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how brown boy joy is disrupting toxic masculinity for future generations

February 12, 2022

With the support of his mother, a nine-year-old boy from Ohio has launched a company that both celebrates and speaks life into young Black and brown boys. And the company’s main product and the vessel is a doll.

The ‘My Friend’ plush is the market product of Our Brown Boy Joy, the company launched by Demetrius Davis Jr., better known as Lil Dee, and his mother Luciana Gilmore. In an effort to both allow your Black boys to see themselves and spark conversations around bias, the doll is available dressed in a white hoodie – as an homage to Trayvon Martin – and a pair of Timberland-inspired boots; or a black tracksuit and Adidas inspired kicks. It also speaks affirmations like, “Brown boy, you are joy” and “Brown boy, you are powerful.” The doll is currently available as a solo product on the company’s website and is also the centerpiece to a monthly subscription box.

The idea behind the “My Friend” plush was born out of the difficult conversations Gilmore had with Lil Dee in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. “He was sad,” she told Good Morning America. “And for me as a mother, it’s sad for me to even have to have discussions with him about race and colorism and those types of things, but I needed to connect for him.”

As Lil Dee started asking his mother what he could do to help quell racial tensions in the world around them, they decided to launch Our Brown Boy Joy in June of 2020. By December of last year, Gilmore said they had sold over 10,000 ‘My Friend’ dolls. They also released a book titled, Lil Dee Finds His Power, which follows the main character as he discovers all the amazing things about himself.

Through his company’s products and the community My Brown Boy Joy has fostered on social media, Lil Dee’s goal was to create an environment where boys like him could feel comforted, welcomed, and supported. But in addition to impacting his own generation, his mother says the “My Friend” doll has also touched a chord with Black men.

“What has been surprising is the response that we see from grown males who have purchased the dolls, saying ‘I wish I would have had this as a kid.’ That has been exciting,” Gilmore explained.

Our Brown Boy Joy hopes to push its mission of social and emotional empowerment through visual representation into other platforms and products, including a cartoon.