A 9-year-old boy and his mom launched a company to sell affirming and inspiring dolls for boys called “Our Brown Boy Joy.”
Demetrius Maurice Davis, Jr., aka “Lil Dee”, is the CEO of Our Brown Boy Joy, a plush doll line for young Black boys.
Lil Dee started the company at age 8 with his mom, Luciana Gilmore, to change the narrative about Black youth in the United States.
The Our Brown Boy Joy website states the ultimate goal of the toy line is “Building Confident Brown Boys through visual, play, and educational representation.”
“It is important to me because I want the world to think good things about Brown boys,” Lil Dee tells PEOPLE. “We aren’t bad, or mean, or trouble; we are smart, fun, and creative.”
Gilmore said she came up with the idea for the plush dolls because her son loves toys but he couldn’t find any boy dolls in toy stores.
“My son loves toys and we would go to many stores and not see anything in the aisles that look like my son.”
“My mother had a mentoring business for girls, and I felt like there wasn’t anything for me,” Lil Dee tells PEOPLE. “I begged my mother to focus on boys.”
“Our boys are often depicted negatively in the media,” Gilmore said.
“On store shelves, the representation is minimal. And within the toys category, there is almost none for our boys. We must have opportunities for our boys to see themselves positively everywhere. Representation matters.”
Gilmore, a former school principal in Cleveland, said she dressed the “My Friend” doll in a hoodie to “bring attention to the things that are going on in our community,” such as the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida.
The doll, which retails for $49 to $59 each, recites inspiring messages when it is squeezed.
“We wanna make sure that they constantly hear messages and affirmations of how wonderful they are. That they’re smart,” Gilmore said. “Because there’s a narrative that is out worldwide that we wanna make sure that we are changing.”
She said her son has subscription boxes that comes out monthly and is filled affirming toys for boys.
“The response has been awesome!” Lil Dee tells PEOPLE.
“Having people send pictures, email me, or walk up to me and say thank you has made me so happy. I think people really like the affirmations the dolls say, and they are in my voice.”