Feb 10, 2017

Documentary Screening: Why Do We Have Black Dolls?

I recently ventured to the Cape Fear Museum here in Wilmington, NC. A customer came into the store an invited me to a screening of a short film called Why Do We Have Black Dolls. I honestly went in worried that I would fall asleep, but I left the viewing wide awake.

Studies show that dolls are useful in helping children develop motor skills as well as enrich their imagination and creativity. One visitor stated that dolls were once a prize you would find in a box of laundry detergent, just like finding a prize in a Cracker Jack box.

"Four Little Girls", a recreation of the four little girls who were killed in an act of terrorism in a church  bombing in 1963 in Birmingham

In the film, I learned that there are conventions for black doll lovers and creators alike. Women from all over the country come together to put these masterfully created dolls on display. They all have the same point of view: they love the dolls because they are a reflection of themselves. Over the past several decades, young black girls (in an ongoing case study) viewed black dolls as 'ugly'. However, youngsters with black barbies and other handcrafted black dolls loved their black dolls and their 'pretty hair and pretty skin'.


I had the opportunity to ask the films' creator, Samantha Knowles, a few questions after the film was done. Samantha is the proud owner of approximately 40 dolls. These dolls are almost as old as she is, these being her childhood 'friends'. Her favorite doll, Tanya, has natural, curly hair and a 'cute smile'. It was her go-to doll. She stated that she "was in love with that doll!"  When I asked what was the one message she wanted young girls and women to take away from the film, her response was exactly what I expected: ..."see the film and the variety of dolls and be inspired."

It's easy to slide into the 'norm' of things. You just walk into your local super warehouse or toy store and buy the first doll manufactured, and that's okay. That's your choice, there is no right or wrong choice. If in the future, I am to purchase a doll for the young girls in my family, I know I will buy a doll who looks like me and my people. That's my choice. Do you have any black dolls? What is your opinion on 'black dolls'?

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