Carline Smothers wants to educate the world on the positives of Haitian society by creating a children’s book series and a doll to go with it.
The Haitian entrepreneur initially launched her company, Zoe Beautee, in 2012 to celebrate the country’s beauty and culture. But Smothers told Essence she felt compelled to create Carline the Haitian Doll once her 5-year-old daughter called Black book characters “ugly” during bedtime readings.
To raise funds for the toy, Smothers launched a Kickstarter campaign. She seeks to raise $30,000 by Oct. 29, and the money will aid in the company’s first manufactured set of dolls. Also included in the fee are the books, Fanmi Mwen, or My Family, and Mmmmm, Soup Joumou! The stories are part of the Zoe Beautee Little Reader’s Collection. Offered in both Creole and English, the series features a young Black girl with thick, curly hair and dark skin.
Carline is the name of the main character in the series. And the doll’s features match the protagonist’s own.
On Instagram, Smothers said she considered halting her campaign after Hurricane Matthew hit the Caribbean, devastating Haiti. However, she decided to keep pushing forward.
“There are Haitian-American children in the United States who will benefit and be empowered,” she wrote of her reasoning Oct. 8. “They are our future leaders. I pray for Haiti, and apologize to anyone who may feel offended by me asking for help backing my project.”
After listing some of the foul stereotypes some hold of Haitians, Smothers said she would have loved to have a book and toy like Carline growing up.
“Therefore, I will continue to share until my 21 days are up,” she added.
But that doesn’t mean Smothers isn’t using her clout to help her home island. The CEO is giving a portion of her fundraiser’s proceeds to L’union Suite’s Haitian American Hurricane Matthew Haiti Relief Effort.