Her Name is Marley

On Independence Day, a 12-year-old social activist inspires delegates at the NEA Representative Assembly.

Day 3 of the 2017 NEA Representative Assembly was kicked off by social activist, author, and middle school dynamo Marley Dias, whose charm, wit, and poetry reading quickly won over the more than 7,000 delegates gathered at the Boston Convention Center.

Marley is the 12-year-old activist from West Orange, New Jersey, behind #1000BlackGirlBooks—an international movement to collect and donate children’s books that feature Black girls as the lead character. So far, more than 9,500 books have been collected for donation to schools and other institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Marley’s poem, cowritten by Raquel Brown, described the motivation behind her movement as she recited these words:

My imagination never took me down tree-lined mystery stories where my pet and I spent time solving problems that resembled privilege and after, we quenched our thirst with morning dew. 

I am black girl magic, majestic wonder amidst the mystery of clean white paper reading white boys and their dogs as a relatable story… I am providing black girl solutions. My name is Marley Dias it is not Nancy Drew.

My ancestors have blessed me with gifts much farther than the eye can see: 

Leadership, intelligence, beauty inside and out, the capability to express the depths of me. 

Across the world, this gift is ours.

From Ghana to Newark, the souls of black girls spark in the eyes of those inspired

But you don’t know about this. Our stories are not told. And girls that look like me don’t know that the shape of every story began with our mold

So kids in Idaho and India don’t know they are gold. 

I want to share our tales, turn our wrongs into rights (writes) show that beauty exists when daylight awakens and that it’s just as beautiful at night.

Working since 2015 to win the long fight and hold our stories dearly. 

I am working to redress the pains because ignorance and hatred is not the only clothing we should be wearing. 

Myths and stereotypes hide in the pages. 

It’s time to open the books for the next generation because we count.

Because…We Count!

To donate to Marley’s campaign, click here and scroll down to a list of recommended book titles sorted by author, title, and reading level. Donors can buy a book from the list and ship it to Marley at the following address:

GrassROOTS Community Foundation
c/o Marley Dias
59 Main Street, Suite 323
West Orange, New Jersey  07052

In Boston, literacy advocates supported #1000BlackGirlBooks by contributing books to NEA’s Diversity Library during the Conference on Racial and Social Justice and Representative Assembly.