Welcome to the third post of our week-long look at inspiring women in honour of this Friday's International Women's Day. Today we're looking at 14-year-old American author/activist Marley Dias.
Books are a huge part of how we all understand our world. Non-fiction books provide us with valuable information about all kinds of subjects. If you want to know about something—anything—you can bet that there is at least a book or two out there to get you better informed.
But the same thing is true of fiction as well. Whether the stories are true or not doesn't really matter—the journeys that the characters take still teach us lessons about things like relationships and empathy. And even who we are.
That is why it is so important to have main characters in books that we can relate to. Which is also why Marley Dias is so awesome!
Black Girl Books, Ink.
As a young girl, Marley loved reading. What she didn't love though? Reading constantly about white lead characters. Where were the stories about young black girls like herself? Was anyone writing them?
For the sake of herself—and other young black girls like her—she was determined to find out. In November 2015, she started a campaign: #1000BlackGirlBooks. The idea was pretty straightforward. She would collect 1,000 books that had black girls as the main character, and then donate them to communities in need.
So, yeah: it's a simple idea. But actually doing it? As just an average 11-year-old girl from New Jersey? We'd have understood if Marley had collected around 85 books, gave them to her local school library, and decided to take a well-earned nap.
Instead, by the start of 2018, she had found 9,500 books. Yes, nearly ten times her original goal! She also wrote a book. And edited a 'zine for Elle.com called Marley Mag where she interviewed U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. And...
Seriously. How did Marley find the time to do all of this?
In the end, Marley Dias's story is living proof that it is possible to be the change that you want to see in the world.
In speaking out about the lack of black girls in the stories that we read, Marley was also speaking for millions of black girls who were wondering about the same thing. Sometimes, all it takes is for one voice to have the guts to say something aloud.
Her efforts have helped remind us that diversity in characters in books begins with diversity in authors of books. (Which, of course, makes the fact that she herself became an author doubly great.) What's more? Marley's passion for diversity in children's books has also helped to spotlight the lack of main characters representing other minorities, too, such as Asian, Indigenous, or Latino backgrounds.
By recognizing shared and similar problems, people gain strength from one another. Awesome!
A natural cause
Today, Marley has become a tireless—and always enthusiastic!—force for change. She was especially busy during the recent Black History Month this February, speaking at conferences across the United States. We already wondered aloud how a young women still in school finds the time to pour into this cause? But when it comes from such an honest and personal place, the better question is: How could she not find the time?
Listen to Marley explain it all better than we ever could below: