Marley Dias is the promising, 11 year-old social activist behind #1000BlackGirlBooks, an international movement to collect and donate children’s books that feature Black girls as the lead character.
Since birth, Marley has been immersed in the world of social activism, surrounded by a village of caring, concerned, active adults and children dedicated to service to humanity, and specifically people of African descent. When she was 5 years old, her mother, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, co-founded the GrassROOTS Community Foundation (GCF), a public health and social action organization dedicated to the support and empowerment of people who live in impoverished communities, especially women and young girls. Her father, Scott Dias, is a Real Estate Analytical Geographer. Both parents have been instrumental in developing Marley’s understanding of key social justice issues and commitment to social change. When she became frustrated by a lack of Black female role models in her school books—and her mother asked her what she was going to do about it—she knew exactly how to respond.
With the help of GrassROOTS, Marley launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks drive in November of 2015, leveraging the power of social media to reach a large audience. The goal was to collect 1,000 books featuring Black female protagonists by February 2016. The story went viral and was picked up by media outlets around the world as well as bloggers, schools, youth-focused organizations and thousands of individuals who wanted to participate in the project.
In addition to features in major media outlets such as Elle, People, Jezebel, PhillyVoice, FOX29’s Good Day Philadelphia and The Huffington Post (to name a few), the initiative quickly gained support from literary partners including Barnes & Noble, My Very Own Library, Scholastic, and Putnam Books, which have donated books and funds to the cause. Well-known authors and artists including Jacqueline Woodson and Rita Garcia have contributed books as well.
In light of the campaign’s huge success, Marley has appeared on Ellen (where she received a laptop and a $10,000 contribution from Shutterfly), The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore (where she received the show’s first ever “Golden Hunnit/Keep It 100” award), CBS This Morning and Charlie Rose.
Having collected over 4,000 books to-date, Marley has more than quadrupled #1000BlackGirlBooks’ goals. In February 2016, Marley, GCF and the BAM collective donated the majority of the books to Retreat School in the Parish of Saint Mary, Jamaica, where her mother grew up. The remaining books will go to local elementary schools, including The Henry C. Lea School in Philadelphia, Speedway Academies in Newark, New Jersey and St. Cloud Elementary in West Orange, New Jersey, where she was first inspired to launch the movement. In fact, the Town Council of West Orange recently held session to recognize Marley for her inspiring proactive initiatives. Marley is also the recent winner of the National Pretty Brown Girl Day "Dream Big” Award, awarded to her at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
The seventh grader is only getting started, and will continue to provide young girls like herself with relatable role models through #1000BlackGirlBooks. Marley is using her voice to advocate for social justice, a commitment reflected by her ambitious life goals: she dreams of founding and editing her own magazine, and plans to use media to promote positive messages and perpetuate more socially conscious pop culture.
In December 2015, Marley and the BAM collective traveled to Ghana, West Africa, on a humanitarian mission to support the health and well-being of Ghanaian youth and their families. The trip including serving as health ambassadors for African Health Now and helping to provide meals for children at local orphanages. The group next travel to Liberia (also in West Africa) in April 2016, where they will meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first head of state of an African country, as well as foster international relations among girls of African descent and lay the foundation for an international exchange program.
Marley enjoys reading, dancing, listening to music, eating sushi and being active with her friends. She resides in West Orange, New Jersey, with her mother and father.