The Diversity of OUR Kewpie Doll

A Kewpie mascot with a darker complexion is displayed on t-shirts. African American Hickman alumni are grateful, and Hickman PASS is benefiting.

Camille Manary and Maddie Stephenson

To the right of the commons’ main entrance, is a glass showcase, displaying a collection of Kewpie dolls. When attending any Hickman athletic event, you look across bleachers full of purple and gold, seeing Kewpie dolls throughout the student section, on jerseys, and on the megatron at the football field. Hickman takes immense pride in the rarity and authenticity of the mascot, making the Mental Floss list of 31 Unbelievable High School Mascots.

The Kewpie doll was created in the early 1900’s by Rose O’Neil in Branson, MO. The Kewpie is a symbol of kindness and cheer, with blush cheeks and a soft smile. Rose O’Neill had a vision of a small doll that could be affordable due to the small size. Not only is the sweet, smiling facial expression of a Kewpie doll important, but also the fact of availability of the toy to all children.

In 2014, Hickman celebrated the Kewpie centennial. Aside from diverse merchandise given to MAC scholars, our mascot has been reflected being one race. The white history of’ the Kewpie originated in Columbia Hickman’s opening in 1912, as an all white school, before desegregation of schools in 1954.

Selling of diverse merchandise did not happen until Denise Herndon, an assistant principal at Hickman, began selling t-shirts showcasing a kewpie with darker skin. This idea had been on her mind for several years. “I have been thinking about this for years and needed a fundraiser for my ladies group called PASS/Promoting Advocating Sisterhood and Service group.”

Ms. Herndon was asked about merchandise sales to the Hickman community. Since the release of this new t-shirt fundraiser, she stated, “Thanks to Mr. Jeff Devero and student government, I had the chance to sell the diverse merchandise to the class of 67 and 77. The African American Alumni was so excited about having the opportunity to purchase African American items.”

Dr. Lennon shared her experience in showing off a new Kewpie look by purchasing merchandise from Ms. Herndon,
“In buying it, I had a good discussion with Ms. Herndon about whether or not we both thought it was appropriate for me to purchase and wear it. Her answer was, ‘I wear white Kewpies all the time, so I don’t see any problem with it!”

Personally, I wish that we, as the Hickman community, would have more of these kinds of open conversations between people of differing identity groups. Until we have serious and honest conversations about our differences, I don’t think we can really get anywhere.”

The diversity of Hickman is visually evident, making it odd that the mascot does not reflect what so many Hickman Kewpies truly look like.

Equazhan’e Spain, junior, felt that the Kewpie does not reflecting diversity as it should have.
“I feel like there’s not enough, there’s not really any diversity,” Spain said.

Everyone at Hickman should feel accepted. The idea of African American Kewpie merchandise would make everyone feel welcome as a part of the Kewpie community, uniting students through comfort, and the feeling of belonging..
Columbia Public Schools is focusing on equity district wide while working to make all CPS students find their place, starting with Hickman Kewpies being able to see themselves in their mascot.

“In the last several years, the district, and now Hickman is focusing on equity issues. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to incorporate more equity at HHS.” said Ms. Herndon, when asked about the broader view of a kewpie within Columbia Public Schools as a whole.

Dr. Lennon is a Hickman teacher and active member of the TIDE team, which stands for Tradition, Integrity, Diversity, and Excellence here at Hickman. The TIDE team represents Hickman’s values, and works to maintain the well-being of these key ideas.

Dr. Lennon stated her opinion on the best ways to handle applying kewpies of different colors.
“ I personally think it would be great if we could have a logo that shows the many colors of Kewpies, or just use the outline on whatever colored background there happens to be.”

When Jeremiah Kent, senior, was asked his opinion on the new addition, he brought up a point of the true equality that would need to be presented after creating the t-shirts showcasing just a black kewpie.

“I feel like it should be more than just black and white. I feel like we talk about that a lot. I feel like if we’re going to have spirit wear with just a black kewpie doll we should also have a Hispanic kewpie doll and an Asian kewpie doll. Not just putting one race out there.”

Hickman has been putting one race on merchandise for years, calling for a change that the Hickman community is ready for. Airin Rolley, senior, says he “would love to show the support. I feel like either way it will be a problem. I feel like with the Kewpie Doll being black it shouldn’t be about whether it’s black or white, we shouldn’t categorize based on race, ethnicity, or creed.”

It is important for Kewpies to acknowledge Columbia’s diversity, and to take pride in our differences. As the Kewpie evolves, and as Hickman expands, remember that the Kewpie is a symbol of cheer and heart; something all Kewpies can express.