This Doll Company Is Celebrating Black Boy Joy—and It Was Founded by an 8-Year-Old

'Our Brown Boy Joy' challenges false narratives about Black boyhood.

We should live in a world where all children have access to toys that make them feel represented, regardless of their shades or genders. But we don't. This lack of representation affects Black boys, in particular. Too often, when they see themselves reflected, it's in the context of racism and police brutality.

Demetrius "Lil Dee" Davis, CEO and co-founder of Our Brown Boy Joy wants to change all of that. Along with his mother, Luciana Gilmore, Lil Dee has created a collection of dolls designed to "motivate," "inspire" and reflect Black boys joyfully.

Black boy smiling holding several My Friend plush dolls
Courtesy of Our Brown Boy Joy

"I want brown boys everywhere to know just how special they are. My subscription boxes and character line will allow boys to have items that directly represent them. I know when I go into the store, nothing looks like me or represents me – this is a problem," says the 8-year-old Ohio resident.

The brand started in 2020 after mother and son talked about the limited access to dolls aimed at Black boys and the risk of racism after George Floyd's murder. Gilmore is a former principal in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District who once taught Tamir Rice and says Our Brown Boy Joy aims to find "a new way to tackle growing racial tensions in the United States."

She says it's important to shift the narrative of Black boys and men. Both Gilmore and Lil Dee hope the dolls are a small way to bring about impactful change. "I wanted him to understand that this is not just a Black man issue, but it extends to boys your age," Gilmore told Ceveland.com. "We talked about Rice, who was one of my students."

The dolls, each of which the duo chose to name "My Friend," wear white hoodies and Timberland boots in acknowledgment of Trayvon Martin and allow Black boys an opportunity to see themselves. Now, they have different skin colors and outfits to choose from.

"People need to know they have joy too, but like most, joy can turn to anger. I want people to smile when they see the doll," Gilmore said in the same interview.

The dolls are available for purchase through both subscription boxes, with monthly themes ranging from "Back-to-School" to "Bronzing Brown Boy Joy," and on an individual basis. Boys also receive age-appropriate books by Black American authors when they subscribe and are encouraged to express their joy by using the hashtag #iambrownboyjoy on social media.

If you'd like to support the mission, hurry. Grab a doll and subscription to share with the joyful brown boy in your life—they're going fast!

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