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Britain’s Black doll makers rush to meet demand for diversity



British entrepreneur Jodi Vernon never intended to become a toy maker. But after her daughter Clarke was born, she struggled to find Black dolls that represented her family in toy shops packed with white-skinned, blue-eyed figures.

The last straw came when she went into a second-hand shop in London and was offered a golliwog doll – a 19th century-era caricature inspired by Black-faced minstrels that has long been considered racist.

“I just wanted something I could put in the buggy that was representing her,” Vernon, 31, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a video call from her workshop and home in Brixton, south London.

She created Clarke’s Closet, an online shop selling Black rag dolls and accessories, in 2014.

“All these toy stores don’t understand that they’re missing a big trick – there are so many Black women and Black parents wanting a Black doll for our children,” Vernon said.

Mattel, one of the world’s largest toy companies, has been selling Black dolls for decades, and there is a growing market for a more diverse range including racial minorities, larger bodies and disabilities.

But toyshops in Britain – as in many other countries – are dominated by dolls based on slim, white beauty ideals, despite a huge potential market for racially diverse dolls.

About 14% of people in England and Wales are Black, Asian, mixed-race or from other ethnic minority groups, according to the latest official data from the 2011 census.

“Children learn through play, and if they’re not represented in schools, stores or in their homes, they won’t be able to embrace themselves as much,” Vernon said.

At a time of social reckoning about entrenched racism around the world, Black toy makers are stepping up to offer more representative options.

Vernon’s handmade designs range from a giggling mermaid sporting purple dreadlocks to women with African fabric head wraps. She also has a Christmas range including a Black Sugar Plum Fairy and Father Christmas.

Doreen Lawrence, another toy entrepreneur, also saw a gap in the market for her It’s Reuben range of Black and mixed-race dolls with afro hair.

“In the same way we have Barbie and Ken, we can have Ruby and Reuben,” she said.


Lawrence, a former teacher, started developing her line after she struggled to find diverse dolls for her classroom play-group sessions.

She bought a carton of Black dolls from China, and they sold out instantly on eBay. That early success spurred her to start making her own.

But it has been a struggle – and an extra expense – to get the details of her dolls right.

Even in China, where much of the world’s manufacturing is based, she found the sculptors working on the moulds for her designs included typically white features such as narrow noses as standard.

“I would say, ‘No, we don’t have features like that’, and they’d say ‘But we’ve always made it like that’,” she said.

“Even the color and hair, I have to pay more to get them right. When they make a dark tone, they have to use a specific toner and they have to use a lot of it otherwise it comes out looking grey.

“That’s something they had never thought of before.”

Lawrence’s experiences show how the industry is still falling short on the basics, said Yolanda Hester, a historian at the University of California, Los Angeles.

She has studied the Shindana Toy factory, which operated in Los Angeles from 1968 to 1983 and manufactured a range of Black toys as part of a cultural empowerment movement.

Its creators ran into similar issues with moulds from suppliers before they set up their own factory, she said.

The factory’s success “really established the fact that the ethnic doll market is a viable market and that there’s always been a demand for Black dolls”, Hester said.


Both Vernon and Lawrence self-funded their ventures through their own savings, and are hoping to draw investment to scale up their businesses.

“I’d like to have my own factories where I could do my own thing,” Lawrence said.

But unlocking cash has proved complex, with investors unwilling to put up funding. Vernon was rejected for a bank loan.

“They said it didn’t seem like a good business, that was the reaction I got, and it was an old white guy,” she said.

Black company founders got less than 0.5% of all British venture capital funding between 2009 and 2019, according to an analysis released last year by nonprofit Extend Ventures.

“The difficult truth is that the majority of investors are white and male, so they are the gatekeepers,” said Tom Adeyoola, the organisation’s co-founder.

Vernon’s business is doing well enough for her to have been approached by investors – but they have come with heavy demands to hand over equity and creative control.

“I’ve even had some investors say … ‘If you do Black dolls, you can do white dolls as well’,” she said.

“And I don’t want to go down that road.”


(Reuters Messaging: Reporting by Sharon Kimathi Editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit


Airlines say Canadian flights unaffected by turmoil over 5G wireless launch in U.S. – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Published Wednesday, January 19, 2022 2:54PM EST

Last Updated Wednesday, January 19, 2022 4:05PM EST

MONTREAL – Canadian airlines say flights to the U.S. remain unaffected by the rollout of new 5G wireless technology that has sparked blowback from many large carriers.

Several international airlines cancelled flights to the United States this week over concerns that 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology.

On Tuesday, telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T announced last-minute delays to Wednesday’s service launch near key U.S. airports – the third postponement since early December – after U.S. carriers warned that the wireless frequency could cause widespread flight disruptions.

Critics say the new C-band 5G service operates in a frequency range that could interfere with radio altimeters, which measure an aircraft’s height above the ground and help pilots land in low visibility.

Air Canada, WestJet Airlines Inc. and Transat A.T. say no flights to the U.S. have been cancelled due to the issue.

“WestJet has not identified any material risk to our operations regarding the rollout of 5G across Canada,” spokeswoman Denise Kenny said in an email.

Airlines for America, a trade association representing 10 U.S. airlines and Air Canada, warned in a letter to the U.S. government Monday that “the vast majority of the travelling and shipping public will essentially be grounded” if the rollout goes ahead as initially planned. The 50 biggest American airports would have been subject to flight restrictions, prompting cancellation of some 1,100 flights, the organization said.

Canada’s 5G rollout faces no such hurdles.

Last fall, the federal Industry Department established protective measures, including so-called exclusion zones near airports, to reduce any interference with radio altimeters while allowing deployment of 5G systems in the 3,500-megahertz band in Canada. (The planned 5G rollout by American telecoms falls between 4,200 and 4,400 megahertz.)

It also imposed a “national antenna down-tilt requirement” on telecoms to protect helicopters and planes used in low-altitude military and search and rescue operations as well as medical evacuations, “which by nature do not fly predictable routes into and out of major airports,” the department’s Nov. 18 decision reads.

“It is expected that as new information and studies become available, and as new radio altimeter standards are developed internationally, these measures may be modified or relaxed,” Industry Department spokesman Hans Parmar said in an email.

John Gradek, head of McGill University’s aviation management program, said 5G networks in Canada run at lower wireless speeds that would not interfere with landings, and that only some older planes whose technology has not been upgraded pose a risk in the U.S.

“The question you have to ask yourself is, are the airlines investing in what I would call hardening the radio altimeter equipment so it no longer gets interfered with by C-band 5G?” he said in a phone interview.

“People knew this was coming. The airlines could have done something to invest in their airplanes to get the equipment in place, but they have not. We all know it’s money – airlines are kind of short on money these days.”

Robert Kokonis, president of consulting firm AirTrav Inc., says U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration should shoulder more blame for the “debacle” than cash-strapped carriers, pointing to a “lack of co-ordination and communication.”

“Between the commissioners of the Federal Aviation Administration – the FAA – and the Federal Communications Commission – the FCC – there’s an abject failure of decision making on behalf of the Biden administration,” he said in a phone interview.

“This is the biggest aviation market in the world. For this to happen – after the Boeing 737 Max oversight issue – you’ve got to scratch your head and wonder: what is going on in that country?”

The wave of cancellations by some airlines will carry “ripple effects” for carrier schedules around the world, he added.

On Wednesday, Emirates announced it would halt flights to several U.S. cities due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services” at certain airports. It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

Emirates president Tim Clark pulled no punches when discussing the issue. He told CNN it was “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” situations he’d ever seen as it involved a failure by government, science and industry.

Of particular concern appears to be older Boeing 777 wide-body jetliners. Emirates only flies that model and the Airbus A380 jumbo jet – and it was among one of the most affected airlines.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways cancelled 20 flights to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters,” the carrier said. Along with Japan Airlines, it said Boeing announced restrictions on airlines flying its 777s.

Air India also announced on Twitter it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, N.J., New York City and San Francisco because of the 5G issue. But it also said it would try to use different aircraft on U.S. routes – a course several other airlines took.

In Canada, the industry and transport departments are working with the telecom and aviation sectors “to ensure that appropriate rules are in place to protect the critical operations of radio altimeters” and minimize potential interference, Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Liu said in an email.

Transport Canada also issued a civil aviation alert on Dec. 23 offering recommendations on how to fly an airplane “in a 5G environment,” she noted.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:TRZ)

– With files from The Associated Press

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Global National: Jan. 19, 2022 | Canada's inflation rate soars to its highest level since 1991 – Global News



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Deal reached between B.C. First Nations and forestry company to defer old-growth logging –



Logging will be temporarily deferred in approximately 2,500 hectares of old-growth forest following an agreement between four Vancouver Island First Nations and a forestry company.

The Nanwakolas Council, which represents four First Nations, and Western Forest Products have agreed to defer old-growth logging in a section of forest north of Campbell River, for two years.

The deferral includes preservation of 10 square kilometres of forest identified by an old-growth advisory panel as needing protection.

Another 15 square kilometres of priority ancient forests were also deferred through other agreements between the nations and the forestry firm.

In November, the government said it would defer the logging of B.C.’s rarest old-growth trees and gave 200 First Nations a deadline to say if they supported the deferrals or if they thought further discussion was required.

Nanwakolas Council president Dallas Smith used a pop-culture reference to summarize his reaction to the agreement.

“If you’re a Star Wars person, I feel like Luke Skywalker in the newer movies – we have our Jedi powers now and we’re not questioning whether we are or not,” Smith said.

“We are First Nations and we are in control of this. And it’s like Yoda said, ‘Do or do not. [There is] no try.’ And we’re doing it now.”

First Nations waited for years to ensure their cultural values were incorporated to discussions about forests and all that they hold, Smith said, adding that came together with the agreement.

Smith said unlike in the past, those solutions will come from First Nations, be rooted in Indigenous values, but still look after the economic concerns of the region.

Approval from First Nations required

Smith said another part of their agreement is that any other harvesting will have to be done after approval with all First Nations communities.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said Wednesday the temporary halt of logging in large sections of old-growth is an important measure giving First Nations and the forest industry time and space to develop long-term strategies.

“A temporary deferral is a step in a long-term partnership and vision for forest management that will benefit local communities and ecosystem health,” she said at a news conference.

Tegan Hansen, a forest campaigner at, says all deferrals recommended by the old-growth advisory panel should happen now.

“I’m really not hopeful if the province tries to piecemeal small deferrals over a very long period of time when what we need to see is a process where instead of nations having to opt in to logging deferrals, we have deferrals as a base, which is what the recommendation is, and nations can opt in to logging as they choose on their territories,” Hansen said.

“So we’re really seeing a flip in the order of process in terms of what the old growth strategic review set out for the province.”

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