During our Black History Month journey so far we have featured Langston Hughes, Nedra Bonds, and Aaron Douglas. Today we turn our eyes toward the future with a young artist and activist who is making history of her own.
In 2015 at age 11, Marley Dias began noticing that in all the books she was reading, black girls were just secondary characters. She quickly realized that most of her assigned reading featured white boys and their dogs, and that there was very little diversity in children’s literature. From that lack of representation, #1000BlackGirlBooks was born.
“I had a lot of choices about how I was going to address this problem. Option 1: focus on me, get myself more books; have my dad take me to Barnes and Noble and just be done, live my perfect life in suburban New Jersey,” Dias said. “Option 2: find some authors, beg them to write more black girl books so I’d have some of my own, special editions, treat myself a bit. Or, option 3: start a campaign that collects books with black girls as the main characters, donate them to communities, develop a resource guide to find those books, talk to educators and legislators about how to increase the pipeline of diverse books, and lastly, write my own book, so that I can see black girl books collected and I can see my story reflected in the books I have to read.” (Forbes.com)
Dias’ work was soon noticed by The White House, and she was invited to speak alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey at the United States Women’s Summit in New York. To date, she has collected and donated more than 11,000 books and compiled the online resource guide, #1000BlackGirlBooks. In 2018, Dias published her own book through Scholastic, Marley Gets It Done, and So Can You!
Dias continues to lead the way for young activists, and her voice can be heard through the online magazine Marley Mag at Elle. She has used the platform to interview Hilary Clinton and Misty Copeland, among others. Dias also can be seen on her Netflix series Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, where “Celebrity readers share children’s books by Black authors to spark kid-friendly conversations about empathy, equality, self-love, and antiracism.” (Netflix)
Read more about Dias in the links below, and be sure to check out her amazing resource of #1000BlackGirlBooks.