Nine-year-old Demetrius Maurice Davis, Jr. and his mother are out to create dolls that send a message and bring more inclusion into the toy business.
Davis, the CEO of Our Brown Boy Joy, along with Luciana Gilmore, a former principal in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, started the business in June 2020. In early spring of that year, Gilmore planned a weekend girls conference with a group of young ladies she was mentoring. And while he admired his mom’s work, Davis wondered why there weren’t more boys in the group.
“I was the only boy at these conferences,” Demetrius told Cleveland.com. “My mom was also doing these Zoom meetings with them, and I felt left out.”
Demetrius subsequently developed a project geared toward boys his age, coming up with the concept of boy dolls that looked similar to himself. After lots of research, his mother discovered a big void.
“I started shopping around for dolls of color and discovered there was nothing that looked like my son,” she said. “I knew then we were on the right track and began all the legalities of starting a business.”
Working hard to put together a venture for her son, Gilmore planned to have everything in place for a gift for Davis’ 8th birthday.
“He has always liked plush animals and superhero dolls,” she said. “It never occurred to me to think boys might want dolls that look like them. He has older sisters, and I knew to always look for dolls of color for them.”
It all came together in June 2020 as Demetrius was handed a folder with documents making him the founder and CEO of Our Little Brown Joy company on his birthday.
Gilmore says her son took a major interest in George Floyd’s murder by a former Minneapolis police officer and says Demetrius’ dolls pay tribute to him as well as Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice who was killed in his hometown.
“I wanted him to understand that this is not just a Black man issue, but it extends to boys your age,” she said. “We talked about [Tamir] Rice, who was one of my students.”
Gilmore says the narrative surrounding young Black men and boys needs a major makeover.
“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,” she said.
Dolls from Our Brown Boy Joy range in price from $49 to $59 and can be purchased online here.