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Harlem Mom Calls On Mattel To Make Party Supplies Featuring A Black Barbie

Karen Braithwaite Laments Lack Of Selection, Says Company 'Can Do Better'
Karen Braithwaite and daughter Georgia (credit: (DNAinfo/Jeff Mays)

Karen Braithwaite and daughter Georgia (credit: (DNAinfo/Jeff Mays)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — She’s a Barbie girl who wanted a Barbie birthday party, but couldn’t quite find the right supplies for her big day.

Georgia Braithwaite of Harlem asked her mother, Karen, for a Barbie party theme, featuring a black Barbie for her 5th birthday. But Karen Braithwaite said she was very surprised to find out most of the supplies she needed only included a white blonde haired, blue-eyed Barbie.

Braithwaite said what little supplies she could find with a Barbie of color were “very small images of a brown-skinned Barbie and a brunette Barbie on a tablecloth, and a small set of hanging decorations.”

Braithwaite took to Change.org and YouTube to call on the maker of Barbie, Mattel, to “Offer party supplies featuring Barbies of Color.”

“Young girls of color have birthdays, and young girls of color love Barbie. So why only offer party supplies very PROMINENTLY featuring one, white Barbie?” Braithwaite wrote in her online petition. “Consumers want choices that are just as diverse as our society. The deeper issue is about the images and portrayals of women and girls of color in the media, pop culture, and their daily lives….”

Braithwaite now has more than 3,200 supporters who have signed the petition.

In an online video that was posted to YouTube featuring Braithwaite’s daughter, the young girl said she knows the items she wants for her party, including plates, cups and napkins.

“But I want them in black,” Georgia Braithwaite tells her mother on the clip.

Karen Braithwaite said in her petition that “even though it seems like a small thing,” using only images of the white Barbie on the party supplies “sends a clear–and troubling–message to young girls.”

“Is that really the message Mattel wants to send in 2013? We think Mattel can do better,” Karen Braithwaite said. “This video is about more than just my daughter’s birthday party, it’s about promoting diversity, inclusion and respect.”

Braithwaite said Mattel is already on the right track because it offers a wide selection of dolls of different races and ethnicities.

But she added “why not give young girls of color the option of seeing and celebrating that same diversity when it comes to celebrating themselves.”

In 2009, Mattel launched an entire black Barbie doll line. Harlem toy boutique owner Dawn Harris Martine said it was a step in the right direction, but that is has been a yearly battle finding diversity for her store’s collection.

“One year they came out with something called ‘basic black’ and the dolls of different shades of brown, different lengths of hair, different styles of hair and we thought ‘oh my goodness, this is it’ and the next year it was gone,” Martine told CBS 2’s Emily Smith.

In Mattel’s defense, Martine said Barbie does represent 45 different nationalities sold in 150 countries. A Mattel company spokesperson sent CBS 2 a statement saying:

“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. We listen carefully to our consumers and take all feedback seriously.”

What do you think of the petition? How do you think Mattel will respond? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

Image of Braithwaite and daughter fromĀ DNAinfo.com