Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Melanites Celebrating Brown Boyhood

Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Pierre, founder of Melanites, "Action Pals: that celebrate “brown boyhood.”  The interview transcript follows:

EEoDiB:  What inspired the creation of Melanites?

Jennifer:  I’m brown, and as a young girl I enjoyed playing with dolls. Yet growing up, it was next to impossible to find toys that looked like me. Many years later, the industry is finally starting to understand that we all don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes as seen by industry giants’ recent roll out of diverse dolls. But for the 7 million boys of color under the age of ten, not much has changed. This is where Melanites comes in.  Melanites designs diverse toys, storybooks, and games that celebrate brown boyhood. Our mission is to inspire children of color to dream big, stand tall, and live out their childhood.

Summer 2015, I was a mentor and volunteer at my local community center. After months of working with the kids in the program, I started to notice that many of the boys were not expressing their full potential and dreamed within a bubble. The messaging they received on a daily basis from various factors like TV and media did not provide positive affirmations about different possibilities for their future. I founded Melanites to celebrate them and change the internalized beliefs they were absorbing. My goal is to remind them that they can be whoever they wish, regardless of what society maps out for them.

Our society is a beautiful mix of different ethnicities, cultures, and personalities. Unfortunately, when a consumer ventures into toy stores or searches online, there aren’t many positive, educational, and diverse options available. Melanites is revolutionizing what it means to have toys and products for boys. We are challenging social norms about gender and diversity.

Melanites are articulated and can stand on their own.

EEoDiB:  Please describe the features:

  • Approximately 16 inches tall
Material from which they are made
  • Full vinyl body
Are they jointed (if so where)?
  • Articulated in the neck, shoulders, elbow, wrists, hips and knees.
Sturdiness of construct - will they withstand boy play?
  • Yes! We have spent months testing our action dolls in after school programs, playgrounds, and living rooms.

Is the hair molded or rooted with synthetic fibers?
  • Intent on creating a holistic play experience, Melanites decided to have textured wig hair.
Are the eyes inset or painted?
  • Inset eyes

EEoDiB:  What sets Melanites apart from other toys made for the target market; do you believe they are a first of their kind?

Jennifer:  Melanites is the only company currently in the market tackling gender stereotypes and diversity simultaneously. We are developing products that provide a space for the millions of children of color in the country who do not currently see themselves represented. Moving beyond just dolls, our future roll out of storybooks and apps will create an entire ecosystem that celebrates who they are.

Actual image of "Action Pal" Jaylen above design mage of entire Melanites crew.

Our launching toy product, Jaylen, is the new “Action Pal” that combines the emotional appeal of a doll with the novelty of an action figure. Intent on celebrating the diversity of our multicultural society, each Pal comes in diverse skin tones, facial features, and hair types. What makes Melanites especially unique is our development of characters and personalities behind the Action Pals. Our Action Pals are based on four characters who are nine-year-old boys with different personalities. They represent the “Thinker, Doer, Maker, and Performer” in all of us. Our accompanying storybooks and games follow the crew as they go on different adventures that highlight S.T.E.M. and the importance of staying true to yourself.

EEoDiB:  How can Melanites be purchased or preordered?

Jennifer:  Melanites can be pre-ordered starting February 28th through our crowdfunding link hosted by Indiegogo. We will be launching our first action doll Jaylen and potentially through stretch goals, our first storybook Jaylen and the High Five Machine.

Contact information, website, email, crowd-funding link


Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing the inspiration for Melanites, details about the "Action Pals," and the preordering information through the crowdfunding link provided above and here.  Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black wishes you much success getting the Melanites crew into the hands of little people as well as adult collectors, who will be inspired by owning them.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Four Little Girls by Starkey's Daughter Cloth Dolls

Pressed felt faces of dolls that were in the making by Rachel McCullough Sherrod of Starkey's Daughter Cloth Dolls

Rachel McCullough Sherrod of Starkey’s Daughter Cloth Dolls has been making dolls off and on for decades but seriously began dollmaking in 2012 after her retirement. 

Among others, she enjoys making childlike dolls of historical significance.  Her most recent dolls are a set of four, a tribute to the four little girls who tragically lost their lives during the September 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.   According to Rachel, the idea to make this set was suggested to her by a seasoned, experienced, and well-respected doll collector. 

The Four Little Girls:  Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley are beautifully represented in doll form.

As shown above, the completed dolls represent Denise McNair, whose full name was Carol Denise McNair (age 11); Carole Robertson (age 14), Addie Mae Collins (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14).  Their pressed felt faces are individually sculpted, and their bodies are made of cloth.  With the exception of Denise, each doll stands 20 inches tall.  Denise, described as petite, was the youngest of the girls.  The Denise doll stands 16 inches.

Carol Denise McNair's sweet expression is captured in doll form.
Carole Robertson's closed-mouth, wide smile is artistically reproduced.

The bespectacled Addie Mae Collins doll has a large red ribbon in her hair.
Cynthia Wesley's sweet smile and bright eyes are nicely duplicated in the Cynthia doll.

Currently only one set of the Four Little Girls dolls exists.  Rachel has not determined if additional sets will be made.

On February 5, 2017, the Four Little Girls dolls will be on display at a viewing of the award-winning documentary, Why Do You Have Black Dolls?  Rachel will host this event, which includes two viewings of the documentary at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. EST.  The flyer below contains full details.

For more information about these and other dolls made by Rachel of Starkey’s Daughter Cloth dolls, please contact her by email or by visiting her website.

Read more about the tragic deaths of Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley at the first two links below.  The third link redirects to the Why Do You Have Black Dolls? website.

16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
Four Little Girls of Birmingham Remembered
Why Do You Have Black Dolls?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hearts For Hearts Dolls Relaunch

Heart for Hearts Rahel from Ethiopia is 14 inches tall, made of artist-type vinyl with well-rooted natural-textured, Afro-style hair.  She is one of four returning Hearts for Hearts Dolls.

Having originally entered the doll market for the playline in 2010, the Hearts For Hearts dolls have returned.  The following is notification about the relaunch from Jennifer Crisanti, Director of Business Development for Splashworks.com:

The award-winning multicultural brand, Hearts For Hearts Girls is back. Our mission is to empower girls to become agents of change in their communities, and around the world. Four dolls, Rahel [shown above] from Ethiopia, Nahji from India, Dell from the USA, and Consuelo  from Mexico are now available through Amazon Prime and specialty retailers.
It’s a brand built on a foundation of rich content. Girls can learn about the characters through their diary entries and they will be able to interact with characters in the upcoming mobile apps.  
Together we CAN change the world — one heart at a time! 
You can check out the dolls at : http://www.hearts4heartsgirls.com  
Jennifer added:
Our team feels very lucky to be able to participate on this brand.
We have an opportunity to deliver the brand's messages through games and apps.
 As we move forward, it will be important to continue to connect with the community.  
I have attached a link to a promotional game on our site.  There is more fun to come!  Play the game at http://www.hearts4heartsgirls.com/play.

An empowered girl will become an empowered woman.