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will continue to be on display until Feb. 24.

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