Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Living Color - the Alpha Kappa Alpha Barbie

I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I grew up looking to the examples of tremendous women who made a wonderful impact on their community, their church and their family. Of the many, many role models that I had - my Aunt Katherine may have been by far one of the clearest reasons why I understood that the women of AKA were indeed the best of the best. I am heartened that my daughter has had the privilege of growing up with "Great Aunt Katherine" - another generation that gets to admire her tremendous influence.

So, the woman who introduced my daughter to American Girls and the story of Addy, will also squeal (skee-wee, actually) to know that we are waiting anxiously for our very own AKA Barbie. Revealed at our 100th anniversary celebration at the Boule in Washington, D.C. I was just a bit surprised at the hoopla over AKA Barbie's complexion. I'm not sure why I should be surprised, but I was.

When I read blog posts and other feedback about the hue of this beautiful black woman's skin, I shook my head for the umpteenth time. Why do we feel that in order to be African American, we must somehow hit a certain hue on the color spectrum? I read a comment by a self-identified member of Delta Sigma Theta on the NPR Tell Me More site, which indicated that she looked forward to a more brown Barbie when they reach their centennial. Dear God, are we talking about adult women debating in 2008 (especially when it has nothing at all to do with them) the color of a doll designed to honor women who have dedicated 100 years to serving their community. My friends, my sorors, my sista's in general come in every shade and the debate about complexion is non-sense. This is not School Daze and Spike Lee isn't writing a narrative about undergraduate life. Don't like it, don't buy it. Can't see this as a beautiful Black doll, then it isn't for you. No discussion merited in my book, unless you are not happy with your own skin color.

I'm not blindly drinking kool-aid, there are things that I do not like about the image or stereotype of Greek letter organizations, and a myriad of actions and activities I wish were not part of our history. The whole brown bag mess has been laughable for decades in my household, where my mother - a Soror and cocoa brown woman - raised me with the values, expectations and guidance to become who I am today. When I heard my dear sorors chanting about being conceited during a taping of a NPR segment, I was saddened for my entire sisterhood. Beyond stepping and childhood chants when I was still an undergrad - my dear Sorority means so much more. Not only does it mean more to me, it means more to the millions of people who have been served by each of our members so faithfully.

I have read comments that question Christian character, leadership, dignity and blackness...all associated with coverage of 100 years of service. To then read random craziness about the color of Barbie's skin...let all of the caramel, butterscotch, vanilla, cream, and every other assortment of skin color collectively say - "Get a Life." I regret some people have been limited by the first 8 colors in their crayon box, that they have failed to embrace a life much bigger and more meaningful, then wasting time talking about is she "Black Enough." My daughter, with the smooth chocolate tones of her dad, has said only one word, "Beautiful."

Further, I'm so glad that I had the chance to be guided by an Aunt who taught Sunday School every Sunday, brought snacks for the students she tutored after she had taught all day at a different school, took care of hundreds of children each year - even though she never gave birth to one of her own, participated in every reading/mentor/make a kid better program held in our community, guided me through standardized testing when it was not a part of what everyone understood as critical to higher education, encouraged and mentored regarding every fashion woe growing up, recruited men from the far corners of the world to teach her students about health/fitness/finance and education, and all of this to say....Barbie did just fine creating a likeness for her legacy. I guess, we'll be raising daughters for the next 100 years to understand - let no one group, no one word, no one experience, no one affiliation, define you.

And yes, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has done just fine in our 100 years of service - we're more than a collection of monotone or monochrome women. I just pray that one day we'll get past the trading of stereotypes and insults, and have a bit of gratitude for those who regardless of their affiliation serve their neighborhoods, community, country, churches, shelters, libraries, schools, young women, etc. no matter what their tone.

Frankly, I'm glad I'm woman enough to recognize excellence wherever I see it. On most days...I wish their were more actions worthy of being noted as excellent, no matter who was responsible or credited for it. Congratulations, Aunt Katherine, AKA, and Mattel/Barbie...for a job well done. God help us all.

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