Miami Mom Creates Themed Party Supplies for Kids of Color

Miami Mom Creates Themed Party Supplies for Kids of Color
Craft My Occasion
About a year ago, Lynnette Abbott, CEO and creative director of the event planning company Craft My Occasion, was planning her little cousin’s mermaid-themed birthday party. But after months of searching for party supplies that would match the girl’s features, Abbott was unable to find any mermaid characters with dark skin.

“The Little Mermaid is a major Disney character. When you Google mermaid supplies, you find five or six different designs, but they all have very pale skin, not brown skin,” Abbott says.

She ended up finding a character pattern online and making the skin brown in Photoshop. “It felt like we were settling,” she Abbott. So after struggling to find existing party supplies for children of color, she was inspired to make her own line.

Abbott, a native Miamian and mother of a 5-year old daughter and 9-year old son, started a Kickstarter campaign August 14 to launch her mermaid-themed party supply line for girls of color. With 13 days remaining, she has collected $9,000 of her $20,000 goal. The mermaid line consists of plates, cups, napkins, balloons, and paper backdrops. The color scheme is punchy and fun, with warm browns, aqua blue, lilac, and royal purple. The main character is a smiling brown-skinned mermaid with full, curly dark hair and large brown eyes.

Though there are some African-American Disney characters, such as Princess Tiana from the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog and the Disney Junior character Doc McStuffins, Abbott says that they are recent releases and other options outside of these few characters are extremely limited.
click to enlarge CRAFT MY OCCASION
Craft My Occasion
Abbott has experienced a few challenges during this project. The supplies are being produced in China, and because of delayed communication, she has spent months working with the manufacturer to get the skin color just right. In addition, while Abbott has mostly received positive feedback from other moms of color or parents raising children of color, she has also had a few negative encounters about race. Abbott paraphrases a comment she received on social media where someone wrote, “I don’t like this idea because you are teaching kids how to see color.”

She responds by saying, “I don’t feel like I’m teaching my children about color because they see color anyway. But they don’t perceive it as negative; they see it as difference. They learn about the negativity later in their lives... If I am teaching them about color, I prefer to do it in a positive way.”

As the Kickstarter clock counts down, Abbott is excited about the prospect of being able to offer children of color fun, reflective, and inclusive options for their parties. In addition to creating the mermaid line, Abbott is also developing designs for superhero, pirate, fairy princess, and career lines, which will include public service workers, police officers, firefighters, racecar drivers, and astronauts. The career line is a nod to her full-time job, an office manager for Homeland Security, and that of her husband, a police officer. Though her line specializes in African-American characters, she says she plans to expand and create products for the Hispanic community, depending on demand.

“I think this is going to set the bar for party supplies for children of color. I’m sure that I’m not going to be the only one after this, and that’s great. If there are ten brown mermaids that my baby can choose from, I will be elated!” she says excitedly. “We need to stop talking about what we should have and do something about it... Race and ethnicity is such a touchy subject, but with a positive attitude and good intentions, we can get there.”
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth