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8 Dec

This Hampton University Grad Created An Inclusive Toy Line

Brooke Hart Jones didn’t know much about Hampton University when she applied for admission within the late 90s. She just knew that when her friend, also a prospective student, talked about his experience while on a tour there, he glowed.

“Attending an HBCU, particularly Hampton was probably the most pivotal decisions I’ve made in life truthfully,” Hart Jones shared with Essence. “And I feel my story is pretty reflective of my friends’ who would say the identical. The experience just really affects every aspect of your life: academically, professionally, personally. I graduated over 20 years ago and I’m still friends with my classmates. The bond is different.”

After graduating from Hampton University in 2002, she said she continued to lean on the private and skilled connections forged during undergrad to construct her profession in merchandising.

Her college experience is one Hart Jones said every Black child deserves to have, so when she was trying to purchase an HBCU-branded doll for a friend’s child, she was confused by the shortage of options on the market.

“I went to look online to search out one because in my mind, it exists—surely this exists,” she said. “For some reason, I felt I had seen it. So I went online to try an place an order, and I couldn’t find anything. And I’m like, ‘wait a minute. Are there not any Hampton dolls on the market?’ So I start trying to find different HBCU affiliated dolls. Couldn’t find anything. I’m like this doesn’t exist. I used to be shocked at that moment and I stepped back. I’m a former toy buyer as well, so when I noticed they didn’t exist, that side of my brain went off. And my love of HBCUs and knowledge of the industry melded together–that’s how HBCYoU Dolls began.”

Throughout the pandemic, Hart Jones created a line of dolls that represented various key moments of the HBCU experience including a homecoming queen figure, cheerleaders and student body president.

This Hampton University Grad Created An Inclusive Toy Line That Celebrates The Lasting Impact of HBCUs

Lower than two years later, Jones partnered with distinguished Black-owned toy company Purpose Toys to release the gathering of three 18-inch dolls donning natural hairstyles. Now, they’re being sold in Goal and the buyer reception has been great.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “Purpose Toys is an enormous a part of that which I like because they’re a Black-owned startup that actually desires to center and have a good time communities of color. I’m just so glad I’m in a position to show my gratitude to the institutions that helped shape me and so many others, while also inspiring the following generation to be Black, proud and great.”

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