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Why World by Us matters

Learning

2020 was an unforgettable year of change and reflection. American Girl turned reflection into action, creating a cast of characters who advocate for equality with confidence and compassion. Meet Makena, Evette, and Maritza—three friends working together to make their world a better place. Together, they’re finding their voices on important social issues, like racial justice, environmentalism, and immigrant rights. Their relevant, timely stories show girls that they don’t need to wait until they grow up to make a difference—they can do it right now!

Meet Makena Williams

Makena uses fashion to make a statement, and she posts her outfits online every day. She loves matching her looks to how she’s feeling. On the first day of school, she puts butterfly clips in her hair as a sign that she’s ready for a change, like a caterpillar ready to transform. When Makena experiences racism in her own neighborhood, she decides to use fashion to speak out about an important issue.

Makena’s story teaches girls to:

Speak out about injustice
One afternoon, Makena forgets her house keys and tries to enter her home through a window. A neighbor calls the police, and the interaction that follows leaves her shaken and angry. She knows she’s not the only one to experience racism like this. She creates a T-shirt that says See Me, Hear Me, Know Me and shares her story online.

“I am a person. See me for who I am. Hear what I say. Get to know me before you make up something about me. Judge me for my words and actions, not my color. See ME. Hear ME. Know ME.” -Makena

Bring their shine
At first, Makena is nervous to share her fashion ideas in a vlog. To find her courage, she looks to the people in her family that inspire her. Her Auntie Bling, who’s a stylist in LA, reminds Makena to show off her shine. And her mom reminds Makena how important it is for proud Black women to inspire others.

“You’re bringing your shine, Makena. Wear this to make your statement to the world, and keep giving other people the power to tell their stories.” –Auntie Bling

Meet Evette Peeters

A nature-lover, Evette is full of crafty ideas for upcycling and taking care of the planet, especially the Anacostia River near her home. When she discovers a cute vintage swimsuit buried deep in her grandmother’s closet, she uncovers a secret from the past. Evette wants to know why her mother’s side of the family, which is Black, and her father’s side of the family, which is White, don’t get along. Evette works hard to heal her world—family, friends, river, and all.

Evette teaches girls to:

Clean up their world
Evette learns about a special swimming spot on the Anacostia River that her grandmother cherished as a child. When Evette sees it, she’s shocked to discover it’s full of trash. The experience inspires her to organize a river cleanup day, to make the swimming hole as beautiful as her grandmother remembered.

“This Saturday, we’re going to clean up all the trash, so it will be beautiful again, just like Gran E remembers it from when she was a girl.” –Evette

Give second chances
Due to a conflict that began many years ago, Evette’s grandmothers avoid each other. To bring them back together, Evie must convince Grandma Peeters to apologize, and persuade Gran E to give Grandma Peeters a second chance. Similarly, after Evette judges some kids at school, she must own up to her mistakes and see them for who they really are.

“What I’m trying to tell you is not to judge a whole person for one thing they did or said. People can change and learn from their mistakes.” –Evette

Meet Maritza Ochoa

Maritza loves celebrating all the things that make her Latina heritage so wonderful: delicious food, colorful murals, and music-filled street festivals. Soccer is huge in her world, and the sport has taught Maritza to be a good team player and leader. But when she learns that her friend Violeta’s uncle—a man who is undocumented but working toward citizenship—has been detained by immigration, she knows it’s time to take charge.

Maritza teaches girls to:

Advocate for others
When Violeta’s Uncle Andrés is detained, Maritza takes action. To bring attention to the unjust situation, she rallies her teammates to make a surprise demonstration during a soccer tournament. The bold move pays off, inspiring an influential audience member to help free Andrés.

“We don’t want to just talk about injustice. We want to do something about it.” –Maritza

Lead with their hearts
Maritza comes from a compassionate family full of people who encourage her to help others. Her aunt, an activist and Labor Department lawyer, Tía Mari, gives Maritza a journal full of uplifting messages that help fuel and guide her journey toward activism and philanthropy.

“I will lead with my heart and find a way to help your family.” –Maritza

Meet the authors and advisors

Makena’s, Evette’s, and Maritza’s stories came to life thanks to three talented writers and an amazing board of experts. The team collaborated on all major steps along the way from developing the stories, to reviewing the manuscripts, to advising on the hair and features of the dolls.

Authors
Denise Lewis Patrick: author of Makena’s story, See Me, Hear Me, Know Me. She has written many American Girl books, including Melody Ellison’s series.
Sharon Dennis Wyeth: author of Evette’s story, The River and Me. She grew up in Washington, D.C., where the World by Us stories take place, and has written many novels and picture books exploring the theme of race.
Angela Cervantes: author of Maritza’s story, Lead with Your Heart. She’s written several books featuring Latina protagonists.

Advisory board members
Katrina Lashley: program coordinator at Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and a leader in the Women’s Environmental Leadership Initiative
Yasmine Mabene: California State Director of March for Our Lives, social media coordinator of Earth Uprising, and student at Stanford University
M. Lucero Ortiz: Deputy Director for Kids in Need of Defense, Mexico, and human rights attorney who represented migrant families and unaccompanied children before the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice
Dr. Deborah Rivas-Drake: professor of psychology and education at the University of Michigan, who studies how adolescents navigate issues of race, ethnicity, racism, and xenophobia
Deanna Singh: founder of Flying Elephant, a consulting firm that helps women and people of color become social entrepreneurs, and author of four children’s books about racism, including American Girl’s new A Smart Girl’s Guide: Race & Inclusion.
Naomi Wadler: teen activist focused on racial justice. At age 11 she was the youngest speaker at the 2018 March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

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