The quest to find multicultural dolls and toys for kids that teach about Black and Latina accomplishments can be difficult.
Happily, experienced educator, Maritere Mix, has started a new venture to fill this need, hand-crafting educational Latina and Black dolls in either pre-made or “sew your own” form. Read on to learn more!
Teaching Traveling: Ms. Mix, tell us about your background as an educator-artist.
Maritere: My name is Maritere, and I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Chelsea, MA. I have been a Latin teacher since 2003, spending 12 years at Boston Public Schools, and the past 5 at Nashoba Brooks School.
My career as an educator is a large part of my identity, but I have always found time to paint, to draw, and to create through sewing.
TT: Wonderful. Tell us about your new educational Black and Latina doll venture! How did you come up with the idea, what is the process like to make them, and what are you hoping will come out of this?
M: My mother used to sew all my dresses as a little girl, and when I became an auntie in 2007, I caught the sewing bug when my husband bought me a sewing machine for Christmas. I started with clothes for my niece and nephew, but soon I started selling to friends and families and others through word of mouth.
As the children around me got older, I shifted away from dolls and clothes to dolls and plushies. How I started my new educational Black and Latina doll venture is kind of a long story.
One day in 2018, I doodled some pictures of famous Black women… I am not sure why. Then in 2019 I started to experiment with the digital drawing app, Procreate, and I thought: What if I drew the famous Black women and set it up as a plushy or doll? And what if I made the doll more than just something to play with, and made it something informative? And what if I used Spoonflower to print out the fabric and sell the dolls?
It was really just a spiral of ideas that brought me to this one product. There is such a LACK of educational dolls that feature actual Black and Brown women and are affordable. I hope to have a whole line of famous Black women and Latina women.
Right now I’m working on expanding my Latina doll section, adding Dolores Huerta, Ellen Ochoa, Celia Cruz, Frida Kahlo, and Sonia Sotomayor. There have also been requests for others that are in the works, and you can feel free to request Black and Latina historical figures, yourself!
My dream is that every classroom will have these dolls and use them to teach students from an early age about the lives of these women, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, or Women’s History Month, or Black History Month — but all throughout the year.
TT: Yes! I see you have a new Kamala Harris doll?
M: Indeed I do! Kamala Harris is making history as the first Black vice president of the United States, so families can now order a Kamala doll so children can be inspired! Below you can see how I plan out the toy’s design:
TT: So important! What reactions are you getting about your educational Latina and Black dolls?
M: Within my circle, people love the dolls, and I get a lot of positive feedback. Right now, I have a shop set up on Etsy (click to see it) featuring the “sew-your-own” fabric panels for dolls like Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and Septima Poinsette-Clark. I am also offering a finished, sewn version of the Chisholm doll. I will expand my offerings as time goes on.
TT: Excellent! What advice do you have for families and educators looking to do racial equity work or champion multicultural education?
M: My advice to families and educators is: start where you can and go from there. We spend a lot of time trying to surround kids with a physical space that nurtures them, both at home and in school. We make choices whenever we purchase something for that space.
In the classroom, there is so much missing from our curricula about Black and Brown people… But if you can start by introducing something that kids love, like a doll, to their physical spaces, you are sparking curiosity and conversations that may not otherwise happen.
Start small; start with a doll! Feel free to browse my Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/MadeByMix and to be in touch through the comments section here.