Alice Suell, born 1910 in Vidalia Louisiana, was an active member of Olivet Baptist Church: “In 1938 I waited anxiously in the crowded Chicago Union train station for my four young sons who had traveled on their own from Louisiana. I had been in Chicago for one year and had a job working in the meatpacking district. My sister and I had just secured a small kitchenette apartment on 37th and Indiana, just enough space for my family and to start a new life . . .”
This excerpt is from a “Dollstory” and begins the history of one of dolls by Rhondal Hardy, Bronzeville Babies. Each doll represents a vital period in Chicago, The Great Migration, and Hardy pays homage through her signature artistry in doll making.
“The dollstory brings the dolls to life. Each doll has a story that describes who they are and what they represent in the lives of African Americans during the Great Migration. Each doll will have a companion dollstory book.”
“Just like Louis Armstrong used his trumpet as a tool to express the African American cultural spirit through the creation of jazz. Just like Lorraine Hansberry, used words as a tool to tell the story of a family reaching for a better life in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’. The Bronzeville Babies are dolls used as a tool to tell the story of the lives of African American migrants from 1920 to 1970.” -Design by Urban Comfort
Hardy has a rich history herself. Originally from Chicago, Hardy has had a passion for all things cultural starting at a young age. “I appreciate color, nature, city life, music, and cultural expression,” indicates Hardy. Since the age of 14, she has researched and collected information on African American cultural history. The Bronzeville Babies are the result of Hardy’s diverse background in design.
As President of Designs by Urban Comforts, Hardy utilizes her educational background. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Clothing and Textiles from Southern Illinois University and has a certificate in Interior Decorating from The School of Interior Decorating. She retired from the University of Illinois as a community educator and is now active in the community through serving on the Great Migration Centennial Commission. “Recently, I took part in The Black Women’s Expo in Chicago,” says Hardy. “Children dressed like each doll character and reenacted the dollstory. It was a way to get young people involved and to teach history.” The Bronzeville Babies are a culmination of Hardy’s passion for African American history and creativity.
“Based on research of the African American experience these doll caricatures were selected to represent family life, careers, social life and aspirations: Barbara Ann – a 12-year-old girl, Alice Suell – a church lady and single mother, Lisa Dee – an entertainer, Frank Sweets – a stylish entrepreneur, and Eddie Travels – a Pullman Porter. The dolls are handcrafted, made of 100% cotton fabric and soft stuffed. Their faces are hand painted. The clothing, hairstyles and accessories for each doll have been carefully researched so that they replicate the styles worn during the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s.” – Designs by Urban Comfort
Rhonda is committed to encourage individual and group empowerment through an appreciation of one’s culture. Her philosophy is to “build on your God-given talents and take the best from every situation.” She believes that African-Americans thrive and succeed based on this philosophy.
This collection of Bronzeville Babies is a Limited Edition – 100 dolls to match the 100 year celebration of the Great Migration Centennial. The dolls range from $100 – $135 and can be purchased by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org.
President of Designs by Urban Comfort and creative mother and grandmother.
Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Garden Spices Magazine