Extraordinary People

Teen, 15, empowers young people to fight for equality as she challenges curriculum

If you haven’t already heard of Marley Dias, then now is the time to remember her name.

If you haven’t already heard of Marley Dias, then now is the time to remember her name.

This rising activist is fighting for equality and against racial injustice – and she’s only 15.

On her mission to change the world, the teenager kickstarted her campaigning four years ago when she noticed the lack of black girl characters in the books that she read.

This prompted her to start the #1000blackgirlbooks movement to promote diversity in children’s literature, consequently collating more than 12,000 books for kids to access.

Now, Marley has written for Elle to reveal how she continues to empower young people across the globe by calling on the adults in their world to help educate them.

She wrote: “Young people overwhelmingly bear the burden of poverty, mis- and under-education, sexism, racism, and pervasive violence. And in order to be the leaders of tomorrow, I know just how important it is to make change now, starting on a local level.


“But we cannot affect real change alone. We need adults to help us end the ignorance that’s bred in our homes and supported by our schools.

“We need adults to ensure our curriculum includes not only the study of African and black people throughout history, but that it also offers context and careful examination of today’s monumental current events.”

Marley explained that while her hometown of West Orange, New Jersey prides itself on being diverse – with almost 35% of residents speaking a language other than English at home and black people making up more than a quarter of the town’s population – the school board and council do not mirror these demographics.

She continued: “Our school board has one black member, but no Latinx or Asian representation. And our township council has no visible person of colour.”

The US native is now expanding her campaign to move away from just promoting black characters in books and calling for them to appear in real-life too.

Marley believes that in order for us to be the change we wish to see in the world, we must see ourselves represented first “in fact and in fiction”.

She added: “So, my mission goes far beyond just what’s in bedtime stories. In my elementary school, the black figures we learned about were Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Yet in middle school, the fairly recent murders of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the Parkland shootings were not addressed.

“What happens in the present moment is as important to our future as the past.

“So, it is my hope that in the future, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery will be covered in schools nationwide.”

Marley is now calling upon policymakers, schools, and all adults alike to help younger generations fight for a future that encourages change and does not censor history as we must be able to say the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ and write them in classrooms globally.

She has also relaunched her #1000blackgirlbooks to continue the collection.


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