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 A doll sits on display inside the Southfield Public Library. The display, up through the end of February, features an array of black dolls.

A doll sits on display inside the Southfield Public Library. The display, up through the end of February, features an array of black dolls.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Southfield library features black doll display

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published February 12, 2020

 Leslie Shipp, of Detroit, checks out the display Feb. 8 at the library.

Leslie Shipp, of Detroit, checks out the display Feb. 8 at the library.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

SOUTHFIELD — If you think all Barbies have blond hair and blue eyes, you haven’t seen the display at the Southfield Public Library.

Through the end of February, a display of African American Barbie dolls will be showcased in the tower lobby of the Southfield Public Library, 26000 Evergreen Road.

The display, called “Black Dolls Matter!” was curated by library employee Alan Toubeaux and features black astronauts, nurses, pilots and presidents.

“I think the big motivation for this project was the fact that, really early on, children really need to see themselves in their playthings. They need to see a vision or version of themselves — that’s how children develop and actualize their identities, is through play,” Toubeaux said. “We’re always finding that prehistoric children played with dolls or similar playthings, and dolls are really universal.”

Toubeaux said he experienced the importance of diverse dolls firsthand when the library featured a collection of his Halloween-themed dolls.

“I remember two younger girls saying, ‘I want to be that one for Halloween,’ and the other one said, ‘I want to be that one.’ That joy just sang to me,” Toubeaux said. “To make people happy that way and to give something for other people to look into and up to gave me so much joy.”

Toubeaux grew up in Detroit and said he has always been open to diversity and people with different backgrounds, but the events of 9/11 struck a chord with him.

“Shortly after 9/11, I just walked into a store, and like many people, I was feeling morose or depressed because of that time. I saw that first doll, and it happened to be a Halloween Barbie doll,” he said. “All of the sudden, I started noticing all Barbie dolls and other dolls. It pulled back my past as a child.”

Since then, Toubeaux has been collecting many different types of dolls, and he now has a collection of several hundred.

Outreach Librarian Kelly Rembert said the library is happy to celebrate Black History Month.

“The black dolls display is a great way to cross generations,” she said in an email.  “The kids are drawn to them as a toy, and the adults can explain and relate the stories behind the history of the dolls.”

For library hours or more information, go to southfieldlibrary.org.