On coloring books & the invisibility of little black kids.

When I was a very little girl, my aunt and uncle had three kids in quick succession, the last of whom came home in a special way, and he never did look very much like his brother and sister.

Like his brother and sister, that cousin never writes enough; like his brother and sister, I wish he lived closer. Unlike his brother and sister, he’s black.

So at a very young age, I was witness to an entire family of white people searching for ways to affirm and support my young cousin’s sense of himself as an African-American.

His parents bought him black baby dolls, and our grandma, Queenie, made him a black Raggedy Andy. There were subscriptions to Ebony and what I think was Jet, Jr Ebony, Jr. (thanks, @ampalm!) floating around the living room. There were books and friends and conversations held, and an overall, general awareness that being family meant helping everyone in the family be their best selves.

But the things was, this process made me painfully aware of how little there was available for black kids that actually reflected them back. Queenie made that doll not just because she was a wonderful craftswoman, but also because there were none on the market.

One would think we would have improved a bit more by now.

We kind of haven’t.

It’s still pretty hard to find black dolls that look like actual black people, for instance, and if they’re girl dolls, they almost always have very straight hair. We all know the situation on network television wherein black actors who aren’t Bill Cosby (or starring in A Black Show Marketed To Black People) are ever and nearly only The Friend (likely sassy and/or wise) or you’re non-existent. And there’s stuff as simple as language — I went on a rant once about the use of the word “nude” (it’s kind of a funny rant, and involves pictures of things like fascinators, so go ahead and click. Management promises you won’t be sorry!).

And then there’s coloring books.

A couple of years ago I was printing out coloring pages for the wee ones at our block party, and wow. Unless it was Kwanzaa or church-themed, I found literally not a single coloring page that featured black kids. It finally dawned on me to try Disney, since they’d just released The Princess and the Frog, and that kind of saved the day. But I’m here to tell you, it pissed me the hell off. Coloring books, people! How hard can it be?

SO. When I learned this weekend that an extremely talented young artist named Miss Gee has launched a Kickstarter campaign to try to fund the production of a truly gorgeous coloring book featuring little girls of color, I got kind of excited! She did the first few drawings for her little girl (the appropriately named Miss Zee), realized the potential, priced out the printing costs, and she needs $5000.

The beauty part of Kickstarter is two-fold: 1) You can give as little as a couple of bucks to the campaign you want to support, and 2) if the campaign doesn’t reach its monetary goal, your money stays right in your pocket. The Kickstart-er only receives the funds if the goal is reached.

AND SO.

Please, please: Click through to see Miss Gee’s delightful artwork and watch the brief video in which she describes the project. If you have $5 or $25 or $50 to help her out, please do! And either way, please also pass the word on. She’s not quite half-way to her goal, and she only has another 12 days to make it. I would really hate to see this lovely project fail for a lack of a measly (as of this writing) $2,668.

It might seem like a really small thing, this idea of not seeing yourself in coloring books. But when you’re little you absorb everything — and if you’re invisible, you absorb that.

Please help Miss Gee!

7 Comments

  1. aaron singer

     /  July 23, 2012

    I responded to you on twitter about this, only to realize you meant the lack of POC in coloring books, and not the lack of POC for your block party. Oops.

    • Heh! I think I didn’t even see that. Someone else thought I’d written that we’d had a “black” party. I was apparently far more confusing than I thought! ; )

  2. You know, this is great for me–it raises my awareness. I think sometimes “Well, it’s enough that I know this is an issue,” but really, it’s about pushing for change so others start to see POC around them.

    Thanks for all you do, Em.

  3. Thank you for posting about this! At the boarding school where I teach, I work on the freshman girls’ dorm and often bring coloring books for a little dorm function after study hall and before they go to bed (a huge hit—teenagers love coloring, too!). I signed up for the Kickstarter and shared the link. Now I’m hoping that it gets funded so that I can add that book to my collection. Thanks again for sharing, as I probably wouldn’t have known about this project without reading about it here.🙂

  4. zenobiajo

     /  July 24, 2012

    As always, thanks for this!

  5. baiskeli

     /  July 25, 2012

    Thank you for posting this here and in the TNC OTAN.

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