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a history of dolls

February 5, 2008

... when Kiri was in pre-kindergarten, enjoying the tales of Cinderella and Snow White, she once said out loud at school that she wanted to be a princess, too.

A little friend, a Hispanic boy, quickly dispelled her dream. He told her she couldn’t be a princess because she was Black and that only White girls were princesses.

— New ‘doll test’ produces ugly results, Baltimore Times | August 16, 2006

Kiri Davis grew up to be a director at the age of 16. Her documentary, A Girl Like Me, won the Diversity Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival in 2005. The story she tells crosses borders, features her powerful interviews with schoolmates about beauty, racism and self-image, and draws from a historic experiment that showed the damage of segregation, then jumps to the present day, revealing that the hard lesson revealed many years ago seems to still be alive for too many Black children. Not bad for 8 minutes.

During Black History Month, it's worth remembering Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s doll study, which was used in the historic desegregation case, Brown vs. Board of Education in the United States. According to Kiri Davis, “I thought that by including this experiment in my film, I would shed new light on how society affects black children today and how little has actually changed.”

As the Yahoo link below demonstrates, Canadian women and girls deal with the same kind of damaging messages.

What can we do to change this?


A Girl Like Me, Media That Matters Film Festival
Beautiful ... for a black girl?, Yahoo Canada Answers “Why do I have to be pretty for a "black girl"? Why can't I just be a pretty girl?”| January 31, 2008
Black History 101, “To kick off Black History Month, EYE WEEKLY invited black Canadians from a variety of disciplines – from hip-hop to filmmaking, poetry to politics – to imagine themselves as guest lecturers. We’ve collected their course outlines, their reading lists and, yes, their homework assignments to give you the lessons you never learned in class.” | January 30, 2008
Kenneth Clark, “African American psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark was an early civil rights leader who used social science to combat racial segregation.”
Kiri Davis, official website
New ‘doll test’ produces ugly results, by HAZEL TRICE EDNEY, Baltimore Times | August 16, 2006


  • Seasonal Feature

  • April 1994: the night raid at Kingston’s Prison for Women

    by Sierra Bacquie

    There was supposed to be a new approach to the Correctional Service of Canada’s relationship to female offenders, who were promised responsible choices, respect, dignity, supportive environments, and shared responsibility. But on the night of April 26, eight women experienced humiliation, degradation, raw fear and trauma at the hands of an all-male emergency team. How did this happen? What has changed since?  read more