Marley Dias is an 11-year-old New Jersey resident who’s spent more time giving back to her community in her brief time on this planet than most of us will spend in a lifetime. She’s received a grant from Disney, traveled to Ghana to help feed orphans, and now—in her latest act of altruism—she’s rounding up children’s books that feature black female leads so that she and her peers have more fictional characters to look up to.
The project, titled #1000BlackGirlBooks, started when Marley complained to her mother about reading too many books about white male protagonists in school.
From the Philly Voice:
“I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” Dias said, pointing specifically to “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the “Shiloh” series. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.”
Marley is looking to collect 1000 books featuring black female protagonists by February 1. She is nearly halfway to her goal.
“I’m hoping to show that other girls can do this as well,” Marley says. “I used the resources I was given, and I want people to pass that down and use the things they’re given to create more social action projects—and do it just for fun, and not make it feel like a chore.”
“For young black girls in the U.S., context is really important for them—to see themselves and have stories that reflect experiences that are closer to what they have or their friends have,” Marley’s mother, Janice Johnson Dias, tells thePhilly Voice.
Marley, who hopes to one day edit her own magazine and “continue social action” for the rest of her life, will catalog the donated books and transport them to a children’s book drive in Jamaica. She and her mother are also trying to start a small library in Philadelphia.
A fundraising website describes Marley’s project thusly:
Frustrated by the lack of books about black girls in her school curriculum, Marley Dias launched this campaign to collect 1000 books where black girls are the main characters. The #1000blackgirlbooks project is her BAM social action project for 2016. Books will be donated to Retreat Primary and Junior School and Library in the parish of St. Mary, Jamaica where her mother and GrassROOTS’ President, Dr. Johnson Dias, was raised as a child.
She is currently taking both cash and book donations. Books can be sent to the following address:
GrassROOTS Community Foundation
59 Main Street, Suite 323, West Orange, NJ 07052
Keep up the good work, young shero.