Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Comprehensive Digest for My Experimental Memoir Writing Series in Social Media🙏🏾


Comprehensive Digest for my experimental memoir writing series in social media posted on Facebook, spanning a decade, and in 2022 and 2023, culminating in a "reality series" about my life story focused on memories from my college years with flashbacks to high school, including a yearlong reflection on my life as a college student at Spelman at age 21.  The vignettes focus on my relationship with my high school boyfriend, "my Crush," and my friendships with my Brotherhood of 3 male friends, all of whom recur as "characters," along with several of my female friends. They are complemented by photo collages and recurrently draw on the body of poetry that I produced as a teen, along with excerpts from my journal, which I first began at age 11 and have maintained since age 15, and now spans 20 volumes.  I’m so so thankful to have finally completed this experimental writing series in social media, and feel very blessed to have lived it and for the foundations that it provided on my path in life.  I've appreciated the encouragement from the audience and am thankful for the impact that my series of stories made on its readers and followers and for the rich feedback, comments and reflections that they shared along the way, and for their patience as "episodes" were released.  Over the years, I’ve also produced an extensive archive of life writing via Facebook in tens of thousands of words that I've written over time totaling several hundred thousand, that will be useful to draw on and build upon for my books and various projects, for which I’m thankful. Hallelujah and all glory to God! #LivingTestimony ✝️🙏🏾❤️☮️🕊🌷

Boyfriend post, June 13, 2013
Boyfriend post, June 13, 2013
The Counterfeit, October 5, 2018
Pen Pal, October 8, 2018
#TBTPart1, September 17, 2020
#TBTPart2, September 17, 2020
June 16, 2021
Brotherhood post, July 25, 2021
My Crush, #Part1, September 19, 2021
A Living Testimony, #Part2, September 19, 2021

Part 1 of 3, Before Entering the Real World, February 2, 2022
Part 2 of 3, Gearing Up to Take the Jump Out into the Real World, February 2, 2022
Part 3 of 3, Toxicity I Encountered without Realizing It Entering the Real World, February 2, 2022

College Freshman, June 13, 2022
#TheJam, November 13, 2022
“At age 16. . . “ November 21, 2022

2022 First Social Media “Reality Series” from My Experimental Casual Memoir Writing

Prelude, June 24, 2022
Part 1 of 3: #BlindDate1, June 25, 2022
Part 2 of 3: #FriendsandFun , June 26, 2022
Part 3 of 3: #BlindDate2, June 27, 2022

2023 Final Social Media “Reality Series” from My Experimental Casual Memoir Writing

Introductory Post of the Finale focused on Age 21:  December 9, 2022
#Prelude1of2 to 2-Part Post Series Finale, “Entry from my journal written at age 17, on May 31, 1988,” May 16, 2023
#Prelude2of2, May 19, 2023
#BonusPrelude3: "The Midnight Movie That Wasn’t," June 27, 2023

Finale Part 1 of 3:#MemoriesfromAge21, “My Brotherhood and ‘The Law’”(their nickname for me), July 14, 2023
Finale Part 2 of 3 :#MemoriesfromAge21, “Holiday Fun at Age 21,” August 2, 2023
Finale Part 3 of 3, first part: #MemoriesfromAge21, “Back to My Crush, Another Movie That Wasn’t, and Other Experiences from Senior Year of College,” September 25, 2023
Finale Part 3 of 3, second part:#MemoriesfromAge21, “Back to My Crush, Another Movie That Wasn’t, and Other Experiences from Senior Year of College,” October 19, 2023
Epilogue on Series, December 4, 2023 
Reflection on Series, December 31, 2023

Friday, July 28, 2023

On Barbie

In the Barbie toy marketplace, and as someone who has observed its dynamics over the past decade, watched videos and built a mint collection of the ones I was interested in, to complement the ones I still have spanning back to my childhood, I’ve found it interesting and paradoxical that among some white collectors, the most prized Barbies, including for their beauty, are actually the black ones, which are far rarer and have largely been bought up and removed from the public domain. This is a very mystifying market in which the white vintage version of a doll can go for $50 or less while the same black one might be priced at nearly a thousand dollars. In that context, it astonishes me, too, to see an ongoing stream of numerous accessories that can also fetch quite a price as well, whether random clothing items, shoes, combs, or “jewelry,” and all manner of ephemera, which most girls from their time, including all of my Barbie playmates from childhood, would immediately be able to connect to the Barbie doll they originally came from, whether they had ever actually owned that doll or not. You see that hat, and know it came from Western Barbie. Those pink boots, and know it was Fashion Jeans. 

The Barbie accessory visual arena is extremely expansive and recognizable down to a hairpin for those most familiar with it, to the point of even being able to name the year it was manufactured! JUST ONE plastic fake rhinestone Barbie “diamond” ring (half the size of a rice grain) is on average worth $25 nowadays, so even Barbie bling is nothing to sneer at. The littlest accessory has high market values, so throwing any of it away can bring regrets like those of folks who let go of GI Joe. Even if she donated other types of toys, my grandmother loved and kept all of our dolls, viewed them as being far more personal and sentimental, and so would never have gotten rid of or given away any belonging to me, my mother, aunt or cousins. The girls I played with in childhood Liletta and Tiffany had mostly black Barbie dolls, and so did I, cherish memories of those times, and are also the product of family and social networks in which girls played with dolls and had playdates revolving around them, as well as activities like Girl Scouts. As I’ve said in the past, Barbie is a thematic anchor in my art studio because sewing, knitting and crocheting clothing for my dolls and furnishings for my doll houses was a vital pathway to art, as well as for conceptualizing and actualizing many dreams in general. 

In a culture in which colonialism, imperialism and slavery were the basis, the outcome and consequence will definitely be one in which people of African descent engage in a multiplicity of forms of cultural expression, and love and learn from a variety of cultural resources, just in being and becoming more fully human in a world premised on their oppression and dehumanization. They really don’t need to be bullied about their hairstyle choices and cultural tastes when and if they don’t conform to any and all perceived “black” cultural aesthetics and expectations. In the past, most black people, living in a white-centered and -dominated culture, had to cultivate strategies for finding themselves in and learning from a range of types of music and cultural productions. A world in which black representation and accessibility have thankfully expanded has never foreclosed their ability to do that. I LOVE and have learned some of my most cherished life lessons from films from Grease to Coal Miner’s Daughter, which I first saw in childhood, love The Carpenters, was also a Bon Jovi fan, and still watch The Lawrence Welk Show weekly for its staging and artistry. Joel Osteen’s sermons have ended every Sunday evening for me for the past 20 years, and have been valuable and inspiring for me as well as many black people I know, especially here in the South.
Years ago, given that Mattel reached the manufacturing milestone of producing enough Barbies that could reach to the moon, concerns I’d have are mainly environmental if any owing to the proliferation of plastics on the planet. Many women watch and support male-centered events like the Super Bowl on an annual basis, while NEVER having the reciprocal support in relationships with their husbands and significant others in moments when they are excited about seeing the Oscars or various chic flicks, which can be a signpost of serious selfishness and narcissism. It’s even worse when this still patriarchal and misogynistic culture enables potshots at things that women are enjoying and celebrating. I especially couldn’t care less about what some men have to say about the Barbie fest or what they think, and the cultural critiques ring hollow, too, especially after taking a break from celebrating Marvel’s newest black action films and figures marketed to black boys within a franchise that has also long ignored and excluded black people. I actually find most men who would celebrate and advocate for mutilating or harming Barbie dolls to be as questionable as types potentially capable of forms of animal cruelty and worse. What happens out in the world is one thing, but as for me, the man for me will definitely be the type not only who shares my values, but who supports and encourages what makes me happy, rather than putting down those interests.
It’s about time this film finally came out given generations of girls spanning over 60 years who have played with Barbie, and it has been interesting and inspiring to see highlights from posts of those of all ages who are attending the screenings. I’ve also learned a lot from reading the various articles, including various political issues and cultural responses, which are also interesting as someone who has more casually written about and researched this topic myself. I’m inspired that the public is discovering lessons I learned a few years ago about how much it can help and heal to reconnect to things we once loved as children. At the height of the pandemic, I found that the process of restoring Barbie dolls though hair rerooting was actually one of the best ways to grapple with and reflect on forms of brokenness, as well as lessons on good stewardwardship of one’s dreams and blessings in life. In my domain as an artist and scholar, I’ve been blessed to have the original Superstar Christie, whose going rate on the market since back then has moved to over $1,400, and many others. My dolls are my blessing and my business.🙏🏾❤️

Sunday, April 30, 2023

My Barbie Dreamhouse Art Inspiration and Installation

  In the past, I’ve mentioned my favorite toys during early childhood, beginning with the Playskool McDonald’s restaurant. This was the era when the sign at the restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama on Madison Avenue, as I recollect, said “90 million served.” The three-dimensional round sign in the shape of a bucket in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken nearby also always caught my eye and was another most captivating and interesting image in that area, where trips to the bank and either the Winn Dixie or Big Bear grocery store were often part of my grandparents’ Friday evening routine. Alongside my “McDonald cars,” as I referred to the toy restaurant, I could get lost for hours building and playing with my beloved Puzzle Town, which I set up alongside it, and blended all of it into a world that encamped around the house, from the foot of my grandparents’ bed to the lid of my grandmother’s trunk. Sometimes, I’d take some of the pieces out on the porch. Everything from match boxes to bottle caps to game pegs ended up amidst its accoutrements, which were endlessly captivating to me. I had many other games and toys, but these were my favorites of all, the first of what I think of as “cardboard contraptions” into which I put time and creative energy from my early childhood. 

 By age 10, the year that I received Golden Dream Christie for Christmas, I began to direct a lot of creative energy into crocheting and sewing clothes for her and dolls that I got thereafter, and building up my dollhouse world, for which I’d make all the bedding and furnishings. My main playmate was my friend Liletta, whom I first met when she was four and I was five, on a night her mom came by, and I took her to see the aforementioned encampment spread across my grandmother’s trunk. We’d play with our Barbie dolls for hours on end, play sessions that always began with us sharing the latest things we’d made for them, and updates on the latest developments in the plots that were unfolding. At first, I improvised a room and closet for my Golden Dream Christie doll with the Golden Dream fashion trunk that I received along with her, and otherwise made do with the Sunshine Family dollhouse that my uncle and his wife, my aunt, had bought me during my early childhood; without the roof, which I could never get to fit on well without leaning, it served the purpose.  Like my McDonalds/Puzzle Town in the past, and until I got larger ones like the Barbie Townhouse, my earliest Barbie dollhouses typically migrated from my mom’s bedroom to the dining room, or in brief moments, the floor at the foot of my grandparents’ bed, the preferred spot of younger generations in the house for sitting and TV viewing. 

When playing with Liletta, we typically set up in my mom’s room or the dining room, which let in the best and brightest sunlight. Finally, and once I had a room of my own and the Townhouse was put up in there, we played there, just as at her grandparents' house two doors down from her mom and stepfather's house, her Barbie Townhouse dominated the back wall of her room. Like many children of my generation, I loved to look through department store catalogs, and a highlight of the fall was receiving the major catalogs from stores like Wilson’s, Service Merchandise, JC Penny, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Spiegel, and Rich’s; I’d make a beeline to look at their toy sections, just as Liletta and I, as preteens, loved going to the Circus World toy store at Montgomery Mall when we were there with our moms, or to see the unique Dolls of the World Barbie Collection at Pizitz at Eastdale Mall. When looking at the catalogs, I’d also study the bedding ensembles and create my own in miniature form for my dolls, filled with pillows on top of lace-trimmed bedspreads.  It also mirrored the beautiful, creamy and lace-trimmed organza floral ensemble that my grandmother would dress up the mahogany bed in the front room with on special occasions, which was a gift from her dear friend Bea from Mobile, who taught school in Elba, Alabama and had visited our family regularly on many weekends for as long as I can remember, at least once monthly during the regular school year, until she passed away in 1980. 

My dollhouse was the space where my dreams played out, that space that I could cultivate and decorate just as I pleased, amidst the formal Victorian elegance and beauty that my grandparents nurtured in our home with original period pieces, as well as choice reproductions from the Martha M. House Furniture company nearby, which shipped out fine furnishings all over the world, along with their family heirlooms. As I’ve mentioned, I also made my earliest quilt for my Barbie dolls- a miniature one, which is in a frame and on display in my art studio, whose Barbie theme is registered with a Life Size Black Barbie, and shadow boxes filled with the doll clothes that I made growing up are also on display.  It also includes a vertical row of frames featuring some of the soft-sculpture dolls that I made as a child and pre-teen, in keeping with the Cabbage Patch/"adoption doll" craze catalyzed by Xavier Roberts, and a basket filled with two original dolls by him, my own Cabbage Patch doll, and the adoption dolls that our neighbor Essie Thomas made for my cousin Keri and me. My large Barbie doll collection contributes to the more general staging in my home space. 

Eventually, to build upon these themes, I also found it interesting to decorate an original Barbie Dreamhouse, which, for my purposes, had to be the one from 1978- the one from my childhood-though its period furnishings are absent here. Instead, half of the rooms were decorated with my original doll house furniture, sofa and chair sets made by Mattel that I’ve had since my preteen years, plus my Barbie Silver 'Vette car and pink convertible Barbie Rolls Royce (which was ordered from the Rich's catalog), Barbie Bubbling Spa and accessories from back then, along with a vintage Suzy Goose hutch that my grandmother bought me when I spotted it at a yard sale back then. (Back then, most of the modern furniture had decorated my smaller dollhouse while furnishings I sewed, knitted and crocheted decorated my Town House).  Building upon that theme, I added the vintage Suzy Goose armoire and vanity, along with the Barbie canopy bed from the 1980s, a veritable mainstay of Southern life and the iconic décor for girls’ bedrooms during the seventies.  With the Suzy Goose set incorporated in its design, the version of the Barbie Dreamhouse that I decorated rests more in the continuum with my home environment and its antique aesthetics, as opposed to more modern ones. Once I completed the decor, and because of its size and scale, I decided that it would be most interesting to break up and display its three sections in different rooms, from my study to the dining area to my art studio, which I realized recollected the migratory nature of my childhood doll houses, and the ways in which my family so tolerantly and patiently lived with them somewhere in juxtaposition in the space that they continually occupied at home, year in and year out. 

In general, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about space as I’ve taught and collaborated with the architect Peter Robinson and met and dialogued with so many of his brilliant colleagues in the field. At the same time, such encounters have made me all the more conscientious and disciplined when it comes to matters of design, as well as more attuned to spatial practices, and matters of design justice, including what they conceptualize as "Blackspace."  Always, I found the presence of my dollhouses to be a comfort and something that put me at ease. A part of me sensed that it made my family feel better, too.  At age 13, I felt proud when my grandfather, who had been ill for the past few months, walked up to see my Barbie Townhouse once it was assembled, and seemed to approve of its build and design, a major thing given his longstanding work as a contractor in construction, who also constantly worked on projects at home. Years earlier, during the summer when I was nine, he had spent weeks designing and building the enclosure for our dog Dutchess in the backyard, and built her a house that was a miniature of our own, replete with screened windows. When he touched it only to run his finger across the top back of the town house, where the cardboard backdrop was attached, I could tell that the only thing he didn’t like about it was that that piece puckered between the pegs that connected it and didn’t lie flat all the way across. 

 This Barbie Dreamhouse installation tells a special story and speaks volumes, by reminding me of who I am, who I have been, and where I come from, and holds a lot of symbolic significance in terms of my background and journey as an artist. It is a time capsule from my childhood that continues to inspire me in very different ways as a woman, reminding me yet again of what it means to live our greatest dreams and possibilities in life on the path toward discovering the best versions of ourselves and daring to reach for and become them. Ever so subtly, it complements and punctuates the message of what it means to have a dream as quintessentially amplified in the iconic visage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspiration on my path to the glory of ultimate ones within the heavenly kingdom.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Riché Richardson's Black Vintage Photo Collection

First of all, Happy Easter, and a blessed Holy week and season full of love and light this spring!  

I've long been deeply inspired by the vintage photos in my family history and some of them, including photos such as those of my grandparents Joe Richardson and Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson taken in Florida during the World War II era, have inspired some of my pieces as as art quilter in some cases. When I lived in Davis, California and moved on to Sacramento, I enjoyed visiting their local antique shops, along with ones in Woodland.  Several times over my years there, I came across lovely vintage photos of African American couples. They were typically in convex frames that were also beautiful, and I would purchase them whenever I came across them, while feeling deeply saddened that they were in the stores, and vowed that they'd always have a home with me as long as possible.  In recent times, it's been exciting to see the publication of Tanzy Ward's book entitled Unsung Portraits:  Anonymous Images of Black Victorians and Early 20th Century Ancestors.  I'm also a huge fan of the historian and preservationist Michael Henry Adams, who in 2021, toured the Design Justice Workshop on Black memory workers that the architect Peter Robinson and I taught at Cornell around historic apartments, houses, neighborhoods and churches in Harlem, while Michael's brilliant lectures unfolded.  His books on Harlem and interior design are outstanding works that I also cherish and purchased copies of to share with my family as well.  

At this point, I want to share images of my small Black vintage photo collection and the information that came with them, in case any of their family members can identify them, and any institutions with an interest in this kind of material and research will have the information at their disposal and be able to learn from them.  

When I shared them with Tanzy Ward last year in social media, it was heartening that she said the following:  "Riché Richardson awww, thank you for sharing these amazing photos! I truly appreciate the support and interest. It is such an exciting and compelling feeling when antique treasures like this are found. I truly cherish and appreciate your story and shared interest. The historic preservation and care for these precious collectibles are significant and I’m thankful others share the same values"


In all cases, these photos were purchased at antique stores in the Sacramento region during the years that I lived there, 1998-2008.  I have deciphered the writing on the back when it has been available, but have included images in case I am misreading any information, and have also included the information from the store labels.  As is the case with every purchase for home decor and in the areas of art and design, the original receipts are also all archived in my estate inventory.

Rev. and Mrs. M.H. Beal, Kansas City, Missouri, dated November 12, 1951.  So far, I've found a memorial marker for Rev. Beal on, which lists his birthdate as March 28, 1878, and July 14, 1955 as the date he passed away.  It lists B.B. Taylor as his wife, and their wedding date as October 19, 1936.  It lists his birthplace as Alma, Arkansas.  It would be wonderful to be able to return this lovely and now historic photo to their family, or to any church congregations in Kansas City that they led, to help celebrate their lives and legacies, or any institutions there or in Arkansas invested in preserving such local histories.  

This photo is labeled Lawrence S. Larson in Sacramento, California (the photographer?) 

This photo is dated 1943 and features a Black couple on wartime break.  A number, 350, is also included on the back of this photo, in case that has any significance.

The best chance for making identifications in this instance may be looking at and identifying the buildings in the background.  

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Riché Richardson's Family History and Black Doll Collections

Here are the 5 posts from the first part of a summer series from my art quilt page related to the long history of collecting dolls among some of the women in my family, including many black dolls.

Part 1: #BlackDollsandFamilyHistory Several times, my grandmother Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson told me that when they were girls, which was during the twenties, she and her sister Janie Mae Jenkins Reese accidentally discovered the beautiful black dolls that their Aunt Vinnie Jenkins Russell had hidden in a trunk, which they received as Christmas gifts days later. Aunt Vinnie also gave them the tea set of her beloved daughter Amanda, who passed away during childhood in the late 19th century. As a woman in Montgomery, Alabama, she and my grandfather enjoyed buying toys to surprise my mom, uncle and aunt. She also bought lots of dolls for my mom and aunt, black dolls from the store of a Jewish man, she said, as pictured in this photo of my mom and uncle dressed up in cowboy outfits at Christmas. I’ve discussed and the discourse on preferences for white dolls and self hatred so pervasive in black communities, but have a personal story that’s been very different from that, certainly not one in which girls grew up preferring white dolls. My grandmother had a lifelong love for dolls, ensured that the over 125 dolls I had growing up were preserved, and she and my mom continued adding to it, even after I went to college and they became a distant memory. Dolls have also been collected and treasured by several members of our extended family, along with other interesting things. For example, my mom well remembers the beautiful and elegant porcelain doll collection of my grandfather’s Cousin Ludie Meadows on display, dolls dating back to the nineteenth century, a woman who faithfully went to the mass meetings like other relatives of her generation, and who attended the March on Washington in 1963. As a child, my mom took ballet and tap. On Saturday mornings, she would attend Girl Scout activities, and then get together with her cousins Jackie Boswell, Beverly Robinson and others to play with their Barbie dolls. My preteen years were very similar, with either choir rehearsal with the Tender Golden Voices at my Church, Maggie Street Baptist, or Girl Scout meetings. Afterwards, my friend Liletta Nunnery and I always looked forward to going to Godfather’s pizza for lunch for mini combos, or Chuck E. Cheese’s, to the mall with our moms, and would then play with our Barbie dolls. She, her other best friend and Barbie playmate Tiffany Kennedy, with whom the fellowship was very similar, and I have often talked about what blessed times these were. I LOVE the beautiful scene in Beloved when Sethe buys the fabric, lace trims and black doll for her daughters once they are reunited as a family. There is such deep meaning there.

Part 2: #BlackDollsandFamilyHistory When I lived in California, my grandmother Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson reminded me several times that she really wanted me to see the porcelain doll collection of her first cousin Lee Frank Jenkins’s wife Pauline at some point. Growing up, I well remembered fellowshipping with them at Aunt Vinnie’s birthday parties, which were always covered in the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper and on WSFA TV News once she turned 100. My grandmother mentioned how beautiful the collection was, that I just had to see it for myself, and that she wanted Keri and Megan to see it, too. She explained that after a stroke, and as her recovery continued, her cousin’s wife Pauline developed a strong interest in making porcelain dolls. But a local craft’s group in Montgomery with a white women’s membership wouldn’t open it up to her so she could gain the training and access the equipment. So she pulled a move akin to Eunice Johnson’s with European fashion designers and began to build a premium collection of them. I had built a collection of porcelain dolls myself over the years. But my grandmother could not have prepared me for the evening we stepped into the breathtaking wonderland at our relatives’ home. Their Victorian living room suite, which reminded me of ours, functioned as the main display gallery for most of the porcelain dolls. Some were large-scale and nearly as tall as Megan! It was all so gorgeous and inspiring to see, full of collector dolls purchased from the major shopping networks with most priced in the hundreds. Several others rooms also had other types of dolls on display, literally going around the wall ledges, from Barbie dolls to beanie babies. It was dazzling, and a lot to take in. One of the blessings of being part of this family’s Twindynasty from Charleston, SC that we have so far traced back to 1758 has been blessed moments and memories like the ones captured in these photos with this phenomenal collection in all its beauty and splendor.

A reflection on my beloved grandfather Joe Richardson is also part of this #BlackDollsandFamilyHistory series ,so is perfect to mention now as Part 3. In these 2 images, my aunt Pam is pictured with a beautiful black doll she received from my grandparents as a toddler, which was typical of ones they bought for her and my mom throughout their childhoods. As a child, Pam would write my grandfather when he was away on the road doing work as a contractor in construction, and he’d write back. She says that because he brought back such nice gifts, she even preferred him to do school shopping for her as he traveled to find clothes different from ones in stores at home. Around age 10 and in the months before she got on the path to being named May Day Queen at her school, she talks about asking my grandparents for the popular “Swingy” doll. She says that my grandfather patiently explained to her that he was concerned that it might be a bad influence. She says that he didn’t like the commercial for it, which she’d imitated, and saw it as an example of images in the media that too often either depicted black children dancing or encouraged that sort of thing. He said he could not purchase the doll with his money. Around that time, his jobs had taken him from Atlanta to work on projects for Herman Russell to Orlando to work at Disney World, where he’d bought Pam a plastic Snow White figurine as a keepsake. He told her that he wasn’t buying her the doll for all the reasons he mentioned. Aunt Mae and Uncle Richard gave her and their granddaughter the doll as gifts-the white version available in Montgomery. She’s in very good condition after 50 years, and we still have her, along with some of my aunt’s Barbies from back then. This story typifies my grandfather’s seriousness when it came to critical thinking about media images. He was also one of the earliest critical thinkers about the media from whom I learned. I have missed my grandfather every day that he has been gone and will ever cherish memories of him. Here’s a link to the commercial in question below:

Part 4, #BlackDollsandFamilyHistory At age 12, I adored Michael Jackson like all of my friends. I won first-place prizes in citywide short story and essay competitions in Montgomery. I was busy collaborating with one of my classmates at St. John to draft the book of short stories we hoped to publish by age 15, as we read various literary classics. I was also gearing up to campaign and make speeches in a mock election in our 7th grade class for President of the United States. I had just graduated from my poise-charm class at Gayfers Department Store, and loved being a Jr. Gayfer Girl, which meant receiving store discounts and being recognized with this group at Gayfers’ annual Back-to-School Fashion Show, which highlighted the models on their teen board. My family had lost three of my grandmother’s siblings to cancer, and I had made countless daily hospital and home visits with my grandparents to see and support them from the time I was 9. My grandfather set up scaffolding and spent the summer months painting the living room and dining room, and by the holidays, my family was fully focused on preparations for my Aunt Pam’s wedding, whose colors were red and green in keeping with the season. My role was to be fitted at Gayfers for the tea-length green dress I had to wear as a one of 2 candle lighters in the ceremony, whose role it was to walk down the aisle bearing one of the long torches to help light all the white candles on the gold arch under which the vows would be exchanged. My dress was designed to match the beautiful red bridesmaid evening gowns, and to complement the green dresses of the matrons of honor. I was anxious to get my part just right, and excited to wear the kitten heel shoes, which had been dyed to match my dress. As Christmas got closer and closer, my other major worry was not seeing any boxes under our Christmas tree that looked like they could be Barbie dolls. Day after day, as the presents grew, I spotted not a one. My cousin and I were told not to touch or go near the tree to arrange anything, but daily, he’d see me slow down, look at it nervously from across the room, and crack up laughing at me and teasing me about “not having any Barbie dolls.” I just couldn’t believe it. But I turned the joke right back on him when he began to sweat it after he did something that irked them and was told by my uncle and aunt that another thing and he wouldn’t get the remote- controlled race car he wanted. The first formal photos for the wedding were taken at home in front of our Christmas tree, gorgeous images of my aunt with each of my grandparents. But my main interest in that tree had to do with what seemed not to be under it. My aunt’s wedding was an elegant formal affair and came off beautifully. The reception had been held in the church’s Fellowship Hall because she wanted no alcohol served at her wedding. Like many young women in the South, she had subscribed to Brides magazine for years and read it on a monthly basis, so every detail reflected her extensive knowledge. My grandparents followed up the wonderful reception, which had a gorgeous wedding cake, as well as a groom’s cake and delicious food buffet, coordinated by 25 hostesses weating beautiful red dresses to complement the bridesmaids, with a smaller family buffet dinner at home. The next day, the dining room was full of the wedding gifts, and the bride and groom arrived to open them in front of our family. As the pieces of the beautiful China pattern from Gayfers and other lovely gifts were opened and stacked up all around, my mind was still very much on my Barbie dolls. My grandmother was still kind of upset with me because I didn’t change my dress when she asked me to, and a cousin in our extended family in town for the wedding threw a pillow at me while I was holding a glass Coke, which spilled down the front of it the night before. Christmas was just over a week away, and it still looked like I had not a one doll. By that point, I resigned myself and tried my best to accept it. My cousin and I made a deal that I would tell my mom she should buy him the race car as his gift, and he’d ask his parents to buy me a Barbie doll as mine. That plan gave me a little hope. Day after day went by, and as the presents stacked up, still, not a one looked like it could be a Barbie box. Not even by Christmas Eve! The next morning, as the family opened gifts, I was determined to try my best to enjoy everything, despite my disappointment. After opening my first few gifts, including things like a Calligraphy pen set, it was a big shock and surprise to open a box, and within that box, to see a Barbie box! My mom had boxed and wrapped up all the Barbie dolls in shirt boxes. Just wow! It was one of the best surprises ever. My mom really threw me off that year. Pictured here are my Barbie doll collection and 2 doll houses from back then. I had a fashion doll trunk with lots Barbie clothes manufactured by Mattel, but the process of sewing, knitting and crocheting clothes for my dolls was ongoing for me, and a lot of time went into that process. I also sewed, knitted and crocheted all the bedding ensembles and furnishings to decorate my Barbie townhouse myself, which is pictured here. My friend Liletta had her own similar Barbie dollhouse paradise in her room at home. Always, before our play began, we’d show each other the latest items we’d made and inspect each other’s workmanship. Here are some photos of my mainly black Barbie doll family and world back then, who by then, were pretend “residents” in Beverly Hills, California.

Part 5 #BlackDollsandFamilyHistory Okay, here's the big one, with 47 photos featuring my full doll "collection," and the second to last post in this series. Growing up, and from my early childhood, I had a range of dolls of varying types with as many as 115 back then. Some were damaged and discarded along the way, like my first Baby Alive, whom I at 6 naively fed Play Doh after the food packets ran out. At every stage of development, I had lots of toys and games growing up, every conceivable thing to intellectually stimulate me, plus microscopes, 2 telescopes, 2 guitars, erector sets, keyboards, and still have a few of my toys, though my dolls were the main toys kept. A tall Walking Doll from my uncle and aunt, along with a Sunshine Family dollhouse, the Bionic Woman, Superstar Christie Fashion Face and Candi were other types of dolls I received as a child beyond baby dolls. At age 10, my activities were choirs such as the one at church and the Singing Samaritans at school, along with Girl Scouts. Playing school and pretending to be a teacher made me happiest, and I was beginning to write songs and poetry, sew and crochet, while trying hard to crack the Rubik’s Cube. On that, I was competing with my grandfather and Uncle Richard on this latest puzzle, one of many that my grandfather encouraged me to take on, who loved to work Puzzle books in his spare time, and had been proud of how fast I could work puzzles when I was a baby. That year, my Christmas list included Golden Dream Christie, a trunk and car for her, a Knitting Machine, and a Quiz Whiz, and I received those things, plus a Quiz Whiz Challenger and lots of other toys and games, including various electronic ones. It was at this juncture that Barbie assumed center stage in my world of play, and an earlier post in this series highlighted images of my 2 Barbie doll houses from back then, along with my Barbie dolls. At the mall, one of my 2 best friends with whom I mainly played, Liletta, during our preteen years, and I would go to see the latest Barbie dolls at Circus World toy store whenever we were at Montgomery Mall with our moms, and at Eastdale Mall, would go to Pizitz, where we loved to see the Dolls of the World Collection in their toy department. At age 12, I got an original Cabbage Patch Kid when they came out ,and had already begun to experiment with making miniature types in that genre once my grandparents bought me a Xavier Roberts pattern book from Gayfers at age 11. At age 14, my Grandmother Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson learned that Mrs. Essie Thomas, one of our neighbors down the street, was making dolls and immediately ordered 2 “adoption dolls” for me from her for $60 each. Just a year later, and after my cousin Keri was born, my Aunt Pam visited Mrs. Thomas and helped design one for her baby daughter, who was about six months old at the time. Keri’s first birthday party was held at the Woodmere Clubhouse and had a Cabbage Patch Kids theme, where the full collection was placed. At age 16, I also bought souvenir dolls on school trips I took back then to Cheha State Park when we climbed Mt. Cheha, and on a trip to New Orleans. My beloved Grandmother would sometimes surprise me after school as a teen in high school by leaving interesting dolls for me on my bed that she spotted in her shopping forays out with friends, and also began to buy me porcelain dolls from displays at the grocery store. I kept several black porcelain dolls on display in my dormitory rooms throughout my college years, along with one of the dolls that I had made. Both she and my mom continued to add dolls to the “collection” long after my interest receded and focus shifted to other things. My grandmother and her sister loved the black dolls that their Aunt Vinnie bought for them, and my grandmother bought my mother and aunt mostly black dolls as children. Most of mine were as well, though never all. I view dolls as time capsules and have been intrigued by their adaptations over history. I still have the vast majority of the dolls I grew up with and the vast majority that I’ve added over time fall within very specific categories; historical ones like the rag and bisque, a vintage Barbie that my grandmother bought me at a yard sale, dolls from Africa and the Caribbean (mainly from the Bahamas, and I do, incidentally, on my paternal side, have family roots in the Bahamas); porcelain dolls, story dolls, soft sculpture dolls, Barbie dolls, and various miniature and novelty dolls, etc. Among Barbie dolls, I’m mainly interested in the black "Superstar" collection from the late 1970s on, and types produced up to the mid-1990s, a collection mainly of dolls from my childhood era that the Spirit of the Lord placed it on my heart and led me to fill out just before they were becoming exorbitantly priced for hundreds and more on a market dominated by white collectors and enthusiasts. I replaced my Superstar Christie Fashion Face and Golden Dream Christie dolls and also collected an original Superstar Christie from 1976, along with various others in the series, added some from the aforementioned Dolls of the World, two original black Little People dolls by Xavier Roberts, and more recently, several Inspiring Women and wedding dolls. At this point, I have about 171 dolls in all, which are pictured in photo galleries here. Though many are still boxed and in mint condition, I'm far from being a serious doll collector, but am very casual in it. I’ve also pictured the 15 dolls that belong to my grandmother, aunt, Keri and Megan. Dolls are just another interesting visual layer in designing and staging a space focused on showcasing my Southern folk and fine art collections, one that primarily serves as an artist’s home and art studio. The Barbie theme also works well to invoke in my art studio because knitting and crocheting so many clothing and bedding items for my Barbie and dolls and making miniature soft sculpture dolls as a preteen paved the way to my eventual emergence as a quilt artist. My doll collection was to me what action figures and race cars were to the boys I grew up with, and once brought me a lot of joy, and so having reminders from childhood in the background here and there is nice nowadays. The selected list of dolls from my childhood, as many as whose official names I can remember, is posted in the comments. I was collaborating on a couple of local public black doll exhibits with other collectors here in Ithaca prior to pandemic, an idea it might be interesting to circle back to at some point.

The comprehensive album of 47 images featuring my doll collection is included on my artist Facebook site: "Riché Richardson’s Mixed-Media Appliqué Art Quilts"

As my post from a few months ago on “collecting” dolls mentioned, I enjoy the genre of story dolls and have a few, including Addie and rag dolls such as Cassie and Amazing Grace. I initially came across this Black History Month doll depicting Rosa Parks back in the spring of 2020, but didn’t order it at that time, because I wanted to be considerate of postal workers and not add to the demands of a system already stretched to the limit during the shutdowns. I thank the Lord to have finally found it again a couple of months ago. I came across the other one on clearance at Target just a couple of weeks ago. (Those interested should be on the lookout for it)! I enjoyed the process of making my art quilt honoring Rosa Parks that’s now in the permanent collection at the Museum in Montgomery. These plush dolls depict the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement in interesting ways and are also interesting and inspiring to see for their color and design as someone who enjoys working with fabric and seeing some types of black rag dolls and soft sculpture dolls. Happy Mother’s Day, and many and mighty blessings to all mothers!

I am sooo delighted, blessed, honored, and thankful to have now added the beautiful doll that the Atlanta-based artist Tosh Fomby created as a tribute to the phenomenal Faith Ringgold to my collection of Black cloth dolls, a one-of-a-kind 15” design entitled “Faith Ringgold Cloth Doll”(2023). Look at the remarkable workmanship and play of color, pattern, and texture on duck cloth cotton fabric, with embroidery and the incorporation of mixed media like wire, replete with felt-bottomed shoes! I shared with her that I will treasure it as someone who is myself a mixed- media appliqué Alabama art quilter and longtime collector of Southern folk art; who deeply admires Faith Ringgold; who also loves and has found inspiration in Black soft sculpture dolls, including Mrs. Ringgold’s Cassie, along with Amazing Grace by Grace Aspen; and as someone who, when I was an undergraduate at Spelman, interviewed Dr. Kenneth B. Clark about he and his wife Dr. Mamie Clark’s famous doll experiments, whose tape I pray to archive at some point. Indeed, I found such inspiration in the Cassie and Amazing Grace dolls that, over time, I bought them for display as a set five times(!)-for my office on campus, my study in my apartment/art studio, our family home in Montgomery, as heirloom gifts for the granddaughters in the family of a colleague, as well as for my cousin’s. As her inspiration, the artist remarks, “Following the career of Faith Ringgold, to honor her accomplishments and legacy in the art world, an African American woman who went against the grain to tell stories of people from the diaspora!” More of her brilliant creations are featured on her website, which is linked in the comments below. Her beautiful doll is such a fine, fitting and truly fantastic tribute to the genius of a legendary and visionary artist. Praise, hallelujahs and all glory to the Lord for this art and all art that inspires!🙏🏾❤️

From Riché Richardson’s Mixed-Media Appliqué Art Quilts, August 25, 2023

Barbie has been a background theme in the staging and design of my art studio because I produced many of my preteen projects in sewing, crocheting and knitting for my Barbie dolls and dollhouses. Back then, and especially after my grandparents bought me a pattern book for producing Xavier Roberts’ Little People dolls from Gayfers Department Store at age 11, another primary inspiration for me became the “adoption doll” phenomenon. I studied the pattern carefully and began to make multiple miniature versions, some of which are in shadow boxes on display in my art studio. Meantime, my grandmother bought black yarn and brown cloth in preparation to have some dolls made for me once she found the right seamstress. My mom photocopied the pattern to preserve the original one from the book and also bought me a Cabbage Patch Kid in the midst of the national craze. Over the next few months, I’d periodically take the folded fabric and yarn out of their bag to survey and assess their rich textures, spend a few moments dreaming of and imagining how the dolls would look, and then put them away again. On a visit to town, a relative in law in our extended family mentioned that she could make the dolls and I happily gave her those precious materials, but she never followed up on that project. A couple of years later, when I was 14, my grandmother learned that our neighbor down the street, Mrs. Essie Thomas, was crafting beautiful “adoption dolls” that sold for $60 each, and took me to her home to pick out the hair and fabric skin for two from among her spectrum of options, which turned out as beautifully as all the dolls she made, including the one for some other neighbors. Months later, my aunt Pam also went down to design and purchase one of the dolls for her baby daughter Keri, who was six months old, and all of them were on display at her Cabbage Patch-themed first birthday party. A few years ago, in light of the soft sculpture doll design elements that inspired me on the path in developing my portrait quilting style, I placed all 3 dolls by Mrs. Thomas, plus my Cabbage Patch, on display in a big basket in my art studio in Ithaca, and also added two original Xavier Roberts dolls, taking pride and finding inspiration in the beauty of Mrs. Thomas’s brilliant and diligent workmanship, including her original canvas shoe designs, alongside dolls that he and his team produced at Babyland General. A couple of weeks ago, I just could not resist adding this third Xavier Roberts “Little People” doll from a 1986 lot called “Southern Belles” for her beautiful design and pristine condition.🙏🏾❤️
From Riché Richardson’s Mixed-Media Appliqué Art Quilts, December 3, 2023, On Celie and Nettie dolls by Renata Gawronski

As someone who has loved soft sculpture dolls since childhood, a genre that paved the way for me to develop my three-dimensional portrait quilting and painting styles an artist, I am always inspired to see interesting work in it, beyond the collection of black rag dolls, story dolls, Little People/“adoption dolls” and African and Caribbean dolls that I have built over the years, to complement my art studio’s dominant themes. Ya’ll, my most recent addition-this tribute to Celie and Nettie as black girls and characters from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple-is so amazing and inspiring to see. The workmanship here is incredibly detailed and truly extraordinary. The painting and layering of colors, sewing and stitching techniques along with embroidery, fabric, lace trimmings and textures, and crocheting in designing the dresses and shoes evoking the early 20th century are a feast for the eyes and senses. The subtleties, like purple shoes for “Celie” and lavender for “Nettie,” with purple purses for both, along with the wrist jewelry and painted nails, are also fascinating and noteworthy. The stitching and sewing techniques are truly pristine. My mom, Joanne Richardson loves these doll designs. My grandmother Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson and her beloved sister Janie Mae Jenkins Reese, who received black dolls from their Aunt Vinnie bought for them at Christmas as girls in the 1920s, would as well. My grandmother ordered two black “adoption dolls” for me when I was 14 and carefully preserved my doll collection for me once I left for college, and Aunt Mae regularly bought creative crafts from her colleagues at John Knox manor and South Haven nursing homes in Montgomery, Alabama as gifts for us. My mom and I saw the original film The Color Purple on the big screen at the movies in Montgomery in 1985 with my friend Liletta and her mom Connie during my freshman year of high school at St. Jude. The film is an all-time favorite in our family and dear to our hearts. Like many black families, we have memorized and can spontaneously talk, think and signify through its script and characters; my grandmother loved it for its motif of two sisters, the same name as one of the Montgomery boutiques where she and Aunt Mae enjoyed shopping. Before he passed away when they were small children, their father Frank Jenkins told her and Aunt Mae to “always stick together,” and they blessedly did, along with their brothers, and were raised with lots of love from their mother Ada and grandfather Adolphus “Doc” Jordan. I learned more about the novel in college, and by graduate school, began to write on it. I saw the Broadway play based on it a few years ago with the journalist Steven Thrasher and one of his friends in New York City. I also love and have learned from Oprah’s story of The Color Purple and find deep inspiration in it. I pray to see the new film adaptation in Montgomery this month with federated club sisters of Dora Beverly, including my mom and Aunt Pam, donning purple. As a part of the programming committee, I have also recommended that we follow up with a group reading and discussion of Salamishah Tillet’s landmark book on Alice Walker and this novel, In Search of The Color Purple, which everyone is ordering; it will enhance this experience all the more. All of this also inspires me given that my newest book project draws on womanist discourses. Again, I want to thank and commend Renata Gawronski for this brilliant and inspiring doll artistry and for the time and love that she poured into this project. Her work has been recognized in “Soft Dolls & Animals" Magazine. She remarks that “My dolls are 100% handmade and carefully crafted without using any glue or paints; soft-sculptured with hand-embroidered faces. I do a lot of detailed work. They are unique and one of the kind, no doll is the same. The hair is made of various yarns and the body is done with high quality cotton or linen, filled with poly fiber. The undergarments are crochet body-suits, or sewn with fabric and lace. Their wardrobe is part crochet and part made of color printed fabric, decorated with beads. They wear headgear and crochet shoes consistent with the fashion of the era they lived in...My dolls are firmly stuffed and sew strongly. They give appearance of a statue. Rather firm to touch.” I thank, praise and glorify the Lord for providing me with such deeply inspiring and beautiful art. ✝️🙏🏾☮️💜💜💜

It has been a blessing and inspiration to see so many beautiful dolls from across my family's history and to still have so many of my own spanning back to childhood. They complement my art collecting and practice, and have taught me important lessons on my journey in life, including the importance of cherishing every gift that God provides, and that He is the ultimate Potter and healer of all things broken. All glory and praise to Him for everything.