things that matter

The Black Doll Project Gives Black Children Dolls That Reflect Them And Show Them They’re Beautiful

Clarivel Ruiz doesn’t recall ever having a black doll in her childhood home in the Bronx. Rather, the dolls she played with were Barbies with blonde hair, fair skin, and an impossibly petite body shape – features that Ruiz, the daughter of Afro-Dominican immigrants, struggled to identify with.

“Years later, I found the dolls in a shoebox and I thought, ‘This is what I played with,’” Ruiz tells mitú in a tone of disbelief. “They were great memories, but at the same time, how was I representing myself?”

In the 1980s, Ruiz had few Afro-Latino role models in whom she could see herself. Black Latinos were nowhere to be seen in the media (much like it is today) and her parents refused to identify as black.

Studies have shown that exposure to underrepresentation and stereotypes in the media can reduce the self-esteem of black youth.

Black Box full of Black Joy!!!! Black Doll Project. This box was sent from Boston by Mirlande Murillo with a group of people who donated to this cause. I am forever grateful to their generosity and kindness. We will never meet the children these dolls are going to yet I know we will be linked, connected spiritually like we all are in their Joy will exalt us all. Bit by bit we are dismantling internalized oppression and the systems that instilled this into our cultural framework. Bit by bit we are creating a new paradigm. Please consider donating to the cause. New drop site in Washington Heights!!! Whooo hooo. Drop sites: Bailey’s Cafe 324 Malcolm X Boulevard Brooklyn, New York 11233 (BedStuy) Cumbe Center For African and Diaspora Dance 1368 Fulton Street Brooklyn, NY 11216 (BedStuy) Dominican Women’s Development Center 715 West 179th Street crn of Fort Washington New York, NY The Field 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 906 New York, New York 10038 (Lower Manhattan) City Workshop Men’s Supply Co 271 Main Street West Orange, NJ 07052 or you can mail it directly to me. Message me! @culturepusher #dominicanslovehaitians #haiti #dominicanrepublic #puertorico #caribbean #arawak #dismantlingoppression #decolonize

A post shared by Clarivel Ruiz (@dominicanslovehaitiansmovement) on

In Ruiz’s case, she distanced herself from her African heritage and adopted Eurocentric beauty standards, dreaming as a teenager of one day marrying a white man with blue eyes and black hair. Ruiz also recounts the emotional sting she felt when her lighter-skinned sister would call her “negra,” the Spanish word for black woman that can be considered a term of endearment, but which her sister used as an insult.

Today a professor, artist, and activist, Ruiz sees that the racial stigmas she experienced as an Afro-Latino child persist in a new generation of black youth. Her niece, for example, started to question the beauty of her black features two years ago and one of her students confided in her that a relative was picked on in school for her dark skin color.

For this reason, she started the Black Doll Project, a grassroots initiative that plans to send 1,000 black dolls to girls and boys in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico.

This is why Black Doll Project is so vitally important so that each and everyone one of us is represented while growing up. Please consider donating a doll. #Repost @marti.belle (@get_repost) ・・・ Guys, this is the first doll I’ve ever seen that looks “just like me”. When I was little I played with blonde barbies and had Teresa, who had dark hair. Seeing this Barbie made my day!!!! Now I am on the hunt to find one for myself. ? Está es la primera vez que veo una Barbie que se parezca tanto a mi. Cuando era chiquita jugaba on Barbies rubias, y tenía una llamada Teresa que tenía el pelo oscuro. Viendo esta muñeca así con el pelo como el mío me hizo el día. Ahora la tengo que encontrar! #MartiBelle #AfroLatina #YoSoy #pelonatural #afrocaribbean #afrocaribeña #NaturalHair #peloafro #pelocrespo

A post shared by Clarivel Ruiz (@dominicanslovehaitiansmovement) on

“Our children need to see their beauty and strength represented in the toys they play with,” Ruiz wrote on an Instagram post.

On social media, Ruiz has called on her followers and fellow community members to donate black dolls to the project along with a note of affirmation. The project has so far elicited positive responses from her followers and donations of every doll type, from dark-skinned plush dolls, to Barbies with afros, to figurines of the Disney princess Tiana.

The effects dolls have on childhood development is still up for debate, but studies have shown children become aware of racist bias at a young age and can express those internalized narratives via dolls. In perhaps the most famous doll experiment conducted so far, educational psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark presented black children with one dark-skinned and one fair-skinned doll. In these studies from the 1930s and 1940s, the Clarks asked the children a series of questions, including which doll was the nice one, the one they’d like to play with, and the one with the nice skin color. The majority of black children consistently preferred the white doll. The Kenneth and Mamie doll experiments have recently been recreated in the Dominican Republic and showed similar results.

Ruiz believes playtime with black dolls can create a space for Afro-Latino children to unravel and unlearn the harmful stereotypes they have internalized about blackness.

Consider donating a doll today. The magic of giving! #dominicanslovehaitians #blackdollproject #blackisbeautiful

A post shared by Clarivel Ruiz (@dominicanslovehaitiansmovement) on

“I really think it’s about facilitating conversations, so we can hear what they have to say,” Ruiz said. “It’s about listening to the stories they’ve collected and then for those narratives to disappear, so that they can create new narratives for themselves about who they are.”

More broadly, her project seeks to undo a colonized mindset she says is also prevalent in the Caribbean. She has set to tackle this issue with her Brooklyn-based organization, the Dominicans Love Haitians Movement. In the Dominican Republic, most people have some African heritage, yet a very small percentage — about 4.13 percent — of the Caribbean country’s population identify as black. Instead, most prefer to claim their indigenous roots, a stance that reveals the Caribbean country’s long history of anti-blackness that persists today.

The racial stigma is felt in every corner of Dominican society, from the school systems, to museums, to beauty parlors. In beauty salons, stylists are trained to transform thick, tight coils of hair thought of as “pelo malo” to straight strands considered “pelo bueno.” Angela Abreu, who is Afro-Dominican, donated two afro-donning Barbies to the Black Doll Project to challenge beauty standards that hold Eurocentric physical features above black ones.

She explains that within her family, relatives had determined that her cousin’s four-year-old daughter’s curls were “nappy and needing fixing”. Abreu responded to the slew of racist comments by gifting the girl a black doll in hopes that she could “see herself as a beautiful black girl and with that attempt to silence those who make these comments that affect her self-worth and self-esteem.”

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with being black and that is the message I hope is conveyed when little girls in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Puerto Rico hold a black doll,” Abreu said. “Black is beautiful.”

To donate a doll to the Black Doll Project, drop-off sites are:

Bailey’s Cafe (Bed Stuy)
324 Malcolm X Blvd.
Brooklyn, New York 11233

Dominican Women’s Development Center
715 West 179th St.
Corner of Fort Washington
New York, NY

The Field (Lower Manhattan)
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 906
New York, New York 10038

City Workshop Men’s Supply Co.
271 Main Street
West Orange, NJ 07052

Or you can mail dolls to:

Clarivel Ruiz
Boricua College
9 Graham Ave. Room 310
Brooklyn, NY 11206-4108

READ: This Afro-Latina Artist Is Inspired By Her Daughter To Create Art That Shows The Beauty Of Black Women

Share this story with friends and help get more black dolls in the hands of kids!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at

10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself


10 Empowering Songs By Afro-Latinas About Loving Yourself

It’s Black History Month, a time to uplift and celebrate the historic events and people of African descent who have contributed to culture, achieved excellence and sparked social and political change. But it’s also a moment for reflection, of honestly evaluating how much — and how little — has changed for the African diaspora throughout the US, Latin America and beyond.

Confronting the everyday violence, discrimination, disadvantages and inequality Black individuals have and continue to endure, while necessary, could be enraging and upsetting, and makes self-care practices all the more necessary.

This year, whether you’re celebrating the beauty, resilience and magia of blackness with a Black History Month party or well-deserved care day, music can always add to the occasion. Here, a mix of Spanish and English songs by Afro-Latinas and for Black women that unapologetically declare self-love and engage in self-worship to add to any Black joy playlist for the month of February and all the days that follow it.

1. Celebrate being a daughter of “La Diaspora” with Nitty Scott.

When the Afro-Boricua rapper dropped Creature in 2017, she gifted Black women, particularly Black Latinx femmes, with a full project that saw, understood and exalted their existence. None of the bangers on the LP did this as intentionally as the song and short film “La Diaspora.”

2. Make your voice and joy heard with Christina Milian’s “Say I”

When the cubana teamed with Young Jeezy to drop this 2009 bop, she encouraged women to “do what you want to do. Don’t let nobody tell you what you’re supposed to do.” And that’s some pretty liberating ishh.

3. Some might call you “CRZY,” but Kehlani wants you to embrace the term.

Confidently dancing to the beat of your own drum, especially as a woman of color, is neither expected nor welcomed, largely because it makes it more difficult for white supremacy to thrive. With “CRZY,” the part-Mexican R&B songstress encourages femmes to embrace and reclaim the slights people throw at you for being a radiant, go-getting mami.

4. And Calma Carmona’s “I Got Life” shows that there is so much to be joyous about.

In her Spanglish rendition of Nina Simone’s “I Ain’t Got No … I Got Life,” the Puerto Rican soul singer declares all the beauty she has, from her voice, to her hair, to her smile to her life, in a world that told her she has nothing.

5. Something else you have: “Tumbao.”

In la reina de salsa’s multi-generational hit “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” the late cubana Celia Cruz reminds Black women of that unfading, indescribable, swing and swag that Black women carry with them in every space they occupy.

6. Prefer an English joint? Cardi B will also remind you how “Bad” you are.

With “She Bad,” featuring YG, the Dominican-Trinidadian rapper engages in self-worship and encourages other Black women to feel themselves and own their sexuality without apprehension or apologies.

7. ‘Cause Like Maluca told you, you’re “la mami del block.”

In the Dominican singer-rapper’s mega bop “El Tigeraso,” Maluca makes the indisputable claim that Afro-Latinas have it all: “tengo fly, tengo party, tengo una sabrosura.”

8. And like Farina says, not everyone is deserving of your greatness.

In “la nena fina’s” urbano-pop jam “Mucho Pa’ Ti,” the colombiana raps what everyone knows: She, and you, are too much — too poppin’, too powerful, too radiant — for the unworthy.

9. Now that you’re reminded of who you are, enter every space like Melii walked into the club in her music video for “Icey.”

With sparkly, high-heeled white boots, a laced v-neck bodysuit, some tiny red shades and confidence that entraps you, dominicana-cubana Melii knows her value — as a woman and an artist — and watching or listening to how self-assured she is will undoubtedly rub off on you.

10. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re a “Million Dollar Girl” like Trina.

Like the Dominican-Bahamian rapper, alongside Keri Hilson and Diddy, told you in 2010: “Baby if I want it, I got it / ‘Cause I’ll be gettin’ some more / ‘Cause I’m a million dollar girl, for sure.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at

Barbie Unveils New Dolls That Use Wheelchairs And Prosthetic Limbs


Barbie Unveils New Dolls That Use Wheelchairs And Prosthetic Limbs

Since Barbie originally hit shelves back on March 9, 1959, the doll everyone has come to love has evolved and changed with the times. From the zebra striped swimsuit wearing doll to a chef, a doctor, an Olympian. Soon enough fans of the brand were able to access Barbies of different races and body types after a public push for diversity and criticism that the “perfect” doll promoted an unrealistic body type for girls. After the groundbreaking launch to further diversify the brand behind the doll, Mattel, has collaborated with a thirteen-year-old disabled activist Jordan Reeves. The teen was born without a forearm and has worked with Mattel to introduce dolls that are disabled.

For the first time, young disabled children will get to play with Barbie dolls who have realistic wheelchairs similar to theirs and have accurate prosthetic limbs as well.

Credit: Instagram/ @barbie

The overall response from the disabled community has been praising Mattel for creating an accurate representation for their Barbie brand. That is not only important for the world to see, especially when so many other companies have failed to show disabled people correctly because of their unwillingness to work with disabled people in production. Mattel has listened to disabled people begging for dolls that look like them and made the effort to work with disabled people to create the most authentic disabled doll as possible. These new disabled dolls have made many adults in the disabled community reminisce of their childhood when they dreamed of seeing a doll like them using mobility aids or missing limbs. And are excited to purchase the disabled Barbie doll to fulfill their childhood dreams. And speaking of dreams, along with the Barbie doll having an accurate wheelchair, Mattel is also including a Barbie DreamHouse-compatible ramp!

Guess the Barbie world knows the importance of being accessible and ADA compliant.

While most are celebrating, the disabled community had some well deserved constructive criticism of the new dolls.

One of the biggest constructive criticisms is the lack of diverse bodies, races, and ethnicities for the disabled Barbie dolls. It’s been widely known (thanks to the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite) that when disability representation is given, it’s usually only shown as a white, slim disabled person, which is only a small fraction of what disabled people look like. Many people of color who are disabled and disabled allies have praised Mattel for the dolls but hopes more disabled dolls will be released who are multiple sizes, multiple races, and multiple ethnicities. Along with expanding the range of disability with Barbie dolls who use canes, walkers or wear braces on their ankles.

As for myself, I’m excited that these disabled dolls, though long overdue, are finally going to exist.

Courtesy of Andrea Lausell

I couldn’t help but reminisce as others have done, about my childhood with Barbie. As far back as I can remember, my ride or die when I was a little girl were Barbie dolls. Almost the way Angelica’s relationship towards her Cynthia doll was in Rugrats. The Teresa Barbie doll was my “Cynthia” and meant the world to me because for the first time, I was playing with a doll that looked like my family, Latinx. Teresa (oddly enough my sister has the same name) looked like my sister and therefore she felt like family. I even pretend she was bilingual like myself, went on many adventures with her, and confided in her through difficult times I would have. She was my best friend but as a child, I felt only half of a connection with her. Teresa wasn’t disabled, she didn’t use an aid or had multiple scars like me. And never in my life did I think there would be any doll, let alone a Barbie doll who would match my disabled body.

My hope along with the hope many of those in the disabled community have is that Mattel’s wheelchair and prosthetic using disabled Barbie dolls are the start of a revolution for children’s toys. Toys, especially dolls have been where kids learn about friendships, relationships and how to get along with those who are different from them. They learn to use their imagination and build compassion for others. By having accurate disabled dolls, it’s not only showing kids in general that there’s nothing wrong with disability, but it is also showing disabled kids that they’re normal and beautiful like their abled peers and their abled dolls. These disabled Barbie dolls are great companions for any disabled child and would be greater if they start making diverse disabled Barbie dolls with many types of disabilities, mobility aids and even adding scars to the dolls. Hopefully, this will make other toy companies begin to have disability in mind when creating new toys. Mattel’s new disabled Barbie dolls will be life-changing for so many disabled kids who want to have a companion who knows what they’re going through and get them through anything life throws at them the way my Teresa Barbie was for me.

Read: In New York, Queer Latina Tiffany Cabán Wants To Bring ‘Genuine Justice’ To The Queens District Attorney’s Office

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below! 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *