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A vintage styled shape puzzle, that can be used as an heirloom for families to initiate dialogue between generations and counter negative cultural imagery.
– Background and Challenge –
In the 1940’s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark set out to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children, these experiments now known as “The Doll Tests” disturbingly indicated extremely high levels of low self-esteem and self-hate among the children tested.
More than 60 years later NBC reexamined “The Doll Tests” with shockingly similar results. It was a testament that segregation coupled with an unwavering, often times subliminal use of negative cultural imagery, resulted in a long lasting effect on African-Americans and society as a whole.
Details on “The Doll Test” and its effect on Brown vs. Board: http://www.naacpldf.org/brown-at-60-the-doll-test
NBC Revisits “The Doll Test”
After researching these tests and similar studies further, I decided to challenge myself to come up with a simple product that could have been used to aide in countering these deplorable actions and outcomes.
Following was the process from start to completion.
– Identifying the Problem –
Remnants of racism, segregation and the use of negative cultural imagery had/has a negative psychological effect on African-American children that lasts for generations.
– Brainstorming –
What could I make that would help aide in counteracting the identified problem?
Although I came up with many ideas during the brainstorming process, I decided to narrow them down into two actionable concepts:
1. Positive imagery in books, where children can relate to the characters and the stories.
2. Toys with subtle imagery that parents can use to open up dialogue and extend historical lessons.
– Decision Time –
Since the use of tools was a personal necessity for this project, I knew I would have to dream up an idea for a toy. Then it hit me, as a kid I remember playing with shape puzzles. Challenge on!
– Challenge –
Make a vintage styled shape puzzle, that can be used as an heirloom for families to initiate dialogue between generations and counter negative cultural imagery.
– Results –
Success! After using a laser cutter, pieces of solid red oak, a sander, wood carving tools, a paint brush, a hammer, a lighter, some non-toxic stain and sealer and few days of trial and error later, I present to you, “Essential Shapes”.
This maybe a small step in the fight to counter the long lasting effects of segregation and negative images, but when accompanied with engaging conversation and presented in the everyday backdrop of life, it is definitely a positive step forward.
– Specifications –
Approximate dimensions: Length (12”) x Width (5.5”)
Material Thickness: (3/4”)
Available in: Red Oak (Aspen will replace Red Oak when Red Oak is in shortage.)
Stain: A custom coffee based non-toxic stain to achieve a vintage brown look
Sealer: A water-based, non toxic, child safe sealer
Product Design by: Vernon F. Robinson II