Annual Black Baby Doll Drive Celebrates 20 Years

October 27, 2016

Mary Baldwin University senior Kausha Parrish no longer plays with dolls, but she still remembers her first black baby doll and she knows the impact it had on her life.

“As a child looking at my black baby doll, Coretta Scott, named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife, I felt like she was powerful, and because of that, I knew I could be powerful,” Parrish said.

Mary Baldwin students gather baby dolls for local African-American girls in 2006. The Black Baby Doll Drive at MBU is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Mary Baldwin students gather baby dolls for local African-American girls in 2006. The Black Baby Doll Drive at MBU is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Mary Baldwin’s office of Inclusive Excellence will be collecting African-American dolls for children in the surrounding areas as part of its annual Black Baby Doll Drive through December 1.

The Black Baby Doll Drive at MBU began in 1996 with the leadership of Vashti Colson, the first president of Black Student Alliance on campus. Black Baby Doll Day was the first civic engagement project shared by the Office of African-American Affairs and the Black Student Alliance and it was later adopted by the Office of Inclusive Excellence, Ida B. Wells and PERSIST. The African-American community at Mary Baldwin has sponsored the event ever since.

Parrish decided to get involved with Black Baby Doll Day after she realized the joy and self-esteem it brought to local girls. As one of the students involved in the planning of the event, she hopes to bring awareness and mindfulness to the meaning behind the day.

Last year, MBU collected more than 200 dolls to distribute. This year the students hope to gather even more, striving to reach as many children in the community as possible.

Students plan to give the dolls to local agencies and, in some cases, directly to children December 3 and offer self-esteem workshops for the girls on campus.

“It represents for us a continuity of purpose to foster and develop the positive self-esteem and self-worth of African-American women and girls,” said Andrea Cornett-Scott, vice president of inclusive excellence. “Studies show that there is a clear relationship between the possession of healthy cultural self-esteem and academic achievement.”

Freshmen are charged with collecting dolls from the community and finding stores that will donate dolls, taking precaution when selecting dolls: those with tattoos, piercings, makeup, and inappropriate clothes are automatically disqualified. The goal is for the dolls to represent the facial features of real African-American young girls and women.

The Office of Inclusive Excellence hopes to see this tradition positively affect young girls’ lives for many more years to come.

“The African American community at Mary Baldwin has discovered that participating in Black Baby Doll Day each year not only makes an impact on the young girls who are recipients of the dolls,” said Cornett-Scott, “but also gives us the opportunity to stop and consider who we are as black women in all of our wondrous and complex variation.

By Erica Haynes ’17