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Karen Braithwaite’s 4-year-old daughter, Georgia, wanted a Black Barbie-themed party for her fifth birthday.
While shopping for supplies, the 40-year-old mother from Harlem found there were no cups, tablecloths, napkins, banners or decorations for a black Barbie-themed party.

In response to her findings, Braithwaite organized an online petition on Change.org as a call-to-action for the makers of Barbie, Mattel, to diversify their line of products.

“Even though it seems like a small thing, featuring the white Barbie so prominently on the banners, cups, napkins, plates, party favors, and invitations, while relegating the ‘ethnic’ Barbies to near-invisible cameos sends a clear—and troubling—message to young girls,” the petition reads.

According to an email received by The Observer, Mattel spokesman Alan Hilowitz responded to the petition in an effort to defend the company’s efforts on diversifying its products and willing to speak with consumers on the topic.

“We work closely with various partners to develop and distribute Barbie-themed products, such as party supplies, and we will be sharing this valuable feedback with them to start conversations and evaluate the business,” Hilowitz said. “We listen carefully to our consumers and take all feedback seriously.”

The first black Barbie was introduced to stores in 1968.
In 2009, Mattel introduced its first black Barbie doll line that featured fuller lips, a wider nose and more distinctive cheek bones.

“There’s a longstanding notion that little girls of color need to have their self-image reinforced by things they see around them, and it can be really damaging to a little girl to see an image that’s so far from anything she is,” Braithwaite told The Observer.

The petition has so received more than 2,600 signatures.

By Catherine Witherspoon

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