AKAs welcome Sister Barbie

culture

October 12, 2008|By Harold T. Fisher | Harold T. Fisher,Special to The Baltimore Sun

She is, in a word, gorgeous. A real head-turner. From head to toe, she is perfect. Her hair, artfully coiffed in shining curls, flows past her shoulders. Her lips are plump and carefully hued with a warm pink that complements the toasted copper color of her skin. Her evening dress is a soft salmon-pink and apple-green chiffon halter.

She's a real doll. Actually, she is a doll. She is a Barbie doll, created for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. - the first college sorority founded by African-American women.

"I think the doll is beautiful. She's elegant," said Pamela Westbrooks, a member of the sorority from St. Louis, Mo. "She is the physical embodiment of all the beauty that Alpha Kappa Alpha represents."

Westbrooks stands in a group of sorority members in a hotel lobby near the Washington Convention Center. They are just a few of the more than 20,000 members attending the sorority's convention or boule this summer in the nation's capital. Several hundred of the members stood in line for hours, waiting to buy the $50 collectors' item.

Akesha Jackson, a young member from O'Fallon, Mo., waited in the long line, too.

"I love her. I think she's beautiful. I actually waited in line for her, for about two and a half hours. Yeah, and it was well worth it! I love her! And I'll get more, once I can," she said with a laugh.

The sorority was founded at Howard University in 1908 and boasts more than 200,000 members internationally. High-profile members, past and present, include civil-rights activist Coretta Scott King, actress Phylicia Rashad and singer Alicia Keys.

When the doll was unveiled at the convention, attendees exploded with cheers and applause. In a statement released for the event, AKA's international president, Barbara A. McKinzie, spoke about the impressive partnership between her organization and the toy company.

"The merging of AKA and the Mattel brands represent a union of two known icons making a powerful lasting statement," she said. "We are thrilled to introduce a Barbie doll that celebrates this exciting milestone in the sorority's history and wonderful women of AKA."

But McKinzie also pointed out a more serious contribution the doll makes. She referenced the black doll/white doll study cited in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. In the study, black children were asked which would they rather have: a black doll or a white doll. Most of the children chose the white doll.

"The bigger significance of the doll is, in addition to her beauty, it is a mirror of ourselves and our beauty. It conveys a positive statement about African-American girls," McKinzie added.

Westbrooks said, "She is beautiful in an African-American-woman way. We appreciate Mattel's attention to detail. ... We think Mattel did a good job capturing the essence of an African-American woman."

sorority doll

The Alpha Kappa Alpha doll is the first doll created for any national sorority by Mattel. The doll retails for $49.95 and will be sold in Wal-Mart stores and online at barbiecollector.com.

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