A series of festivals aiming to help black kids feel good about being black begins this weekend.
African-American children can create New Orleans-inspired Mardi Gras masks, traditional Ghanian cloth, or kentes, and other culturally enriching art projects at the University of Pittsburgh Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education, or PRIDE, event in East Liberty on Saturday.
Director of Development Medina Jackson said it’s critical for elementary-age kids to be a part of the conversation about identity because that’s when they begin to notice the role race has in their lives.
“Our program is a proactive, holistic approach in striving to undo racism and counteract that, kind of, smog of racism that we all inhale,” Jackson said. Based on research, she said, children ages 3-8 that are proud of their race tend to be stronger academically.
Teams of local Africana artists and early childhood educators will lead eight different activity stations. One project focuses on creating and playing with black baby dolls, which Jackson is a response to the 1940s and recently resurrected “doll test.” For the experiment, children were asked to assign positive and negative traits to dolls of different skin tones. Darker dolls were overwhelmingly perceived to be less desirable than the white ones.
“We’re really trying to counter that,” Jackson said, “and do something that’s an homage to that, but in a positive way.”
Saturday’s event is the first of three this summer, with the others taking place in Homewood in August and the Hill District in September. Each runs from 12-4 p.m.
WESA receives funding from the University of Pittsburgh.