This year the African American Museum and Library (AAMLO) at Oakland will host the annual Festival of Black Dolls Show & Sale, streaming live on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at American Black Beauty Doll Artists Facebook and YouTube Channel. Due to the pandemic this year’s show will be exclusively online. Stay up-to-date on what is going on at AAMLO through our electronic newsletter. Sign up today.
Karen Oyekanmi, in the 1980s found it difficult to find positive African American dolls for her young daughter. As a result, in 1984 she gathered a group of six like-minded women from Oakland and founded the American Black Beauty Doll Club. They recognized the importance of dolls to the socialization process. Therefore, their mission was clear: to create beautiful Black dolls to inspire, motivate, teach, and uplift children of color.
The newly formed group showcased its talents in an inaugural festival that convened in September 1985. The group has been going strong ever since. The women’s collective changed its name to the American Black Beauty Doll Artists in 2002. The African American Museum and Library at Oakland has been the venue for the show annually.
Each year the doll show and sale features a theme with a notable personality in African American history and culture. The women worked together to create Harriet Tubman, the noted escapee from slavery who returned to the south to lead hundreds of men, women, and children to freedom. The iconic heroine left the following words to remind us, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
The special guest artist for 2020 is Bakola Somide, a self-described “computer science enthusiast, speaker, author, and inventor.” She is the creator of the book series Somi Computer Science Interactive Doll. Her dolls, she admits, possess a pedagogical and motivational intent: ‘’the need to increase the number of young Black women pursuing this field.’’
Somide targets students from elementary to high school. The master doll artist notes, ‘’Bringing awareness to computer science into Black communities can inspire a new generation of programming innovation and enrich the quality of life for many Black families.’’ Somide has a nonprofit, CompSci ABC [Computer Science Awareness in Black Communities]. The organization provides storybooks targeting 7 to 11-year-old students.