Marley Dias DAZED100 2020
Courtesy of Marley Dias
“I want to host a free youth activist summit to teach kids how to start their own social action projects

Marley Dias

Age - 15
 Philadelphia, United States
@iammarleydias
Marley Dias
“I want to host a free youth activist summit to teach kids how to start their own social action projects

The whitewashing of children’s literature is no secret, and Marley Dias made it her mission to decolonise and diversify this frustrating status quo when she was just 10. “All of my school books featured white boys and their dogs as the main character, none had black girls like me as the leads,” she says. So the Philadelphia-based student launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign in 2015, collecting and donating titles that fit the bill to schools in the US and overseas.

Speeding past the original target of sourcing 1000 books, Marley collected more than 12,000, and the campaign's success earned her a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and took her to the White House (under Obama). Now 15 years old, Dias’ mission has expanded, taking in girls education and sanitation programmes in Jamaica and Ghana. “I want to be able to provide the tools and resources for girls to be the leaders of tomorrow and their best selves,” she says. “I work to create spaces where all kinds of people can see and be the main characters of their own lives.”

The passionate student-activist has also written a manifesto for youth activism (Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You!), sharing her story and empowering tips and strategies to help more kids change the world. Next, she plans to launch a #1000BlackGirlBooks app​, creating “a platform that makes it easy for parents, kids and educators to find black girl stories.”

When it comes to your work, what are you most proud of?

Marley Dias: I am most proud of being able to highlight this omission in school curricula. I am overwhelmingly excited by the fact that while I have made a personal impact on children, I have also helped create systemic changes in school districts. By doing speaking engagements at schools or with school administrators, I have been able to influence them to recognise the importance of diversity in children’s books. Over these past four years, I have been pleased to learn that educators and parents are able to see educational and social benefits that reading diverse books bring. 

How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and your community?

Marley Dias: Covid-19 has impacted my community in many ways. People have died, yet some people in my town are still not social distancing. For me personally, I go to therapy; but unfortunately the office that provides these services was not prepared for this pandemic and I have had to go four weeks without a session. My mental health concerns are not as extreme as others, but it is nonetheless frustrating that I could not receive the care I need and want. Happily, staying at home has provided a great opportunity for me to be more active on social media and to promote the issues that I care about. I have found that going live and posting more often is a great way to help my followers feel less alone.

“I work to create spaces where all kinds of people can see and be the main characters of their own lives” - Marley Dias

What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?

Marley Dias: I want to host a youth activist summit to teach kids how to start their own social action projects. I get online messages from kids asking for tips every day and I would love to host something where these youth leaders can come together, for free, to learn. An in-person conference would enhance the connections among youth social activists, but due to the severity of Coronavirus it will most likely not be possible for a while. An online, virtual conference will allow for a broader global audience.

Felicia Pennant

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