Raise your hands if you played with Barbie dolls! Well, Barbie is turning 50 in the next couple days. I don't recall ever owning a Mattel Barbie doll, but do remember playing with Barbie and all the accessories over at a friend's house on Sundays after church.
My next encounter with Barbie came when I worked as a marketing strategist for Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments, specifically on the dear Miniature and Magic ornaments and, my favorites Merry Miniatures (I was on the team that created the Merry Miniature Cinderella Collection!). Can't believe I was paid to work at Hallmark as it was a magical experience to work on products that connected emotionally with people and with a terrific team of creatives (shout out to all the Keepsakes artists!).
I had a heated discussion about Barbie ornaments at work with my then manager (sorry, no details via such a public blog :> ). To deal with my anger, I came home and worked through my feelings by designing and stitching this quilt here. Black Barbie Quilt is based on the original Barbie doll. In the background I've painted repetitiously, "Black Barbie has no name." Appliqued is "Barbie, America's Doll was never intended for me." This quilt has been exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum ("Talking Quilts") in New York and, more recently at the Fenimore Art Museum.
What does Barbie mean to an African American woman or a young black girl? How have others interpreted this American icon from a Black perspective? Here's a few links:
- "My Aunt's Quilt" by AuthenticEducator (Barbie bed quilt Photo via Flickr)
- Don't Just Play Barbie, Be Barbie - African American Barbie blog by V Byers
- Ann Ducille on "ethnic" Barbies from the Anti-Racist Parent blog
- Writer K. Danielle Edwards article from TheRoot.com "Dolls Like Me"
- Yona Zeldis McDonough's "The Barbie Chronicles," a collection of essays on the doll
- Philadelphia Doll Museum - collection of African American dolls
- You can occasionally find Black Barbie fabric online or on eBay