College Student Develops Toy Line for Black Boys to Challenge Myths of Boyhood

The Melanites, designed by Jennifer Pierre

The Melanites, designed by Jennifer Pierre

A Massachusetts college student hopes to eradicate gender stereotypes with her new line of racially diverse dolls for boys.

The Melanites is a collection of four 18-inch, poseable dolls, each named for an inspirational personality trait: Thinker, Doer, Maker, and Performer. The dolls have a variation of skin tones, hair textures and facial features to represent “society’s changing multicultural demographic.”

Jennifer Pierre, entrepreneur and Babson College graduate student, was inspired by her years of volunteer and mentorship work with young boys of color.

“I have seen firsthand the way many of the boys maneuvered through life, and it put into perspective how different society cultivates children based on race and gender,” her website, reads.

“Many of the kids I mentored dreamed and inspired within a bubble because of circumstance and environment. The only real change of course happened through an intervention of a new mindset and exposure to new ideas.”

Pierre told the Associated Press the company would not limit itself to toys.

“We’re a toy company, but we’re trying to become a whole brand that celebrates brown boyhood,” she said. “I want it to be normal for a kid to go into the aisle and see themselves on the shelf.”

She said parents want more than the heavily-gendered options seen in average toy stores.

“Parents are tired of the pink aisle and the blue aisle,” Pierre said. “They want something they can give to their sons to teach them empathy, or to inspire them.”

The dolls come with an accessory kit to encourage boys’ creativity, inspiring them to build unique figures based on their own imaginations.

“We want to teach brown boys that they don’t have to, for example, choose between loving math & the sciences and having a passion for sports.”

“Our goal is to demolish the myth that the only road to success is through hyper-aggressive career and interest paths.”

Pierre has created KickStarter and GoFundMe accounts to raise $35,000 needed to begin production on the dolls. She said she aims to have the first set ready in time for this year’s Christmas season.

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