“Why Do You Have Black Dolls?” at the Reel Sisters Film Festival

Black dolls are beautiful: Film explores race and childrens toys

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Eat your heart out, Barbie.

A thought-provoking filmmaker is showcasing a documentary about black dolls that probes why beauty and cultural identity are tied to the too-rare inanimate creatures.

In the film, Brooklyn-based director Samantha Knowles interviews dozens of females — kids, artists, and collectors — about their bond with black dolls and discovers that the objects are more than just playthings.

“They really have a certain weight,” Knowles said. “They remind us of our heritage and that we are beautiful.”

Knowles also explores the fact that cloth-and-plastic ladies of color are not as present on toy shop shelves as their lighter-skinned counterparts, which can deprive black youths of a “positive representa­tion” of themselves, she said.

Knowles asks interviewees, “Why do you have black dolls?” — a question inspired by a childhood experience in which a friend couldn’t understand why she preferred a toy that looked more like Beyoncé than Barbie.

The documentary now offers an interesting glimpse into a unique niche of collectors who are not interested in the “cookie-cutter dolls you’d find in Walmart,” Knowles said.

It will air at the 15th annual Reel Sisters Film Festival — an event dedicated to supporting movies made by women of color — which Knowles said helps fuel a conversation about the significance of dolls as ethnic artifacts.

“It’s a way of reclaiming our history and heritage,” Knowles said.

“Why Do You Have Black Dolls?” at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts [1 University Plaza, between DeKalb and Flatbush avenues, (718) 488–1624,]. Oct. 14, 5 pm. $7.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Adamben from Bedstuy says:
Didnt thurgood Marshall bring this up in the 50's? Still relevant , I'm afraid.
Oct. 8, 2012, 10:59 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.