Black schoolgirl starts campaign to find 1,000 books with black girl leads

Marley Dias, 11, plans to donate the books she collects to schools and libraries in Jamaica

Marley Dias, 11, has started a project to collect 1,000 books where black girls take the lead after growing “sick of reading about white boys and dogs”.

The New Jersey resident loves reading but found herself struggling to find relatable literary characters. Dias created the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign in November in a bid to find diverse novels that feature black females front and centre, rather than as minorities.

“My parents have taught me the value of reading and self-love though books that have characters that look like me and talk like me,” Dias said in a statement. 

“I want to make sure other black girls around the world can see and love themselves, too, through these books. I know there’s a lot of black girl books out there, I just haven’t read them.”

Dias works for her mother Janice’s organisation GrassROOTS Community Foundation. On 11 February, she plans to host a book festival in Janice’s hometown of St Mary in Jamaica, where will donate her collection to schools and libraries there. She has already met half her target.

“I didn’t need identification, or I didn’t desire it because I grew up in an all-black country,” Janice told PhillyVoice. “[Marley’s] not growing up in an all-black country; she’s growing up in a fairly white suburb, in a country that only has 12.6 per cent of blacks. 

“For her, identification is a bigger deal. For young black girls int he US, context is really important to them - to see themselves and have stories that reflect experiences that are closer to what they have or their friends have.”

So far, Marley’s catalogue includes the likes of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, No Mirrors in My Nana’s House by Ysaye M Barnwell, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee.

Anyone wanting to donate books to #1000BlackGirlBooks can send them to GrassROOTS Community Foundation, 59 Main Street, Suite 323, West Orange, NJ 07052.

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