“Dolls come in every hue, bring a doll that looks like you.” For three years, this has been the tagline of Bring Out The Dolls in South Fulton, an annual event held by Councilwoman Carmalitha Gumbs and AIME Founder Tracy Rolle.
The mission of the event has been to collect diverse dolls that help the recipients to develop and affirm a positive self-image. This week, that mission came to life when the young woman who inspired Bring Out The Dolls visited South Fulton to be honored with a proclamation from the city.
Six years ago at the age of 12, Vanessa VanDyke made national news when she was not only bullied for her natural hair, but threatened with expulsion if she refused to cut it. School officials called her hair a “distraction.”
VanDyke fought back, and support poured in from all over the world.
“I went through something where I was told that I wasn’t okay the way that I was, but I said no,” said VanDyke, now a matriculating freshman at Spelman College.
Her story not only contributed to the the national dialogue about natural hair, but also inspired a unique toy drive effort in multiple cities in the U.S. and in Africa. For several years now since VanDyke went public with her story, elected officials, community leaders and various organizations have rallied to make sure that girls of color receive dolls that look like them during the holiday season.
According to psychologists, because dolls are often the first and favorite toys for young girls, they can have a significant influence on their self image and the fostering of self-love. Additionally, research shows that when any child receives a doll of color, it can help them to begin to learn to negotiate racial identity and form a well-rounded worldview.
At this year’s Bring Out The Dolls event at St. James Live!, Councilwoman Gumbs presented VanDyke with a proclamation on behalf of the City of South Fulton, honoring her for her courage and living her truth. Gumbs said that “her legacy and impact will be witnessed for years to come.”
This year’s event benefited the Social Justice Cafe for Girls, an organization that provides a safe space to address issues that impact girls. Hundreds of dolls were donated by area residents and sponsors.
“Each year, this event continues to outweigh my expectations,” Counciwoman Gumbs said. “The overwhelming response from our community really melts my heart and sets the tone for the holiday season of giving.”