Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Solano woman pushes to get ethnic doll in stores

Darla Davenport-Powell shows the children's doll she created named Niya, at her home in Fairfield recently.  The first Niya dolled was released in 1991 and spoke Swahili, Spanish and English.  (Daily Republic/Adam Smith)

By
From page A1 | February 15, 2012 | 8 Comments

FAIRFIELD — Nelson Mandela got one. So did actor Danny Glover, as evidenced by pictures in the Fairfield home of Darla Davenport-Powell.

But Davenport-Powell wants the children of the world to have her Niya doll.

“I see children are being fed unhealthy messages on TV and through music,” she said. “I think their innocence is being taken away. I think we need to keep their innocence as long as we can.”

The idea for the ethnic doll was borne out of need. When Davenport-Powell had her first child, a daughter, almost 29 years ago, she couldn’t find books or toys that reflected the family’s culture.

So she wrote a book, “Here Comes Niya.” Niya is also the name of her daughter.

“I always wanted to capture the world through the eyes of a child,” Davenport-Powell said.

Niya does that, Davenport-Powell said, calling Niya ”an ambassador for all children,” encouraging them to have fun and learn.

In 1991, the Niya doll made its debut. She spoke Swahili, Spanish and English. Japanese has been added since then.

Media coverage attracted attention. Davenport-Powell set up an assembly line in her basement, where family and friends helped put shoes and socks on the dolls.

After a wonderful Christmas season selling Niya to specialty stores and via mail orders, Davenport-Powell learned her manufacturing company was selling defective Niya dolls, which were making their way to the store shelves.

“That’s when we parted ways,” Davenport-Powell said.

With no manufacturer or financing, she began taking her product directly to retailers.

In 2000, with the help of a toy company, she got Niya on the shelves at Kmart for the holiday season. However, the relationship with the company began to wane.

Davenport-Powell’s big break came in 2006, when she lined up at 5 a.m. to pitch Niya to the TV show “American Inventor.”

She made it into the Top 12 and was given $50,000 to further develop Niya. During that time, she found the voice for Niya and added another five friends to join the doll in her world travels.

While she didn’t get the $1 million top prize, Davenport-Powell said she made contacts and got worldwide exposure.

Six years later, she’s developing more ideas, including an e-book for Niya, set to launch next month.

Niya visits toy fairs and casting calls, in hopes of starring in her own animated series.

And, she’s currently on the “get on the shelf” website where, beginning March 7, people can cast their votes for toys they would like to see carried by Walmart.

The link for Niya is http://www.getontheshelf.com/product/1544/The-Niya-Doll.

Debbie Behan Garrett, who lives in Dallas, has collected black dolls for more than 20 years and wrote “Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting and Experience the Passion.”

She’s also written two other books on black dolls.

“Along with educational attributes, Niya teaches diversity,” Behan Garrett wrote in an email to the paper. “Formerly a baby doll, Niya has evolved into a young girl and can capture interest from young girls and teens whose doll interest has not yet faded.”

Niya’s new pals have been a good step, Behan Garrett said.

“The addition of friends representing other cultures/countries is also appealing to people,” Behan Garrett wrote.

She believes there is a need for ethnic dolls, writing that her hope is for more artists and manufacturers to realize the need.

“Not just any black dolls will do,” Behan Garrett wrote. “Dolls as adequate representations of black people are, and always will be, in demand for culturally conscious collectors and parents who want their children to see themselves in a positive light through their playing things.

“When made as positive reflections of the people they represent, black dolls do and will sell. The only black dolls that do not sell are those that are not true representations of black people, those that are not competitively priced and those that are not made.”

Davenport-Powell said she can’t give up on her dream.

“My mind is creating a mile a minute,” she said.

Niya Cotton, Davenport-Powell’s daughter, is now a mother herself to a 6-year-old son.

On the 20th anniversary of the Niya doll, she wrote about her “double life” on her blog, In it, she shares that by day, she went to school, dance classes and choir rehearsals. At night, she shrunk several feet, spoke three languages and became a best friend to thousands of girls across the country.

Cotton said it’s an honor to have a doll named after her, especially one that does “such wonderful things.”

Like her mother, Cotton said she’s surprised the doll is not sitting on store shelves.

“Perhaps it’s just the plight of being a trailblazer,” Cotton said.

You can learn more about the Niya doll at http://www.niyakids.com.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 8 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • The SugarJarFebruary 14, 2012 - 7:57 pm

    I love it!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Eric PowellFebruary 15, 2012 - 9:24 am

    I am proud of my wife's perseverance with the Niya project for almost 29 years.I pray that someone would see the value of her vision and help her get the Niya dolls on the toy shelves and the animated television show on the screen.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FixFairfield.OrgFebruary 15, 2012 - 9:29 am

    Back when I was young (I'm 50 now) dolls were predominantly white. Rarely would one find an ethnic Barbie. I love it too...! Steven Kays

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Myra HicksFebruary 15, 2012 - 10:43 am

    I'm with her husband! This dream is long overdue and along with so many others, I'm praying that someone would see its value and worth to children.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rev. David L. ReavesFebruary 15, 2012 - 11:05 am

    Mrs. Darla Davenport-Powell is an inspiration for so many people! The Niya Doll is the type of product that creates and develops relevant dreams and aspirations for children in ethnic communities, while transforming and sobering the perspectives of the surrounding communities. The Niya doll is potentially one of the sparks in childhood development that could ignite the fire of hope we need today. This fire is what's needed in our communities to arrive at success that's authentic and reciprocal! This is simply marvelous! Rev. David L. Reaves, M.Div., Youth and Collegiate Pastor Mount Calvary Baptist Church

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Raymond ReederFebruary 15, 2012 - 2:51 pm

    The Niya Doll should be EVERYWHERE! In all retail stores, boutiques, train station gift shops, and anywhere that sells products. Why? Because children of color should have a doll to look at that looks like them! R. Reeder

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Debra K. DunnFebruary 16, 2012 - 9:28 am

    Another generation of proud black women are the result of the exposure they receive when they are young and impressionable... Darla raised one... and so did I. Niya, her books and tapes were a part of that experience... Share the love!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Woodson HopewellFebruary 17, 2012 - 8:35 am

    Way to go, Sister Darla! Your extended family at Hampton University will soon know of your efforts and the phenomenal Niya Doll. I agree with other posts: she should be everywhere! Niya should not have to be in a competition with other products at WalMart - All that is needed is an acceptance of this doll's authenticity, value and need in the general community! Kudos to my Sister and her family --God's richest and highest always! Woody Hopewell

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 4 Comments

.

Opinion

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9