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Inspiration, Inclusion, and the Making of a Multicultural Toy Company

An Interview with Yla Eason

Yla Eason is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Rutgers University where she teaches business communications and marketing. She has directed learning and development for the R/GA digital advertising agency and the Center for Excellence in Advertising at Howard University and lectured at the business school at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York (CUNY). In 1985 she founded the multicultural toy company Olmec Toys and has earned numerous awards, including the U. S. Business Enterprise Trust Award in 1996 and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Award in 2020. In this interview, Eason describes how she founded and ran her trailblazing company. Key words: diversity and toys; marketing toys; Olmec Toys; toy design; toy industry, Sun-Man

American Journal of Play: Tell us about your background and where you grew up.

Yla Eason: I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during segregation. My grandparents came to Oklahoma along with other Black people who were recruited by Black leaders Booker T. Washington and Ida B. Wells. Oklahoma was portrayed as a place where there were Native Americans, but no white people. Government removal of Native peoples in the southeastern United States in the 1830s, known as The Trail of Tears, had made Oklahoma one big reservation. But in the aftermath of slavery in the late nineteenth century, it was also seen as a place where recently emancipated Black people could buy land, own land, be farmers, and grow crops. My grandparents were farmers.

My parents met at Langston University, a historically Black college and university (HBCU) in Oklahoma. Before Oklahoma became a state in 1907, there were more Black towns there than in any other place in America. And they were all thriving and self-sufficient. Black people owned banks,movie theaters, pharmacies, land, and homes. Tulsa had these kinds of Black businesses. The city’s Greenwood district was known as Black Wall Street. That was the site of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, when a white mob led an attack that destroyed thirty-five city blocks and left hundreds dead and injured and thousands homeless.

I grew up with a very strong Black identity because of where I came from and because I had heard my entire life that I should “be a credit to your race.” I had a huge sense of belonging to a community as opposed to being an individual. I belonged to a church, Vernon African Methodist Episcopal church, which is the last building standing from the race massacre of Black Wall Street. I attended Ralph J. Bunche Elementary, named after the Black diplomat; Marian Anderson Junior High School, named after the Black singer; and Booker T. Washington High School. But I also knew that separate was not equal. My grandmother had told me horrific stories about slavery. I knew Black people had been mistreated and tortured. One incident from my youth really exemplifies this. When they built our junior high school, it was only the second Black junior high school built in Tulsa. I remember the teachers and administrators telling us that we just got this school built and it has everything white schools have. There is a swimming pool, tennis courts, and basketball courts. They played Marian Anderson singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” every morning on the public announcement system. And they told us to never touch the walls when you walk through the hallways. Because when “they” (white people)—and it was very much them versus us—come to inspect the school and see that the walls are dirty they will never build a Black school again. We were always aware that someone else was coming up behind us.

But I grew up almost instinctively knowing the wealth, the richness, and the smartness of Black people. I never developed that sense of inferiority that some kids unfortunately grow up with because they are compared negatively to whites. But in some ways, I was also very simple, contained, and sheltered. I had not met many white people except on a transactional basis. All I saw were the benefits of segregation. In fact, I wrote my Harvard Business School application essay about how, when I came East, it was the first time that I realized that white people differentiated themselves by ethnicities. This was news to me. My life was about Black people and what we are achieving and doing for each other. And you are fine just as you are.

AJP: How did you play as a child?

Eason: I played primarily outdoors. I lived in a middle-class, segregated neighborhood. We would run outside every summer morning, and we would see who was outside and collect everyone to play. And we played in our yards, or, because there was very little traffic, in the streets. My play was climbing trees, playing jacks, jump rope, marbles, and softball. I did not often play indoors or with toys. I do remember playing with some blocks as a young child. I also had crayons and dough to play with. The first doll I remember having was a Shirley Temple doll. I asked for that because I liked her vibrancy, and I envisioned myself as that kind of girl—running her own little world of adventures and fun. I did not do a lot of hair play or craft play. Generally, my play centered on having fun with the kids in the neighborhood outdoors. That was my primary form of play.

AJP: You mentioned that you asked your parents for a Shirley Temple doll, modeled after the child actress, singer, and celebrity. Do you remember playing with, or even seeing, Black dolls?

Eason: Not a bit. I just assumed dolls were a white product. The only dolls I remember asking for were the Shirley Temple doll and a medical doll, because I envisioned myself as a pediatrician. If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you that I wanted to be a doctor—a pediatrician, in particular. And I asked for this doll that was probably fourteen inches and that you could clasp casts onto her arms and legs. She came with bandages. She had all these medical-related accessories. I think you could even add dots to her body to give her measles. She fulfilled that whole medical fascination for me, and I saw myself as fixing her.

If I think about the kind of doll I identified with then, I either identified with the entertainment or lifestyle dolls—not the dress, not the hair, or the clothes, which is most of what doll play is now. Or I identified with the career doll. I imagined myself as a physician taking care of this doll. Those are the only two I remember. And while Shirley Temple was a real person who I knew was white, I do not even think I ever thought about the color of the other doll. I think she was a model for me to fix, and that is what she represented to me.

AJP: You founded Olmec Toys in 1985. What inspired you back then to create a multicultural toy company?

Eason: The inspiration was my son, The inspiration was my son, 100 percent. We were in Jamaica on vacation with my then husband, and my three-year-old son was playing on the beach with Mattel’s He-Man action figure—which was incredibly popular at that time. And he looked at us and said: “I want to be a superhero like He-Man, but I can’t because I’m not white.” He said this to us with such clarity that we were stunned. Keep in mind that we were a college-educated Black family. We did not have a television in the house. Our son went to a Black nursery school. We were part of a Black church. We lived in Brooklyn, which at the time was not gentrified, in a predominantly Black neighborhood. And he said this to us. We looked at each other in shock. We told him his skin color was a gift from God and that he could be a superhero, too. And he looked at us with a side eye, as if he did not believe us. Looking at our three-year-old, we wondered where did he get this sense of white superiority? His imagination was being limited by his skin color. For me that was an outrageous thought. I never thought that in my life. I had never thought that whites were superior. So, for a three-year-old to say that, it illustrated the power of toys. That was my wake up. To him, this was part of his identity. And if he and we were important enough, we would have been represented in the He-Man line—and we were not. Maybe later they added a character, but at that point there was not one to buy for him.

We came back from Jamaica, and I started talking to other mothers. And we talked about the other part of this that seemed insidious, which was that the line was called “Masters of the Universe.” For Black people, what do you relate the word “masters” to? Slavery. We did not even own a TV, so for our son to say that he could not be a superhero because he was not white, that concerned us that he was being infused with a white supremacy mind-set. That is when I realized that a toy could make you feel like you are not important. A toy could make you feel like you do not matter. A toy could limit or clip your imagination. And that is when I started thinking that I needed to understand a little more about toys.

AJP: How did you go about trying to understand toys better? What kind of research did you do?

Eason: We reached out to the Borough President of Manhattan Percy Sutton to connect me with psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The Clarks founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem in 1946. Their experiments in the late 1930s and 1940s using dolls to study children’s racial attitudes concluded that discrimination and segregation instilled a feeling of inferiority and damaged the self-esteem of Black children. Their conclusions were influential in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision ending school segregation. I did not get to meet his wife, but I did meet with Dr. Kenneth Clark. I asked him if they did their study again today, what did he think they would find? He said, “Unfortunately, the same thing.” I asked if he thought we should make a Black superhero, and he said, “Yes, I do.” He then explained that children not seeing themselves does lead to inferiority complexes. He did help make that connection for me. He helped me recognize that this was really important. The other part of the research I did was demographic. What is the target audience for toys? How many nonwhite children are there in this country, and what are the demographic trends? That was back in 1985 before you could look up a lot of this information on the Internet. And that is when I discovered that by the year 2020 there would be more children of color than white children in the United States. The trend was that the demographics of children were going to switch in America. I remember saying that in 1985 and getting horrific pushback. I said this in one meeting to a group of toy buyers and one guy yelling out, “I’m glad I’ll be dead by then.” That was the reaction I would get. I relied heavily on this research. I never went into these meetings leading with here is the toy, here are the features, here is the packaging, and here is the price. I always started with a demographic presentation because I knew I was bringing completely new information to toy buyers who were, in my experience, always white.

In doing this demographic research, I also discovered that not only were Black people excluded from toys, but Latinos and Asians were as well. I was looking at underrepresented populations. These populations were going to be dominant in the child market in the next thirty years. That informed my thinking—along with the fact that I grew up in an area with a lot of Native Americans—in making a diverse line of toys. I also looked closely at the economics of the industry, and I saw that it was a several-billion-dollar industry. How much of this market is missing underrepresented groups? It had to be a significant percentage. I saw this as a market, a business, something we could go into. And that decision was driven by demographics, exclusion, and understanding how the lack of identity can be harmful to a young mind.

AJP: What was your educational and career background? Did you have any prior experience in the toy industry?

Eason: My first career coming out of college was journalism. I worked for the Tulsa Tribune, Dayton Daily News, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times. That is where I was coming from. Perhaps that background in journalism helped me be curious and ask important questions. I had also earned an MBA from Harvard. With that training, I had a clear understanding of how one starts a business and how to go about researching a market.

AJP: Why did you name the company Olmec Toys?

Eason: Before our son was born, my then-husband and I were looking for appropriate names that would reflect our historical African origins. We read several books, including They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America by Ivan Van Sertima, the since deceased professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University. His book detailed the well-hidden and little-known presence of Africans in North America before Columbus arrived on these shores. One major piece of anthropological proof of early African existence in this part of the world is the huge stone sculptures of colossal heads reflecting the Olmec people. These sculptures feature majestic men with wide noses and nostrils and full supple, thick lips—obviously African ethnic phenotypes. Since we were making toys that would have African featured faces, since toy making is an art form requiring sculpting, and because the Olmecs were known for their artwork, we decided the name of the toy company would be a homage to the Olmec sculptures. Thus, the name Olmec Toys.

AJP: Could you tell us about your first product, Sun-Man? Whois he? How did you develop his background story and character?

Eason: In the toy industry, there are different categories of toys, and I was targeting the articulated superhero action toy, whose dominantbrand was Mat- tel’s He-Man.Sun-Man came from my imagination and my understanding of melanin. I spent some time researching what makes our skin dark. Today everyone talks about melanin. I amreminded of rapper Remy Ma’s 2018 song, “MelaninMagic.” People talk about it today, but in 1985 few peopledid. I thought melanin is what makes our skin dark, then that is where his superpowers are going to come from. They are going to come from the magic melanin in his skin. As ourpackaging explained, “The Legend of Sun-Man continues  His magical melanin skin gave him unequaled, unlimited, and special super strength.Sun-Man’s skin could not be cut, burned,bruised, broken, pierced, stabbed, ripped, or removed, so Pig-Head the evil wart was plotting to smoke-outSun-Man. He wanted to see if he could weaken Sun-Man’spowerful skin through the smoke from the drugs Pig-Head had just cookedup. But Sun-Manflies free, protecting the right for the Galaxy-Trefixa to exist in peace. His rap is clear: ‘Pig-Headlisten, you’re bad luck. You won’t win, so just give up. Sun-Man is on the scene to stay.My good powers shall rule all the way! The Battle has just begun.’” His skin was indestructible, butbecause this was the crack era, his weak- nesswas in breathing in chemicals or drugs. That was a nod to the thing that was destroying many communities at the time.

AJP: What was the industrial design, sculpting, and manufacturing process like for producing a Black superhero action figure in the 1980s?

Eason: I got lucky that I knew a lawyer who had another toy maker as a client. His client was not a competitor, and he introduced me to his factory in China and told me how things were done. I had no knowledge of how the industry worked at that point. I was then told that, in order to make the toy, I would have to come up with a design of what it would look like, and I had to send them sketches. At that time, we did not have computer-aided design (CAD) available to us. Everything was hand-drawn, and you had to provide a view from the top, bottom, left, right, front, and back of the character to scale in order for them to make the sculpt or initial model of the figure. That was step 1. I worked with an artist. And I explained what I wanted. Then I took those sketches over to China and worked with them to get the color right because I did not see any colors there that actually worked for me. If you look at the original Sun-Man action figure, there was no other Black toy out at the time with that same rich chocolate brown, with a hint of red and a hint of yellow color. And nothing else had authentic features. It was very important to me that he was not just a Black version of a white toy. His features were sculpted differently to be, I think, a term we are typically credited with pioneering, “ethnically correct.” That is what I would say to buyers when we were out in the marketplace. The phenotype is African.

As I worked with the factory, I also found out why these factories did not want to make more Black dolls. They told me that they used certain paint pellets to make a white doll. If they started making a Black doll— which required a different combination of pellets—and then went back to make the white doll, they had to clean the machines. They did not want to do that. So, there was systemic discrimination even at that level.

AJP: How did you initially launch Sun-Man?

Eason: I really did not know how the toy industry worked. I did not know that February is when toys are presented. Sun-Man came out in June. I started trying to get appointments with toy buyers and I was told, “You are off season.” They said: “We do not buy toys in June. We buy them in February at the New York City Toy Fair.” They did not even want to look at our product, and they certainly were not going to buy it. And they would ask: “And who are you? You’re not anyone we’ve ever heard of.” I just got com- pletely dismissed. They did not want me. Then I knew how I had to sell this product: churches, barbershops, beauty shops, street vendors, corner stores, people who sold it at the post office to their clubs, people who sold it to their organizations. I sold the toy because it was wanted and needed. It was just a matter of me getting it out there.

We took out a full-page ad in Ebony magazine, which had more than a million subscribers at the time. Then we had a launch party. A couple of our investors were the actor couple Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, and they spoke about the legend of Sun-Man. New York publicity was easy to come by because we were introducing it at a time when many other Black businesses were getting started. Spike Lee was just starting to get his films out there. FUBU (For Us, By Us), the clothing line started by Daymond John (now also famous for appearing on the television series Shark Tank), would come out of this era. It was also the era of Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Corporations (MESBIC), which under President Nixon—who was hoping to get more Black citizens into the Republican party—offered initiatives to create more Black businesses. My husband at the time worked for a MESBIC in Bedford-Stuyvesant as part of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. We knew so many Black people doing business in the mid-1980s. It was a mecca, a renaissance that so many people do not even realize today.

AJP: If you could not initially get Sun-Man on to major retailers’ shelves, how were you eventually able to place your products into these stores?

Eason: I was already selling the toys, and there was obviously a market. I used that data to get into more stores. I also did a lot of census bureau work and researched specific zip codes. I took the top ten cities with African Ameri- cans in them and then found out which zip codes were predominantly Black. Then I matched them with retailers in these areas and I would meet with them and tell them this is where you want to sell our products. They did not have their own people doing this kind of market research at the time. Some buyers listened to me and thought that I knew something about what was coming. Others still, despite all evidence, did not seem to care about their Black customers. They would tell me, “Blacks don’t want to buy Black toys. They are happy with white toys.” Or they would say, “I asked my Black secretary and she said Blacks don’t want Black toys.” I thought to myself, that is because she wanted to keep her job.

My best advocate was Michael Goldstein, who was the chief financial officer of Toy R Us at the time. He got it. He understood what I was talking about. He had that kind of vision. I suggested they let me do the work for them. I took a list of all their stores by zip code and matched them up with the census data telling me where Black people lived near these stores. Then I backed it up by having our staff call the NAACP and the Urban League and name off stores in their town and ask them which ones did Black people shop at? I went back to the retailer and told them this is where you have to put all our products. It was driven by all this data.

AJP: Did you hear from parents and children? What kinds of responses did you get?

Eason: We did not have a television show to connect directly with kids, as was commonly done in the 1980s. Parents were the ones who bought our toys. I did hear from parents at the time that this was solving a problem. It helped their kids know that they were important. The toy fit well into play with He-Man. It was meant to be the same size. It could be played with the same accessories. It could be added to their collection.

I not only got letters then, I get letters now from people who were excited to tell me that they had Sun-Man when they were children. They often told me how their parents introduced them to Sun-Man saying, “You too can have a superhero toy, you too can be a superhero.” I get that more from mostly Black men now as grown-ups than I did back then. Because now they are sort of awakened to how important it is for them. I just got an email from a guy the other day who wanted to thank me for making Sun-Man because it was his mother’s way of showing him that he and other Black boys could be strong.

I also saw it myself. It made kids’ eyes light up. They saw something that looked like them, and it was fun. That was the reaction I got. I remember going to pick up my son at his nursery school and all these kids swarmed me and told me that “Menelik told us that you could get us any toy that we want!” That was my super power to them.

AJP: Your image often appeared on Olmec packaging or in advertising and catalogs. Why was that important to you?

Eason: I had a few people, mostly Black people, tell me that I should not be promoting myself as a Black toy company because it was considered a negative or it would prevent people from buying our products. I had just the opposite view. It was a unique selling proposition. We are a Black toy company. We are producing Black and multicultural toys. And I knew I was selling to parents. We had a comic book that came with the figure and great artwork from Black artist Floyd Cooper, but we did not have a televi- sion show to accompany the toy line. I felt that once a potential customer turned the package over and saw our story, they were instantly going to relate to me as a parent and as someone bringing something positive to their child. And that is why I did that.

I have parents today tell me that the story on the back of the pack- age is what got them. And stories are how you connect with people. It is not the facts, figures, or logic. Our story personalized the company and the product. We were not Mattel. But Mattel started with Ruth and Elliot Handler. Hasbro started off with the Hassenfeld Brothers. Most of these toy companies started as family businesses. That is what I learned, and that was what I understood. Companies start with people, whether it is Ford, Apple, or Tesla, there are people behind them. I felt that that story, our story, was important. And it was also important because people appreciated “buying Black.” It focused the company in a way that differentiated us from everyone else.

AJP: Tell us about some of your other products.

Eason: After Sun-Man and The Rulers of the Sun, which included an entire line of multicultural boy action figures, we created our first girl line, starting with Butterfly Woman in 1986. These toys were also meant to fit into play with Mattel’s She-Ra figures. Our toys were girl superhero dolls or action figures, but they did have clothing you could take on and off.

In 1988 we introduced the Bronze Bombers, a 3 3/4-inch action figure fashioned after a Black army unit from World War I and World War II. We also later released a second series that came as a set of twelve figures. We had a relationship with Hasbro. They let us choose the molds for bodies and accessories for lines they were no longer using. We did not have to pay for that. We resculpted the heads, changed the colors, and changed the stories to give our figures their own history. We also worked with Hasbro on other projects. We did a baby line in 1993 for Hasbro’s Playskool brand called Kids of Color. I remember sending some to Spike Lee after he had a child, and he sent me a Crooklyn jersey as a gift. We designed the toys and dolls and Hasbro distributed them. We found that when buying for babies, people really wanted a brand name they knew, like Playskool. And for Hasbro, it was a way for the company to get into the multicultural market with an authentic partner. The same was true for Hasbro’s Sindy doll. Instead of making a Black Sindy doll, we told them you do not want a Black version of Sindy, how about Sindy’s friend is our Imani doll. They agreed and sold Imani. And I remember seeing the reports from Hasbro. They sold Imani all over the world—Italy, Israel, London, everywhere.

Imani and many of our other toy lines were the result of people request- ing new kinds of toys. People would say, there is a Black Barbie doll, but even though she had a different name, she was known as “Black Barbie.” And since we are not Black versions of white people, you should have a separate doll. That is where the idea for Imani came from. Like Sun-Man and Butterfly Woman, we made her what we called ethnically correct at the time—and with different skin tones. We were the first to do lighter skin tones and brown skin tones to reflect the different colors and skin tones of people.

We released the Hip Hop Kids doll line in 1991. We did a Meteor Man action figure that appeared with Robert Townsend’s 1993 film Meteor Man. We also did baby dolls. We filled out the whole category. Then we made Our Powerful Past, which were historical figures of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I went to Malcom X’s widow, Betty Shabazz, and Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, to get the licenses. We also cre- ated the Black by Design game. It was different from other Black inventor games because it was a memory-matching game in which you matched images of two Black inventions rather than the inventors. Everything you matched, including the traffic signal, hairbrush, ironing board, and golf tee, were created, invented, or improved by a Black person.

AJP: As the company grew, what kinds of challenges did you face?

Eason: I faced a lot of competition. I had one company just outright copy one of our dolls. And I remember, after I spent about ten thousand dollars on a lawsuit, I was visited by someone who told me that the company I was suing sent them to tell me that if you don’t drop the lawsuit they will keep you in court so long that you will be out of business. They wanted me to know that they liked me, they did not want to put me out of business, and if they advertise and sell Black dolls that will help me, too. It was upsetting. I knew I was right, and they knew I was right, but I did not want to be dead right. I dropped the lawsuit and they put out their doll. And it did increase the size of the market. It did validate what I was saying about the market- place all this time. I did probably get a little bit more of a piece of that pie. But it was a bitter lesson about ruthless business practices ruled by money. The other part of this story is, as the rapper Notorious BIG or Biggie Smalls said, “More money, more problems.” The bigger you get, the more successful you get, the more problems you have. And my courses in busi- ness school never introduced me to this concept. The assumption was that in a pure capitalistic society, not only will sales grow, but resources to con- tinue to fuel sales growth will continue to be provided for you. That was not true. I had a ninety-day lead time—thirty days to make the product, thirty days to get it across the water and into warehouses, and then thirty days to get it into stores. By the mid-1990s, I had a showroom in New York, a warehouse in Virginia, and we were doing over five million dollars in sales. I later found out that, by the standard of other African American businesses at the time, we were in the top 3 percent at that revenue. You always have to put up letters of credit. And if your business is growing dramatically, you have got to put up a lot of money to get production going, which is why companies like Amazon and Tesla are allowed to operate without a profit for years until the business comes around. That is a standard in new business structures.

This all came to a head in the 1990s when I got into a major retailer, and they gave me twelve feet of space to sell the product. Our dolls, games, and toys were blowing out the stores. This was also the time when email was becoming a standard way to get your orders quickly. I said to the retailer that this is selling much faster than you predicted, but I told you it would. The seven-day purchase orders are not working for my bank, and I need you to pay in advance to help me to order the product. What hap- pened? A lot of people were buying the product, but I could not keep up with the sales because the ninety-day lead time I had and the amount of money I needed to keep up with this increased demand. This retailer got outrageously angry at me. They were telling me that Black mothers were coming into their stores and asking, “Where are your Black dolls?” And they blamed not having them on me. Instead of working with me, they went to their factories in China and told them to start making 30 percent of all your products in Black. The writing was on the wall.

AJP: As you wrapped up your time with Olmec, did you work on any other toy or game industry projects?

Eason: I worked for Bingwa Software, a company started in 1993 by Bill and Karen Shelton. They developed and published educational software aimed at students from underrepresented communities. I was their toy advisor. They brought me in to come up with characters, storylines, and to make their software, as we called it, more “toyetic.”

AJP: What does the multicultural toy and doll market look like today?

Eason: It is pretty expansive for girls. There are a lot more options now. Disney’s Doc McStuffins is a great example. Her character’s mother is a pediatrician, and in Doc’s fantasy world, she fixes her toys and dolls. American Girl dolls have also been particularly successful. Although there was controversy when they released their first Black doll, Addy Walker. So many of these dolls start out in their country of origin, but rather than starting this doll in Africa, they intentionally started her in American slavery.

With representations of African Americans in toys and dolls, you are always thinking about the imagery. I think of it as akin to a centuries-long giant marketing campaign to demonize, dehumanize, and exaggerate the features of Black people to make them appear like animals. You pull that imagery through the film Birth of the Nation (1915), mammies who are only there to serve, jezebels and bucks who are oversexualized women and men. And you pull that imagery through four hundred years of advertising, marketing, and representations until you get to a point when that is the cultural norm.

There is still far less for boys. There is no Doc McStuffins for boys. Even when Marvel’s Black Panther movie appeared and they released the toy, you could not see Chadwick Boseman’s face. You could not take the mask off. You could not see the rich, dark skin. Why was that the deci- sion? I understand now they are coming out with toys that you can see his face. But why was that the original decision? It does not seem like we are interested in Black boys seeing themselves as powerful because maybe that diminishes us or we are more afraid of positive Black males. And, if there is no one in the room advocating for something different, then that idea is not developed.

But I am hopeful that there has been a kind of awakening that has hap- pened following the tragic death of George Floyd. His death was an unbe- lievable reckoning and eye-opening event in this country. We are seeing some changes already, but it will be interesting to see additional positive changes take place because of George Floyd.

AJP: What are you currently working on?

Eason: I am working on several projects. I am working on a product line for the girl craft market and am involved in discussions to reintroduce Sun-Man and other toys in Olmec’s original line. There is a renewed interest in my company from other people in the toy industry and in providing a diverse set of toys for kids to relate to and play with.

AJP: Can you tell us anymore about the reintroduction of Sun-Man?

Eason: Yes! On September 1, 2021, we announced the partnership agreement between Mattel, Olmec Toys, and YlaSun. Under this agreement, Mattel is granted the rights to produce Sun-Man and The Rulers of the Sun col- lection. Olmec Toys and YlaSun retain all rights to the property. We are thrilled to be able to reintroduce Sun-Man and unite the worlds of The Rul- ers of the Sun with The Masters of the Universe for the first time since 1985.

American Journal of Play | Winter & Spring 2021

Yla Eason, Creator of Sun-Man Wins 2022 Doll Legacy Award

November 16, 2022

Congratulations to Yla Eason, creator of the Sun-Man action figure, for winning the Doll Legacy Award at the 2022 Detroit Doll Show. Her outstanding work as founder and president of Olmec Toys, Inc. continues to uplift and empower people of color and collectors throughout the world. We are excited to see the return of Sun-man your Black Action Figure in stores!

Pioneering Creator of Black Superhero Figure Sees Trend Toward Futuristic Toys and Media for Children of Color

November 15, 2022

Yla Eason, who created a pioneering line of multicultural superhero toys in the 1980s, sees a toy and media trend toward fantastical storylines for Black characters this season. It’s driven in part by “Afrofuturism,’’ a science fiction genre incorporating reimagined elements of Black culture and history and popularized by the Black Panther film franchise, including Wakanda Forever, which has newly released toy lines with Hasbro and Lego.

Sun-Man on Display as MOTU is Inducted in the Strong National Toy Hall of Fame

November 10, 2022

The Strong's National Toy Hall of Fame inducted Masters of the Universe (MOTU) today. Sun-Man is featured on display along with He-Man and other MOTU characters.