Pretty Brown Girl Movement: Changing Girls One Doll at a Time

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The Pretty Brown Girl Foundation uses their dolls, t-shirts and community-based programs to establish a platform where girls and women can discuss the realities of being a brown girl and a brown woman in America.

In an ideal world, what does Sheri hope a little girl will gain from the “Pretty Brown Girl Movement”?:

“For girls everywhere to know that they were created perfectly in the image of God. And for them to celebrate and love the skin they’re in. …To really understand that she is special and that she doesn’t need to look like anyone but herself. When you’re comfortable in the skin you’re in and you can go throughout your day and feel that power. Power in knowing that and having that self-confidence and self-esteem when you look in the mirror and you see your face that you’re excited about your own reflection and every girl deserves to have that special feeling.”

On February 23, 2013, the foundation held the first ever “International Pretty Brown Girl Day”, sponsored by General Motors, which was established  to celebrate everything that Sheri mentioned above.

Out of curiosity, I asked a couple of women of color about their first doll. They each shared different experiences, some had brown dolls, some white, others remember how they felt, while others did not. But, all of the women, aged in their thirties and above remembered their first doll. So the next time, you purchase a doll for the child in your life remember that it is a lifetime memory for them. Read some of their responses below:

Lena, thirties: “My first doll was a white Strawberry Shortcake doll. As a Lisle girl I was excited because I had a doll from the cartoon I see on TV. I really never noticed she didn’t look like me. As an adult I am frustrated because I wish I had more dolls that’s looked like me and perhaps I would not have had as many self-image issues about my dark skin…. that and the teasing from my peers.”

Sharon, fifties: “My first doll was white. She was a White doll with blonde hair and the eyes opened.”

Natanya, thirties: “My first doll that I can remember was the talking Cricket doll. She was Black cause my mother refused to buy white dolls. She was a brown skinned doll with a big head. She had shoulder length hair that was really coarse. I loved the doll but hated her hair. The more you tried to comb it , the more matted it became.”

Traci, thirties: “My first doll was Cabbage Patch. She was “black”. Her skin tone was a couple of shades darker than mine. It was so much darker than mine that her skin looked a brownish olive color. Her hair was yarn, nothing silky to comb. I did feel that this was a reflection of how people outside the black race saw me. I didn’t have a complex about it due to my skin tone being lighter & my hair was not “yarnish” per say. However, I did recognize how there was only one shade of the black doll and hardly any variations of other features like eye color and hair texture.”

Keya, thirties: “It was a white Barbie. It was just a doll to me. I never questioned myself because of a doll. My parents and grandma taught me about my history, so having a new doll was just that, a new doll. My grandma was a community activist. From a young age I heard stories about marching and fighting for our rights. She had pictures on the wall with mayors and local key people. This is what I saw and heard growing up. I never really looked towards the doll for myself worth. I had her as a role model. Barbie had nothing on my Nana.”

What we learn from these women and The Pretty Brown Girl Movement is that a doll is just a microcosm of a larger issue black girls face today. That’s why it is important to support organizations like “The Pretty Brown Girl Foundation” who use not only their doll but community events, pledges and conversations to build girls up from the inside out. Let’s not allow the outside world shape our girls’ identities, let’s begin the lifelong journey at home.

For more information about how you can purchase a doll or get involved in the organization, visit prettybrowngirl.com

Do you remember your first doll? What did she look like? How did it make you feel? Let us know in comment section below.

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