About three years ago, now 14-year-old Marley Dias decided to collect and donate 1,000 children’s books featuring black girls as the lead character. It turned into a viral social media campaign with the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks.
Since then, she’s written her own book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!; served as an editor-in-residence of her own digital zine on elle.com; and has spoken at national events about girls and women. To date, her campaign has resulted in more than 12,000 books being collected.
Dias will be the keynote speaker at the inaugural State of Wisconsin Girls Summit at Alverno College this weekend, which will address issues facing girls in Wisconsin — from cyberbullying to poverty.
Ahead of the summit, Lake Effect's Maayan Silver talks with Marley Dias about why she started #1000BlackGirlBooks and ventured into activism. Dias also shares some of her favorite books:
I. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
This book is for children from around second to fourth grade.
"This book talks about different sides of the civil rights movement. So we know a lot about charismatic leaders like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King. But we don't learn a lot about the Black Panther Party," Dias explains. "This book talks about three young girls and their experience going to visit their mother as she's a Black Panther."
"They learn a lot about civil rights and how it's not just about Martin Luther King," she continues." And it talks a lot about sisterhood, which is really important to me, and creating these community spaces that help facilitate change and growth."
II. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This book is for kids from fifth to seventh grade.
"It's her memoir, but it's written in verse. So it definitely teaches a lot of skills that educators can use about understanding poetry and deciphering poetry," Dias says. "But it's also really emotional. It talks about going from urban and populated spaces like New York and going to rural spaces and how you can code switch as a black girl in those communities."
III. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
For teenagers and above.
"She tells these stories in beautiful ways about friendship. It talks about the gentrification of New York, which is something that happened a lot in the 1970s, but it also happens a lot now," she says.
"So I think it's something that teachers can use both as a history lesson, but also as a tool to help create conversations, just like the summit wants to do, about how we can change the world and how we can help each other and be communities that want to create change."