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Celebrate Juneteenth with ‘Black Barbie’

The Netflix documentary directed by Lagueria Davis drops today.

I am celebrating Juneteenth with “Black Barbie,” and I hope you will too. I believe this brand new documentary in association with Shondaland Media will underscore the importance of developing a secure, confident racial and cultural identity.

“Black Barbie” may also broaden our understanding about the meaning of dolls in children’s play. In fact, one thing “Black Barbie” emphasizes is the inherent value in doing just this.

Ms. Davis’ film is deeply personal. It tells the story of how her Aunt Beulah Mae Mitchell and two colleagues encouraged Ruth Handler to create a Barbie that reflected them. Specifically, it reveals the determined influence three Black women had on the Barbie brand we know today.

I had the honor of speaking with film director Lagueria Davis last week, which you can listen to here. By the same token, this is from Ms. Davis’ Director’s Statement:

Listening to my aunt and looking at her Mattel memorabilia, it was not lost on me why my aunt and her Black women co-workers would want to see. Barbie that looked like them. With that in mind, I sat down to do a bit of research, and discovered that it took 21 years for Mattel to release the first Black Barbie. Discovering this took me back to a time when I was a little Lagueria, learning what it meant to be a Black girl. it was then that I knew I had to tell Black Barbie’s story—and in doing so, tell my aunt’s story.

I can recall having three dolls growing up. The first, a life-size doll of Krystal Carrington from the TV show Dynasty. The second was a Black Cabbage Patch doll. The third, a Black Raggedy Ann doll that my mother had specially made for me, which she paid $150 for. We were not a rich family. For my mom to drop $150 per doll—she bought three, one for me and my two younger sisters—meant something more than I could ever understand then. However, I thought my Krystle doll was beautiful and wanted to look like her. but Black Raggedy Ann and the Cabbage Patch looked more like me, and as a child, I found some comfort in that.

Within that comfort lived competing and conflicting emotions, because unfortunately, I didn’t find my Black Cabbage Patch or Black Raggedy Ann to be beautiful dolls. That being said, I think it’s worth exploring the story behind that comfort zone, and how that zone constructs or deconstructs one’s identity.

Enjoy Juneteenth with “Black Barbie” and help spread the word. This is one documentary no one should miss!

Poster courtesy of Netflix.
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