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‘The Baby Doll Was Caucasian…I Thought That She Should Have a Doll of Her Own’: Detroit Man Inspiring Ghanaian Girls with Black Dolls

Maurice Cheetham changed his life drastically in 2017 when he resigned from his position as a unit manager for juvenile detention and psych intake programs in Detroit, Michigan. He packed his bags, moved to Ghana, and launched African Roots Travel, a company focused on curating tours for African-Americans traveling to Ghana. “For me, I’ve seen wealth and I’ve seen opportunity like I’ve never seen in my life,” he said. “The opportunity to be a part of here and what you can be a part of and pass to your kids and your grandkids, it’s unmatchable,” he said.

Soon afterward, he started a nonprofit organization, Art Cares Foundation, to empower Ghanaian youth. “Our primary program is called the Baby Like Me program,” he said. Cheetham started the initiative after seeing a Ghanaian girl carrying a Caucasian doll. He immediately felt she needed a doll in her own likeness as a Black girl. Using social media, he put a call out to get donations so he could gift dolls to girls. “I got hundreds of hits from friends within my social circle wanting to donate money and wanting to send things to help out.” He says that at every event the girls are encouraged to love themselves beyond just receiving a doll.

Maurice Cheetham, founder of Baby Like Me Program. (Photo: Maurice Cheetham)

When asked what prompted his decision to leave America for Ghana, Cheetham admits his path was not the typical one. He was born to a Ghanaian father and an African-American mother. Growing up in Detroit, he embraced his African-American side because it was easier. His father’s death forced him to examine and accept his African roots. “The first time I came to Ghana was to bury my father,” he said. “I can’t say that initially I came home to Ghana … Ghana sought me.”

After ten trips to Ghana following his father’s funeral, he resigned from his job and moved to Ghana. As he continues to make an impact in Ghana through his foundation, he also sees the continued growth in African-Americans traveling to and moving to Ghana. “People are finally seeing that it’s OK to go to Ghana. It’s safe. Ghana’s the gateway to Africa.”

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