Terrance Sims and the "Representation is Key" Project

Representation Matters. For some this is simply a statement, but for influential black educators like Terrance Sims, it’s a lifelong mission.

The students in Sims’ sixth grade book club are celebrating Black History Month by recreating the book covers of influential Black figures they've been reading about throughout the school year, from Michelle Obama to Assata Shakur. The recreations will continue throughout the month of February as part of an ongoing project called “Representation is Key”

I reached out to Terrance to discuss the inspiration behind this project and the impact it has had on his students.


One of Sims’ 6th graders poses as Michelle Obama as part of his

“Representation is Key” photo series

Tell me a little more about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching?

My name is Terrance Sims and I have been teaching for 6 years. I was born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin and I work for Milwaukee College Prep as a music teacher.  My work started going viral a few years back with a Hidden Figures picture I recreated with my students, and then again with the Tee Grizzly - First Day Out remake with my students. I enjoy teaching and working with youth through artistic outlets.

What was the inspiration behind this concept? What sparked the idea?

“Representation is Key” is a project I complete with my students every February.  Each year we choose African American leaders and recreate some of their most memorable photos.  This year my class created a book club, and we thought it would be powerful to use the books we were reading to start off our February project.  Students are currently reading the book covers they recreated.

How do you feel about all of the positive feedback? Were you surprised at how quickly it blew up online?

The community has been very receptive of my work. They are familiar with me from my past projects and look forward to my posts.  I love my Milwaukee community because we support each other and want to see each other win in whatever we choose to do. I appreciate when the public value the work I do with my students and it means a lot. I wasn’t expecting the project to go viral but my students and I are excited it did!

A lot of our readers are creatives; can you tell us a little more about the photography/graphic design process of putting this project together?

I am a photographer and videographer so I have all the photo equipment at my school. I set up

white backdrops and photographed my students and then used Photoshop to insert them into historic images. The students helped dress with the wardrobe.

We’ve heard that you’re planning to continue this throughout the rest of Black History Month. Any ideas on what black trailblazers you’d like to highlight next?

We just uploaded a few more pics, but we plan to venture into African American music and film.  I can’t give out full details on who we are working on but we are hoping it comes out great!

Do you feel like this kind of representation is essential at this stage in a Black child’s development?

Yes, I think it is crucial for African Americans to see success that looks like them. It was in fact the exact reason why I started this project. It allows them to research trailblazers in our history that found ways to be successful in spite of the odds they were up against. Hope, role models, and living examples of what it means to be great are all foundational reasons for this project!


3 of Sims’ students pose as the protagonists from Hidden Figures as part of his “Representation is Key” series in 2017.

Philly Create 4: New year new energy

It’s mid January and the 4th installment of our Philly Create photographer/model meet-up is upon us. Ironically, just like our first official meetup, our main concern the night before is the weather. Back in July 2018, we found ourselves face to face with an afternoon of straight rain showers. Today, the weather app says 58 degrees but it’s been changing all week - 4 days ago it said we’d be getting snow. Who knows if the weather app can really be trusted?

Regardless, with over 150 excited creatives already confirmed for the event, we knew we would have to move forward rain or shine once again. So we bundle up and head over to the designated area in the Piazza right behind Wahlburgers about 45 minutes early to get our bearings and finalize any details for the day.

When we arrive the wind is whipping around and making it feel 15 degrees colder than reported; the first thing somebody says is “…damn, it’s cold out here.” However, any nerves or doubt we had immediately go out the window as soon as the first group of creatives pulls up. The energy is indescribable; photographer eyes scan the space, already looking for the best spots with the best lighting, while models gravitate to other models with similar looks, already planning their future collaborations. By the time 11am rolls around we find ourselves surrounded by a mid-sized mob full of stylists, models, photographers, vloggers, painters, drone pilots, and any other type of creative you can imagine.

From there the creative free-for-all began to grow a mind of its own. Some of the amazing scenes that came from this talented community of creatives include:

A special thank you to Jinxed vintage shop, Creep Records, and the 150+ creatives who helped make this our biggest photo meetup yet. Check out the photo album links below or browse the #PhillyCreate hashtag on Instagram for a look at some of the work that came out of PhillyCreate.

For additional Photos and Content check the links below or search #PhillyCreate on Instagram










Funeral 3: Event Recap

A mental health art show hosted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Only Elite Matters. This event and the visuals were inspired by Alice in Wonderland and her trip down the rabbit hole. Watch our documentary of the Funeral 3 below as we explore the use of art and creativity as a form of therapy to help deal with any mental health issues we may be facing.

Philly Create 3: Event Recap

Philly Create, Philadelphia’s biggest creative meet up brings out close to 200 creatives to connect, collab and create with each other. This time we had people come from New York, Maryland and DC to meet with us at Race St. Pier to tour through downtown Philadelphia and the art district on 2nd st. The energy was palpable and the weather was so perfect that the majority of the photographers shot until their batteries died and the sun went down.

Each event we have featured photographers, stylists, models, videographers and more and we converge on a location in Philadelphia to meet then we tour through between 2-4 locations for the creatives to create. It’s amazing to see people to connect in such a genuine way and exchange ideas with each other in a safe and open space. There are creatives of every level from the amateur photographer who just got his equipment or the model that walked in New York Fashion Week last year and we bridge the gap for them to learn different ways to create content and connect with each other.

Starting out as a photographer I learned that one of the hardest things to do was to get better just by shooting my friends because in all reality my friends weren’t models and didn’t want to be models so I was just forcing them to take pictures with me. It was a painful process but one day a friend of mine turned me onto a designer and connected us, and then I realized the power in shooting with people that were serious or were professionals. I learned so much from just one encounter that I wanted I share that same opportunity with others. Philly Create was born from the need for a community of people with different skill levels but the same passion for creativity.

Philly Create is a space where you can improve your craft, add to your portfolio (portfolio development), work on your social skills, make friends, develop ideas or even scout for your next project. Philly Create is some that the Philadelphia community needs and will continue to thrive because at the end of the day people were born to create.

Philly Create 2: Event Recap

Philly Create 2: College Edition was hosted at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. We had the opportunity to connect with almost 100 creatives from colleges around the Philadelphia area. Temple University, Drexel, Lasalle, UPenn, St. Joes, West Chester, Villanova, Lincoln, Cheyney, Rutgers, CCP and more.

This Philly Create Event was for college creatives new to the Philadelphia area that wanted to connect with other college creatives in the area. We had an amazing group of featured models, photographers and videographers that really made the space dynamic and fun. Each creative brings different ideas and energy to the space. Below you can check out the video and photos from the Philly Create event.

Video: Sean Higgins

A 60's Love Story - Creative Shoot

This shoot was inspired by 50's and 60's greasers.  We shot it at Temple University during an Only Elite Matters creative meetup.

Creative Director/ Photographer: Sam Colon Instagram: @ThankYouSam 

Models: Jessica Harmon, Felipe Roacha, Mitch Smith, Venise Alcedo

Event: Philly Create

Philly Create continues despite 100% chance of rain

Its the week before the first ever Philly Create and the event numbers are looking good(we have 91 rsvps) but the weatherman is calling for rain and 2 of our team members find out they are going out of town.  We have 2 options...A. Reschedule the event to the following weekend or B. Continue despite the 100% chance of rain (info via weather.com).  We decide to wait until Thursday in hopes that the weather might change to make the announcement.

Thursday rolls around and now we have 2 days until the event, 145 rsvps and 100% chance of rain on event day.  Our rsvps is a good mix of photographers, models, artists, stylists, creative directors and more but this rain is really in the way.  We go with the logical answer...B. Continue despite 100% chance of rain, now the work of communicating well enough that models and photographers will still join us in creating art despite the rain.

We developed the Rain or Shine Campaign (for Instagram story only) where we explained why it is important for creatives to create regardless of the elements.  We also mixed in tips for shooting in the rain and inspirational figures that would create regardless of the rain including Thanos, Beyonce, Nemo, The Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and more.

We post the campaign to Instagram and event day arrives and its raining and people are still rsvping all day despite the rain.    Our final count of rsvps is 169.   We had a total of about 65 people participate in the event despite the rain and the event was amazing.  We shot at City Hall, Cret Park and Spin Philadelphia, everyone endured the rain and maintained good energy the entire day.  Thank you to Spin for allowing us to use the space to create and thank you to all of the Philly Create community that came out and made the event successful

2018 Most Slept on Cypher

Our goal is to share artists that don't get the recognition they deserve so we searched the tri-state for some of the Most Slept on Lyricist around.  For this list we weren't focused on followers or clout we were focused on the artistic talent and lyricism. Here we have Jules (@YBJules), Chuck Acid (@_chuckacid)  Sic Soul (@Sic_Soul) Saturn, Alexander (@WelcomeToSaturn) James Allen (@JamesAllenRaps)  MC Knowledge (@McKnowledge215)

Cypher Videos:

Videography: Darrly Loke, Sam Colon

Sound: Dylan Rhudd

Production Assistant: Amaria Estes @AmariaEstes

Behind the Scenes: Jaycee Homsher @Jokestar


Installation: Sam Colon, Dylan Rhudd, Joseph Asemota, Amaria Estes

Photography: Dylan Rhudd @D_Rhudd

Edits: Sam Colon @ThankYouSam