Turning pain and trauma to purpose!
Inspired by the devastation of losing our black and brown boys to senseless deaths, preaching they matter, 9-year-old Demetrius Maurice Davis, Jr., aka Lil Dee is turning pain and trauma into joy and purpose with his new company Our Brown Boy Joy, and My Friend doll line.
Through his toy line, Lil Dee dedicated his first line of dolls to Black boys who lost their lives to police brutality: Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and others are featured in his new toy collection launched in 2020.
“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.
Spotlight has been over time shed light on the challenges of the black girl, and deeply bothered by the narrative of leaving black boys out, Ohio based Demetrius Maurice Davis Jr., 9, questioned his mom, Luciana Gilmore, about why even her mentorship only involved girls.
“I was the only boy at these conferences,” Demetrius told Clevland.com. “My mom was also doing these Zoom meetings with them, and I felt left out.”
His questioning of his mom triggered her to get thinking about ways to support Black boys. After exploring project ideas for weeks and praying for answers, one evening while shopping for baby dolls that looked like Demetrius but didn’t find, the gap laid the foundation of their company and toyline -Our Brown Boy Joy.’
Recalling how it started, mom, Gilmore said:
“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.”
According to her, Demetrius always liked plush animals and superhero dolls.
“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,” the former Cleveland Metropolitan School District principal said.
Our Brown Boy Joy aims to spread the word motivating and inspiring every black and brown boy to love themselves, letting them know they are special.
“I want brown boys to be proud of who they are,” remarked Lil Dee when asked about his inspiration for starting 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.”
In 2014, Lil Dee’s mother served as principal at Marion-Seltzer Elementary School, where Tamir Rice attended. Rice’s senseless slaying by a Cleveland police officer hit close to home for them.
“I wanted him to understand that this is not just a Black man issue, but it extends to boys your age,” Gilmore said. “We talked about Rice, who was one of my students.”