Think back to when you were in fifth grade. Do you remember reading many books about boys and girls that looked like you? Lived like you? Back in the day, I devoured books in the Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club series, but they never really connected with me. That’s a problem. Today, Marley Dias has turned her fifth grade frustrations into a solution that Black girls all over the world can benefit from.
Dias, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey, told her mother one night over dinner that she was tired of all the books about “white boys and dogs” she was assigned to read in fifth grade. “She told me what are you gonna do about it, and I told her I should start a book drive,” Dias said in a recent interview on the “WGBO Journal” show. “I want to start a book drive where Black girls are the main characters and that’s really how it came to be,” Dias said of her vision’s beginnings.
The book drive launched simply on Facebook with a photo of Dias holding a copy of Mildred D. Taylor’s classic, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and a call for books of any title or age group featuring Black girls. One of the project’s earliest adopters was Aja Dantzler, the Mrs. half of the soulful duo Kindred the Family Soul.
The initiative is part of Dias’ yearly social action commitment as a member of the GrassROOTS Community Foundation Super Camp for girls. GrassRoots was co-founded in Philly by her mother, Janice, and Tariq Trotter, better known as super MC Black Thought of The Roots.
Janice, who grew up in St. Mary, Jamaica, spoke with the PhillyVoice and shared how “eye-opening” her daughter’s project has been for her.
“I didn’t need identification, or I didn’t desire it because I grew up in an all-black country,” Janice told PhillyVoice. “She’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 percent of blacks. For her, identification is a bigger deal. … For young black girls in the U.S., context is really important for them — to see themselves and have stories that reflect experiences that are closer to what they have or their friends have.
On February 13, Dias and her mom will journey to St. Mary, Jamaica with the collected books to host a book fair and donate books to an under-resourced local library. After the drive, a reference guide of all the book titles will be available.
We are proud to announce that #1000BlackGirlBooks has an online resource center. You can access it here.
Are you inspired to help Marley Dias reach (better yet, EXCEED) her goal of #1000BlackGirlBooks? Books (or financial donations) can be sent to: GrassRoots Community Foundation, 59 Main St., Suite 323, West Orange, NJ, 07052.