Eighth grader Marley Dias, author of “Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You,” shares her plan to boost black girls’ representation
This story is part of “Ceiling Smashers,” a series in which successful women across industries tell Moneyish how they broke down professional barriers.
Thirteen-year-old Marley Dias is a published author with more poise than most adults.
The West Orange, N.J. eighth grader’s recently released “Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You,” she told Moneyish, is an activism field guide for kids “on how to blend your gifts and talents and the things that you love doing with creating social change in your community.” The inspiration: #1000BlackGirlBooks, the viral November 2015 campaign she launched out of frustration that the books she read in school “never had stories that showed black girls (as the main character) … they had stories that showed white boys and their dogs.”
“A lot of kids get their resources from school, and school is supposed to provide a well-rounded experience for students,” said Dias, who nabbed a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list this year. “But it wasn’t doing that, and that frustrated me a lot.” So she went to her mom, who asked, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” Aided by social media, she far exceeded her target: The total number of books, as of this writing, stood at more than 11,000.
Black girls’ representation is vital, Dias explained, because it creates “mirrors and windows”: mirrors for black girls to learn they can be astronauts, archaeologists and “happy, healthy and strong, beautiful black girls”; and windows for “young white boys and young Asian girls” to gain insight into others’ experiences. “That allows for less ignorance and for less hatred and for more understanding,” Dias said, “which is something that I feel would solve a lot of the problems that we face as adults and as children.”
Does Dias feel she’s shattered a glass ceiling? “I think I have,” she said. “Now I’m able to go to school systems and talk to superintendents and to teachers and to educators and try to create actual, systemic change in the books that are being put into schools.” She hopes to spur other youngsters “who see Muslim girls not being reflected, see Chinese boys not being reflected” to share with educators and policymakers their ideas for making schools a more diverse and equitable place.
“We need to actually talk to our principals, and then talk to our supervisors of departments of business development or education, and then talk to our superintendents, and then end up talking to our mayors, our governors, our senators, and actually (share) these issues instead of keeping them to themselves,” Dias said, “which is what I was going to do when I first saw this.”
In sharing diverse stories, Dias added, she hopes to teach young kids to “do your best and don’t worry about being the best.” “What you do is you push yourself as hard as you can, and you put out your best foot forward, and you don’t compare it to others,” she said, “because everyone’s reality and experience is different.”
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