karen-gray_web.jpgIt was a testament to self-esteem. It was about learning to embrace natural beauty.

Sixty-five Overtown girls of color gazed into hand-held mirrors, and were asked to complete the statement, “I am beautiful because–.”
Seven-year-old Shakyla Sparks, a second grader at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, said she is “beautiful because I am smart and proud of who I am.”

Doniaya Collins, 7, a second grader at Downtown Miami Charter School, said she loves reading books and “that makes me really beautiful, especially because I read June B. books.”

Saniya Ward, 7, credited her personality to her beauty.

“I am nice to people and I always share my things,” the second-grader at Theodore Gipson Charter School said.
The Black Doll Affair, a philanthropic group whose mission is to remind young black girls that black is beautiful and to boost their self-esteem, held a black doll giveaway on Friday, Dec. 11 at the Overtown Youth Center in Miami.

The group will unveil its private doll collection at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 19. New to the collection will be the handcrafted “Ivy Doll” from the Sisterhood Boutique in Silver Springs, Maryland.

This is the second year that the group has given away black dolls at the Overtown Youth Center, according to the Black Doll Affair’s executive director, Carla Penn.

“It’s important, learning to appreciate their image,” Penn said. “And the Black Dolls are committed to the investment they have made for the program.”

Penn added that the Black Dolls “do more than just give a doll,” and described the group as “mentors who encourage, instill a sense of pride, self-worth and self-esteem.”

The group was organized in 2007 by Dana Hill of Atlanta after Hill viewed A Girl Like Me, a 2005 award-winning documentary by young New York filmmaker Kiri Davis.

In the documentary, Davis repeated Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s 1940s study of color preferences among young black children. Twenty-one children were asked to choose between a light- and a dark-skinned doll.
Fifteen of the 21 children, when asked to choose the “nice doll,” selected the lighter one.

At the youth center in Overtown, the girls, ages 5 to 8, were able to select the doll of their choice from babies to Barbie-styled. Seven girls, through a drawing, received Disney’s first African-American princess doll, Princess Tiana.

The dolls, according to Black Doll Affair’s South Florida director Karen Grey, are all donations.

“We meet two to three times each month and everyone must bring a doll to donate or five dollars so we can make purchases. That way we have enough dolls to give away at Christmas,” Grey said.

The Black Dolls, Grey said, are committed to changing the way young girls of color see and feel about themselves, both inside and out.

“It is so important to let them know that they should never be ashamed of hue,’’ Grey said.

“Telling them they are beautiful is a start. I would love to do more. They should learn about etiquette, proper protocol, education and staying in school.”

Also, Grey said, the girls should never define themselves by the people around them, “but learn to become an individual.”

The black doll that Saniya received at the event was not her first.

She said she has a collection of more than 10 dolls, and they “look like everybody. I have a white one in a carriage, too. But I like them all the same, because they are all beautiful.”

For membership information or to donate a doll, visit www.blackdollaffair.com.


Photo by Khary Bruyning. Karen Grey


WHAT: Black Doll Exhibit

WHERE: African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale.

WHEN: Exhibit opens Dec. 19 and runs through Jan. 5.

COST: Free and open to the public.

CONTACT: 954-625-2800