Third-graders from Dawes attended the FAN event with Marley Dias. Photo by Kelley Elwood

As an early reader, Marley Dias quickly noticed the books she was given to read in school did not include characters like her. In fact, most books featured boys and dogs, she said, which is exactly why she started the #1000BlackGirlBook movement. Marley told an enthusiastic crowd at Family Action Network (FAN) event held at Evanston Township High School on Feb. 1 all about her campaign and the book she wrote, “Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!” 

“This is the first time we’ve had such a young audience,” said ETHS Principal Marcus Campbell, who kicked off the evening.

Taryn Robinson, a 13-year-old 8th grader at Chute Middle School, interviewed Ms. Dias, who is also 13, in the ETHS auditorium before a packed room of pre-teens with their parents and siblings. Each family was given a copy of Marley’s book, courtesy of FAN, and was invited to take a picture with Marley at the end of the program.

During the interview, the young women talked about the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign and Marley’s efforts to collect and distribute books featuring Black girls to schools and community centers across the country. Marley told Taryn that she knew such books existed, but not in her New Jersey school. Since Marley was raised to use her gifts and talents to make the world a better place, she set out to do just that. To date, Marley has collected copies of 11,001 books, including her own. 

Taryn asked what it is like to have more than 38,000 followers on Instagram. “I have to be more conscious of what I say online,” said Marley. She joked that, aside from getting out a concise message about her efforts when meeting famous people, she does try to make sure her shoulders are back and that she gets the selfies right.

When asked what advice she would give to younger kids, Marley said, “Follow your dream and figure out your truth.” It is okay to wait a long time to figure out what you want to do, she said, “but you can’t give to others until you establish who you are.” 

Marley said it took a year and a half to write her book, which is described as “an accessible ‘keep-it-real’ guide,” that explores “activism, social justice, volunteerism, equity and inclusion, and using social media for good.” It also includes book suggestions and strategies for being a lifelong reader.

 In response to teachers, parents and students, Marley – with the help of her mother, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias – also put together an online resource guide to help others identify books featuring girls of color.  The guide is posted on the GrassRoots Community Foundation website, a public health and social action organization co-founded by her mom, who currently serves as its president.

Next, Marley plans to launch an app to share information on books and to support a grassroots community.