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Three more African-American dolls I'd like to see from American Girl.

The new doll is a great start, but there's much more to African-American history.

Three more African-American dolls I'd like to see from American Girl.

For just the third time in the company's 30-year history, American Girl announced a new African-American character to their roster of historical dolls.

Meet Melody Ellison, a 9-year-old girl living in Detroit in the 1960s, a time of optimism and upheaval. Melody wants to be a singer and uses her voice to speak up about the inequality and injustice she sees in her community.


Image from American Girl, used with permission.

Created under the guidance of a six-person advisory committee consisting of educators, community advocates, historians, and even the late civil rights activist Julian Bond, Melody's story, outfits, and accessories are grounded in history and authentic to the time.

Melody joins eight other dolls in American Girl's BeForever line of historical dolls and books.

The collection includes other well-known characters like Josefina, a young girl living on a ranch in New Mexico in 1824, and Kaya, an American-Indian girl leading a life of adventure in 1764.

Kaya doll and accessories. Image via CBS This Morning/YouTube.

Melody comes less than two years after the company took some heat for discontinuing two characters of color.

In 2014, American Girl "archived" four dolls, including the company's only Asian-American doll, Ivy Ling, a Chinese-American girl living in San Francisco in the 1970s. They also shelved Cecile Rey, an African-American girl living in New Orleans in the 1850s. The two dolls were sidekicks to other dolls in the line, and the company decided to do away with doll best friends.

Cecile (left) and Ivy were both retired in 2014. Image via CBS This Morning/YouTube.

But Melody, who will be released this summer, is hitting shelves all by herself, so hopefully she'll be around for much longer.

But even so, with just two African-American characters in their BeForever line, American Girl is ignoring a wealth of history.

Since dolls and characters like these offer an access point for children to learn and experience American history, it's vital that they don't fall into the trap of "the single story." There's more to black history than slavery (told through American Girl's Addy doll) and the civil rights movement, and it's important for young people of all backgrounds to understand the historical, political, and cultural movements that brought us to where we are today.

Here are some characters and dolls from different periods in African-American history I'd love to see and purchase for the young people in my life.

1. Pearl Cooper — New York, New York, 1921

Pearl has always lived in Harlem, but her neighborhood has come alive with the sights and sounds of fresh voices and new faces. Because her mother runs a boarding house, Pearl, a young aspiring writer, gets to meet them all. What can these artists, poets, dancers, and musicians teach her about telling her own story?

What would young Pearl ask Josephine Baker? Find out in this book that doesn't exist yet. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

2. Bessie Wilborn — Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1935

Bessie's father is a tenant farmer, working off the land and going deep into debt. Her mother teaches reading and writing to children and adults in their small town. But Bessie dreams of being an inventor and tinkers with tin cans and scrap wood all day. Her father insists she hold tight to her dreams, but when he loses his land and the Wilborns are forced to move, will Bessie have to abandon her goals to help provide for her family?

Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

3. Amaya Lewis — Cleveland, Ohio, 2014

Amaya's world turns upside down when her older brother's best friend is killed by police. Suddenly, Amaya's once quiet neighborhood is full of demonstrations, marches, and sirens. Her family is heartbroken, and no one understands, especially her best friend Darcy, who doesn't get what any of this has to do with race. Her parents urge her to stand up for what she believes in, but what does she believe in?

Amaya could be a lot like Zaniyah Siddell, 8, seen here, who protested at the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C., last year. Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images.

This is just a small selection of characters and stories rooted in African-American history.

There's so much more to explore, and hopefully, companies (American Girl or otherwise) will take notice and continue to empower and encourage young people through creative play.

Go behind the scenes with "CBS This Morning" to see how Melody came to life.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken, and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-and-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term stupid isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he belives applies to everyone.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."