Meet Marley Dias, the amazing 11-year-old NJ founder of 1,000 Black Girl Books

1,000 Black Girl Books founder Marley Dias, 11, of West OrangeCourtesy of the Dias family

1,000 Black Girl Books founder Marley Dias, 11, of West Orange

New Jersey produces some pretty talented and amazing people, and one girl who’s already a leader and national presence while still in middle school is Marley Dias, 11, of West Orange, who’s the founder of 1,000 Black Girl Books movement and book drive. What’s it all about? Well, her Twitter bio reads “Working hard to promote diversity in children’s literature,” and that’s exactly what she’s doing: gathering books that reflect her own experience as a young African American girl. As she told NBC News, “All of the books that I was reading had white boys and dogs as the main character, and I was pretty sick of it. I’m pretty sure my other classmates were too, but I was just the one to speak up about it.”

Her activism has largely happened via social media, especially around the hashtag #1000blackgirlbooks on Twitter, but it’s also expanded beyond the internet.

In fact, according to Today, “This summer, Marley is partnering with the White House and the Department of Education for her own book tour, visiting schools across the country to introduce other kids to the stories and authors of color she loves.”

I'm launching my national reading tour this Thursday in collaboration with the White House Initiative for African American Excellence at the Department of Education???? Me with Marsai Martin of Black-ish as well as 200 students from Washington DC will come together to do our summer reading plan????. We will also have the pleasure of hearing from and asking questions of author Rita Williams-Garcia who penned "One Crazy Summer."????This is the 1st of 6 cities on Marley D.'s Reading Tour. ✈️#HappyReading Youth from: Mary McLeod Bethune Day School, Baltimore City Public Schools, Howard County Schools, DC Public Charter School, Loudon County Public Schools, Baltimore County, Sisterhood Club of Westside Elem, Prep Academy in Baltimore, Childfirst, and Washington Ying Yang will all join the reading party. ????????#1000blackgirlbooks

A photo posted by Marley Dias (@iammarleydias) on

Marley was frustrated by the fact that most of the books she read for class at Thomas A. Edison Middle School in West Orange, where she just completed sixth grade, didn’t feature characters who looked like her, so she decided to do something about it. As she explained to NJ.com, “When you see a character you can connect with, if they learn a specific lesson, you’re more likely to apply that to your life.”

Her campaign quickly went viral, leading to appearances on many news programs and TV shows, including NPR, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and CBS This Morning to spread the word.

Marley, who’s named after singer Bob Marley, began her book drive in November with the goal of collecting 1,000 books to donate to schools and libraries. She wound up with 7,000 and ultimately donated 1,600 of them to Retreat Primary and Junior School and library in Jamaica’s St. Mary parish, which her mother attended. But she’s continued expand on her message, speaking at events such as the conference The United State of Women at the White House in June, where she met the biggest book advocate around, Oprah Winfrey.

Selfie with @oprah! ????????????????@uswoman2016 #stateofwomen #backstage #goals ????????????

A photo posted by Marley Dias (@iammarleydias) on

She even showed up at Essence Fest, where she won the Black Girls Rock Making a Difference award. In an interview with Dana Blair at the event, she revealed that she’d gathered 4,000 books to donate, her favorite book is Black Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and she’s thinking of starting a black girl book club.

On Thursday, she was interviewed on Facebook Live by Elle.com editor-at-large and former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry about everything from representation in books to the recent shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Throughout, Marley expressed herself in ways wise beyond her years.

Marley has shared what she’s discovered, including 700 book titles, in a 1,000 Black Girl Books Resources Guide for interested teachers, parents and students, that also includes comments by Dr. Lauren Wells, Chief Education Officer, City of Newark as well as Marley’s mom, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias.

Marley also has her fangirl moments, which she’s shown when taking selfies with stars like Rihanna, Amandla Stenberg and Kerry Washington.

On top of all that, Marley also has amazing style and does her own OOTD posts!