Marley Dias is a 15-year-old American activist and author known for the 1,000 Black Girl Books Campaign (2017), her book called Marley Dias Gets it Done: And So Can you! (2018) and her Netflix show Bookmarks (2020). Her vehement manifesto regarding the book community and diversity during The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2020 left me utterly speechless and astonished at what Dias has achieved at such a young age.
It is important to remark that this post is written out of respect and by acknowledging the privilege that I dispose. Furthermore, it is my intention to support and spread awareness about how much diversity is needed.
“Something that was superimportant to me was seeing variety. Because of my home library I’d always seen girls that look like me and the experiences of people who are not like me.”Marley Dias, Children’s Conference 2020.
Books are mirrors in which we can see or imagine ourselves. They make it possible for us to experience and feel new realities or daily issues; so as Dias puts it, how can you purposely leave out a group of people from experiencing this? She realised that all the protagonists from her schoolbooks were “white boys with dogs”; so, what about black girls and their narratives? Why could she read those books at home but not at school? She was able to understand that her situation was unique in many ways and that her classmates were being denied the chance to be the protagonists of the stories. Therefore, she decided to start the movement 1,000 Black Girl Books. It was a way to educate and share books with as many people and schools as she could. There are stories in which her community has a main role, however they are deliberately set aside. She brought awareness into this issue so successfully that many schools changed their books on their curriculum to make them more diverse and inclusive.
“The biggest mistake is that it [reading] is used as a punishment.”Marley Dias, Children’s Conference 2020.
She is adamant in changing the negative connotation reading has. It is the adults that should change their mindsets and objectively help kids shape theirs. Parents should try to make kids engage with books in any form they can so kids can experience as many kinds of stories as possible.
“All the people that are reading these books were once the kids that sat in school and never saw themselves or the kids who never thought libraries could ever show black people on a positive light.”Marley Dias, Children’s Conference 2020.
Dias is now the co-executive producer and host in her own Netflix show called Bookmarks. This programme is divided into twelve episodes in which a book is read by different hosts like Tiffany Haddish, Lupita Nyong’o or Caleb McLaughlin. The aim of the show is to approach the reality of black voices to children; and share stories in which they can see themselves. As Dias said, it is important to explore every narrative and see black people’s story on a positive light.
Therefore, I would like to urge you to start conversations and encourage kids to read and get involved in whatever they feel passionate about. They all have their own voices and have the power to express themselves if given the chance.