It fascinates me how the media has done many pieces on Evette, and not any on Makena or Maritza. It's a bit confusing because I would love to know more about Makena and Maritza's development! But yet another article came out about Evette on the Smithsonian website. This one, however, is different because it is written by Katrina Lashley, the program coordinator at the Anacostia Community Museum... and a member of Evette's advisory board. If you don't want to read the entire article, this post has all the important stuff that I found interesting about Evette's background!
A year ago, in January 2021, Katrina got an email asking to participate in the Evette project by sharing environmental research she did at the Anacostia Community Museum and reviewing two drafts of Evette's book. As an American Girl fan in her childhood, Katrina worked hard to balance her nostalgia for the dolls and her adult experiences, as well as how to emphasize the importance of representation of children of color in the doll line.
Sharon Dennis Wyeth, the author of Evette's book, grew up east of the Anacostia, loved her grandmother like Evette did, and connected easily with the river. She said, “The Anacostia River was my most consistent contact with nature. The river was powerful and beautiful; changeable yet always there. The Anacostia made me feel peaceful and also stirred my imagination. It was a reminder that there was a wider world. My family also loved the river. We took our family pictures there on special occasions. My grandfather used to fish there and I'm pretty sure that he and my grandmother swam in one of the tributaries. That family lore made it into my book, as did my own love for the Anacostia River."
She also said, citing river cleanup and environmental events in Washington D.C, "The cleanup event I describe in the book, featuring Evette and her friends along with the rest of the team was inspired by what I'd learned about current efforts in D.C. on the part of large organizations as well as community-based environmental groups to restore the Anacostia to full health.”
While Sharon grew up in Washington D.C, it had been years since she lived there, so through Katrina and her museum's work, Sharon was able to take her knowledge and nostalgia for the river and apply it to the modern world. “The museum’s work alerted me to organizations involved in restoring the Anacostia, goals for cleaning up the river, and the progress that had been made. An introduction to neighborhood environmentalist, Dennis Chestnut, who had his own link to ACM was also key. Dennis has worked on the river's behalf since his own childhood. Having a real conversation with somebody who was ‘walking the walk’ was both informative and affirming.”
Sharon feels that the purpose of Evette's book is to empower girls to make a difference. "A river unites different locations and different people. When they read Evette's story and how she makes a difference, some of those young people might feel empowered knowing there's a way they can make a difference, too.”