A Celebration of Black Identity Toys

Article excerpt

THE bounty of toys for Black children reflects a growing sensitivity to cultural diversity and the growing strength of Black consumers in the $13.13 billion toy market. The 1991 toy collection provides an excellent opportunity for Black children to enjoy superheroes, celebrity figures, educational games and dolls with Black features and skin tones.

With full lips and noses and a variety of skin tones, the Shani doll by Mattel Toys exhibits the strength, beauty and attributes of her Swahili name, which means "marvelous."

The emergence of Shani and her friends, Nichelle and Asha, is important because children learn a lot about values and self-esteem from playing with dolls, says Dr. Darlene Powell Hopson, a Middlefield, Conn., psychologist and consultant to Mattel for Shani.

While Black dolls have been mass marketed to some degree since the 1960s, Shani and the new Black-manufactured dolls are generally more authentic and have a greater ability to enhance self-esteem and racial identity, says Dr. Hopson, who, with her psychologist husband, Dr. Derek Hopson, wrote the book Different And Wonderful, a guide to raising Black children in a race-conscious society.

Parents agree. For Black children to have toys that look like they look is to validate that it's OK to be a Black person in this country and be successful," says Daisy Cobbins, a Jackson, Miss., mother and a board member of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers.

Black versions of longtime favorite baby dolls can be found on many toy store shelves. Mattel's Happy Holidays Barbie is be jeweled and dressed in velvet. Children can also change the diapers of Black versions of Kenner's Baby Alive, Hasbro's Cabbage Patch Kids and Fisher-Price's Puffalump Kids.

If your child thrives on the extraordinary, he or she might enjoy dolls in the image of some of their favorite celebrities. Mattel's M.C. Hammer replica comes in his classic baggy pants. …