I’m looking forward to meeting Marley Dias at Kingston Bookshop in The Springs Plaza next week, where she will be reading to students as part of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica’s Kingston Book Festival. You can find her there on Thursday, March 8 at 11:30 a.m.
Marley is only just thirteen years old now (she’s a Capricorn girl), but it was back in 2015 that she started a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks. She was annoyed that she could not find books that represented kids who looked like her. “Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea,” Marley says. When growing up in Philadelphia, she had realised that most of the literature on offer “about white boys and their dogs.”
So, she started collecting books with black girls as lead characters – real characters, not just the “I Love My Hair” narrative – that would actually reflect her own life, or aspects of her life. Aspirations, experiences, achievements. She has now collected 9,000 such titles! So she has long passed her goal. Her campaign doesn’t stop there, however. She also lobbies educators, writers, librarians to expand the choice and availability of these titles. You can browse through her Resource Guide here. It is hosted by the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, a non-profit based in New Jersey, U.S. and founded by her mother, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias.
Marley received an American Ingenuity Award from Smithsonian magazine last December, to a standing ovation; and also in that month, the Forbes magazine’s 3o Under 30 award. She’s nowhere near the age limit!
So, we knew it wouldn’t be long before Marley wrote her own book – Marley Dias Gets It Done (And So Can You!) Published by Scholastic Press, it is just out in the U.S. and will be launched in Jamaica next week. Marley is using her voice to speak up for social justice, dreams of becoming an editor of her own magazine and plans to use media to spread positive messages and to encourage more socially conscious pop culture, combating the waves of trashy stuff (yes, most of it is trashy!) that children of her age are bombarded with.
Ah, you may be asking. Why is she named Marley? Because her mother is of Jamaican descent (from St. Mary). Her father, Scott, is from Cape Verde.
Now, I know your interest is piqued. Join Marley Dias on March 8. She will be launching her book on Saturday, March 10 at 12:00 p.m. at the Joyce Robinson Hall, Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Library, 2 Tom Redcam Avenue, Kingston 5. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited!