Marley Dias wanted to live in a world where the stories of young black girls were considered as worthy of telling as everyone else’s. So, she set out to create that world. Born in Philadelphia from a father of Cape Verdean roots and Jamaican mother, Dias learned early on in her life that racial diversity in stories matters. At just 11 years old, the six grader, Dias began her project titled #1000blackgirlbooks. She hoped to collect and donate 1,000 books that have black girls as their main characters.
Dias is a lover of reading and has been doing so since she can remember. As a kid, she demanded of anyone that came to her home that they read to her. This allowed Dias to open up the world beyond her New Jersey Suburb, where she lives. However, the more she read, the more she sensed that something was missing. In the hundreds of books that she read and collected very few had characters that looked like herself.
#1000blackgirlbooks started with Dias’s response to a question her mother asked her. Growing frustrated with only reading stories about “white boys and their dogs,” Dias was asked what she would do about it? Her response was to start a campaign that collected books that tell of the lives of black girls, donate them to communities, put in place a way that people can find these books, and talk to educators and lawmakers about how to solve the lack of diversity in books.
Just a few months after she began the campaign, Dias reached her goal of 1000 books. But she did not stop there. Dias made the mission of telling black girls’ stories her own. So she wrote her own book titled Marley Dias Gets It Done -- And So Can You! In it, she writes, “Lots books offer important lessons about how to deal with complicated issues. But if the characters don’t reflect you, if you can’t relate to them, it can be more difficult to absorb the morals of the stories. They may make less of an impact and leave less of an imprint on your heart, mind, and soul. You’ll close the covers of the book, with its lessons still buried.” With the publication of her book, Dias hopes to inspire other children to create what they see as missing in the world.
Of the many books she has read, Dias’s favorite is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. This should not be a surprise. Dias’s life is a story of a brown girl dreaming, who then became so inspired by that dream that she began to work to make it a reality.
Hazim Hardeman is a graduate student at Oxford University, where he will pursue a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Economic and Social History. He is also African Community Learning Program's secretary and intern for the #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project.
African Community Learning Program empowers people of African background in West Philadelphia through education.
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