Frustrated with the lack of African-American females represented as main characters in books, 11-year-old Marley Emerson Dias set out on a simple social media mission−collect 1,000 books featuring black girls. The young Essex County middle-schooler didn’t expect what happened next. Not only did she exceed her goal of 1,000 books, she gained the attention of Ellen, Oprah, and Michelle Obama. If that wasn’t enough, Dias was named Editor-in-Residence for Elle.com, having recently launched her very own magazine, Marley Mag, proving that acting on a personal passion could ultimately change your life.
“I started this because in my fifth-grade class I was only able to read books about white boys and their dogs,” Dias explained in an interview with The Voice. “I understood that my teacher could connect with those characters, so he asked us to read those books. But I didn’t relate to them, so I didn’t learn lessons from those stories.”
With the desire to read books with relatable characters, the self-professed book-nerd sprang into action, launching #1000BlackGirlBooks. To date, Dias has collected more than 7,000 stories that feature African-American females as main characters. “When you see a character you can connect with, if they learn a specific lesson, you’re more likely to apply that to your life,” Dias told NJ Advance Media in January.