Months ago, I received a surprise in my inbox. A young lady named, Yelitsa Jean-Charles, from Rhode Island, where I grew up and went to college, was creating a doll collection “Healthy Roots” for black girls and wanted my help in design and graphic concepts. I was so excited that a black woman in her 20’s was working hard to fill a void that has touched me so personally now that I am a mom of a young girl and have found it impossible to find black dolls for my daughter. I had the privilege of meeting Yelitsa and one of her business partners Zanya Harriott and their passion was inspiring. The rest of the team includes Anisa Holmes, Ingrid Nelson, Nitashia Johnson and Zharia Shinn.
In an interview with Yelitsa, she shared her story with me about why she and her team are so driven to their mission.
“Growing up, I suffered from many insecurities about my skin color and hair texture. I was often told that in order to be beautiful you had to have long, flowing hair or fair skin. I remember taking a trip to Disney World in Florida. I had so much fun and wanted to tell my family members, but when I got back they didn’t ask me about how much fun I had or to see the hundreds of photos we took. The first thing they did was turn to my mother and say “Why did you let her get so dark”. says Yelitsa Jean-Charles
Too many children are made to feel that there is something wrong with the way they look. Not seeing many girls like them in the media doesn’t help these issues. Today, only 8% of children’s books have main characters of color, but about 50% of children in the USA are of color.
These numbers don’t add up.
“I created Healthy Roots to fill that void. Internalized racism and colorism stem from mainstream beauty standards that exclude women of color. The pressure that girls feel to appeal to mainstream beauty standards impacts their self esteem, leading them to use dangerous chemicals like perms and bleaching creams to become “beautiful.” I myself have seen far too many family members burn the scalps and skin in the name of beauty.
Healthy Roots teaches girls of color self-love through education, diversity, and positive representation. If the toys we play with influence how we perceive ourselves, imagine the kind of impact we can have with a toy that aims to inspire and empower.
I didn’t know how to do my own hair until I was 21 years old. That’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that we don’t know how to take care of our hair is it grows out of our heads because people tell us it isn’t beautiful. This is how I was made. You can’t argue with that.” says Jean-Charles
To date, Yelista and her team have raised nearly $22,000. Please support HealthyRoots reach their fundraising goals by making a PRE ORDER today.