Recently my partner and I were discussing possible stereotypical backlash now that our first “Oodleville” children’s book, The First Trip, has been published, and Bubba Oodle, our first character doll, is available. For me, the Oodles’ black color has been the subject of conjecture since I began working to manifest my dream.
In our conversation, therefore, we talked about ways to address the dolls’ color. We discussed comparing the Oodles to gollywogs who were and still are depictions of black-faced minstrels who were entertainers during the days of slavery. In 1965, however, all caricature depictions of blacks, like gollywogs, were deemed politically incorrect. This action also caused many creative works by blacks to also be exiled to local or near-underground marketing.
Although gollywogs have been removed from public display, they have been sold for over a hundred years in England, and can still be purchased online and through gollywog clubs in the U.S. The Oodles, however, are not gollywogs, nor do they represent any aspect of minstrels or slavery…other than the fact that I am black and a descendant of slaves.
My grandmother, Mary Pigues, was born in 1865, the year that slavery was legally abolished. My grandfather, Ben Pigues, who was much older than Grandma was obviously a slave. On my father’s side, the similar situations probably existed. Prior to slavery, I imagine my ancestors being free, happy and enjoying life in Africa.
“Oodleville” is a similar world, and the Oodles are characters conceived in my heart and mind and created from my imagination. Rather than human, they are human-ess; meaning they possess the best of human values like honesty, caring, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and commitment.
They represent my freedom of expression, and are simply playthings for all children, and their color should not determine whether or not they have merit. My mission for Oodleville and the Oodles is to bring fun, friendship, a new perspective, and a unique product by a black person back to the mainstream…to pick up where my people left off.