Demetrius Maurice Davis Jr., 9 years old, along with his mom, Luciana Gilmore, created a line of plush dolls for young Black boys to promote positive representation and change the negative narrative that often surrounds Black youth in the United States.

Demetrius, who often goes by the nickname "Lil Dee," is the CEO of Our Brown Boy Joy.

"It is important to me because I want the world to think good things about Brown boys. We aren't bad, or mean, or trouble; we are smart, fun, and creative," Demetrius told People. 

The genius of the new mother-son business venture was ignited when Gilmore was planning a weekend conference for a bunch of young girls she mentors through her foundation Gilmore Girls Greetings, reports.

“My mother had a mentoring business for girls, and I felt like there wasn’t anything for me. I begged my mother to focus on boys,” Demetrius said.

In Feb. 2021, the company presented its first doll for purchase to the public. Demetrius said he became extremely driven to launch a project that would highlight boys in his age group. 

“I started shopping around for dolls of color and discovered there was nothing that looked like my son,” Gilmore, a former Cleveland Metropolitan School District principal, said.

The first prototype of the doll was dressed in a white hoodie and Timberland boots to commemorate the life of Trayvon Martin, the Black teen that was gunned down in 2012 by George Zimmerman. The doll line was also created to honor Tamir Rice, who was killed by a Cleveland police officer at the age of 12. 

“Our boys are often depicted negatively in the media. 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, who had difficult conversations with her son after the killing of George Floyd, said.

Since the launch of the social justice dolls, Demetrius and Gilmore have broadened the doll line brand by including diverse skin tones and different attire. The company has been successful, albeit challenging, as they try to maintain adequate inventory.

"The response has been awesome! 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," Demetrius said about the dolls, which sell for $49 to $59 each.

Our Brown Boy Joy offers subscription boxes that are dispersed every month and include uplifting toys for boys. Individual purchases are also available.