Xavier University Athletics Department partners with Origin Bees to create exclusive line of XULA Cheer Babydolls in time for the holidays

athletics partners with Origin Bees to launch diverse babydolls

The Xavier University Athletics Department has partnered with multicultural toy company Orijin Bees to launch the “I See Me” campaign. The “I See Me'' campaign seeks to empower Black youth and call attention to the underrepresentation of Black and brown people within the competitive cheer sport by releasing a line of diversity-oriented dolls with various skin tones and hair textures.

Glenn Caston, the Inclusion and Social Justice Officer and head competitive cheer coach at Xavier and founder of the “I See Me” campaign, was inspired to create this movement during the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Caston wanted to create positive imaging that resonated with young people to dismantle negative portrayals of marginalized people.

girls-doll.jpeg

“Every time we have a homecoming parade or cheer competition, these little girls run up to hug me, and it just warms my heart. These little experiences made me ask, what Xavier can do to start to deconstruct this perspective of what it means to be a Black cheerleader.”

Caston worked with Orijin Bees to create toy dolls that represent Xavier cheerleaders. The dolls have the brand-specific curly hair featured on most Orijin Bees dolls, but they are wearing Xavier University cheer uniforms. The tennis skirts and tops feature Xavier’s widely-recognized brand colors, white and gold with the university logo displayed. Caston understands the importance of representation of Black people within the competitive cheer world.

“Black athletes in the competitive cheerleading world are underrepresented. We are judged before we even walk onto a stage. We are marginalized in a lot of ways. Typically, Black girls are believed to be perceived as limited in their ability, so when they make it to the collegiate level, they do not have the same training for all positions as other groups within the sport,” said Caston. 

jsr.jpeg

The Xavier University of Louisiana Competitive Cheer program made history by being the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) team to premiere at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in Davenport, Iowa. The NAIA began to include competitive cheer and dance in 2016 and is the only athletics association to award a national championship in these sports. In their 2020 debut, the XULA Competitive Cheer team placed fifth at the national competition and first in the NAIA polls. 

In May 2021, Glenn Caston coordinated and developed a partnership with Orijiin Bees, whose goal is to inspire girls to embrace their original features through dolls that reflect diverse skin complexions and hair textures. Caston was drawn to the dolls stating that they reminded him of the XULA Cheer team. 

“I wanted people to be able to see themselves within these dolls. I needed to have a doll company that was willing to highlight our diversity in a positive and accurate light, and Melissa Orijin was very instrumental in that,” said Caston. 

Melissa Orijin, founder of Orijin Bees, was motivated by her daughter Esi Orijin to create the Bay Bee Doll Collection after noticing her daughter’s change in doll preference to fairer complexion dolls after Esi was enrolled in school. 

img_3342.jpg

“They are a way for children to take pride in their heritage, celebrate their identity, and embrace their cultural roots. These toys are a conversation piece to form a discussion around education, our children, and reunifying our society,” said Melissa Orijin in a statement displayed on the Orijin Bees website. 

After many conversations with the team where students expressed that cheerleading is a safe space for them and a way to decompress, Caston also hopes the “I See Me” campaign represents Xavier University students beyond academics.

“It was important for me to show a different side of Xavierites, that they are human and have recreational lives that are equally important to highlight. We wanted to tell the story of how one can be a holistic human being while pursuing the dream of having a career in medicine,” said Caston. 

Caston gifted the first doll to a young neighborhood girl during Xavier’s 2021 homecoming parade, leaving her with a lifetime impression. 

“I saw her not too long ago playing with the doll on her porch and I could tell it really resonated with her. I cried because, for me, that was a sure sign that we are doing the right thing. We did more than gift her a new toy, We’ve inspired a dream,” said Caston. 

The next milestone for the “I See Me'' campaign is to connect youth to Xavier University students to expand current programming that focuses on affirmation for everyone involved. 

img_3260.jpg

The Orijin Bees Bay Bee Doll Collection is featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things For 2021 Christmas list. Still searching for the perfect gift for this season? Inspire a dream and gift a XULA Cheer Doll. Click here to order yours!

To stay up to date with XULA Cheer, follow them on Instagram: @XULA_CHEER.