Times may have changed since I played with toys as a child growing up in Brooklyn, NY during the 1960’s but my complexion has not. Why mention my complexion? It matters. Here’s why. Both my Black Caribbean parents worked 12 to 16 hour shifts often 6 days a week. Despite the long work hours I remember my mother diligently searching many venues during her time off to buy my sister and I pretty Black dolls when we were very young girls. I recall mom leaving our neighborhood and traveling across the borough by bus and subway train to more diverse neighborhoods to shop for Black dolls. She would carry our gifts packages back the same way to our home and bring toy joy into our happy little arms. Thank you mom.
Another way dolls fell into our lives as children of the 60’s was by mail order catalog. That’s right. My parents would give my siblings and I huge, heavy, mail order catalogs from Aldens, Montgomery Ward, Sears & Roebuck or JC Penney. Each catalog had a toy section especially around the winter holidays and we would feverish flip through pages and write a list for “Santa Claus”. Out of the several dolls and toys we could choose from one or two were Black but the majority were not.
So when mom, a nurse, gave me a Julia doll, a Black 11 ½ inch Barbie-type doll dressed in a nurse outfit, I was thrilled. The Julia doll was fashioned after actress Dianne Carroll who portrayed a nurse in the hit television show called Julia. On the show Julia was a Black woman, a mother, a professional, strong, intelligent, beautiful and proud. Another fan favorite of mine was my spinning Black ballerina doll called Dancerina.
The joy I felt from hours in imaginative play with items that looked like me, priceless. My princess dream was to wear a tiara as a professional Black-working woman. Goal accomplished minus the tiara. Thank you mom and dad, again.
I appreciate the effort my parents put into buying toys that were positively reflective of me. It helped shaped me in believing in play that I could be anything. What you think, you become. What you imagine you create. Culture Corner embraces that toy choices matter. Let’s choose proud positive images in play through fine ethnic dolls, toys and gifts. The Little Ones need our reinforcement.