Eleven-year-old Marley Dias wanted more diverse reading in school and she took action to encourage it. The West Orange, New Jersey-based Thomas A. Edison Middle School student created a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks. The social movement promotes books with strong, Black female main characters. You see, Dias was tired of reading books about boys and whites.
With her mother, Janice Johnson Dias, co-founder of GrassROOTS Community Foundation, and two friends, Briana and Amina, Marley started a book-drive featuring characters similar to her: “strong, black girls.” The books are being distributed to various schools. Since starting the book drive, Marley has been speaking all over the country. The book drive isn’t Marley’s first taste of community involvement; she often spends her free time helping others and getting involved, even at her young age, in community activities.
TNJ.com: You have spent a lot of time helping others, why do you feel it is important to help your community?
Marley Dias: I think it is important to help my community because I am surrounded by them and spend a lot of time in my community. I am supported by them so I would like to continue to support our relationship and be supportive to them too. Your community is everywhere. It’s your family, your friends. Your community is all of the relationships in your life and they support me so I support them.
TNJ.com: What can other young women do to help others as well?
M.D.: Other young women can use what they are passionate about and help others. I am passionate about reading, so I started a movement about books.
TNJ.com: The #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign has grown fast. Why do you think it has gained a lot of attention?
M.D.: I think it has gained a lot of attention one because of my age. I am 11 years old and people are surprised by that because I am able to speak, elaborate and represent myself. The second reason I think it has gained attention is because a lot of people identify problems but not that many people are able to seek solutions to those problems.
TNJ.com: What are your goals with #1000BlackGirlBooks?
M.D.: The first goal was to collect 1000 Black Girl books. The second goal was to create awareness to the public about the lack of Black Girl books. The third goal was when we skyrocketed past our expectations and exceeded our goal of 1000 Black Girl Books. I want to now get the attention of School Boards about the lack of diverse books and get more diverse books into schools with students like me. The fourth goal is to be an advocate for reading and diverse books.
TNJ.com: How can others help with #1000BlackGirlBooks?
M.D.:Others can donate financially or donate books to GrassROOTS Community Foundation:
http://grassrootscommunityfoundation.org /contact/ 59 Main Street Suite 323 West Orange, NJ 07052 they can also tell their friends and help spread the word on #1000BlackGirlBooks and GrassROOTS Community Foundation.
TNJ.com: Why do you love working with the community?
M.D.: I love working for the community because they do a lot for me and I want to return the favor. The community is my family and friends who help me so I like to support them too.
TNJ.com:. How do you juggle it all, school, #1000BlackGirlBooks, etc.?
M.D.: I try my best at everything that I do. I am focused when I am at school and working and sacrifice my social life a lot of the time. I make a lot of effort to hang out with my friends in my free time. I try my best at everything that I do and that’s the best I can do!
(CLICK HERE to read about another young, Black entrepreneur.)