11-Year-Old Marley Dias Becomes Editor-in-Residence for Elle.com After Launching #1000BlackGirlBooks


In traditional media, the perception of people of color, especially #African Americans, is often painted in a negative light. #BallerAlert would like to take the opportunity to exhibit a different narrative; one that is more realistic and truthful.

The beauty of black excellence is that it not only demonstrates our “magic” in the industries we publicly dominate, it demonstrates our excellence in fields and endeavors we have mastered, often creating opportunities for ourselves and others.

In an effort to show appreciation for those who exhibit ambition, determination, intelligence, entrepreneurship and community involvement; #BA has begun the #BallerificBlackExcellence series. We will showcase and highlight those who have made a positive change within their communities, while dedicating their time, money, hard work, and/or education.

Last week, our #ballerificwoman was #StephanieLampkin the founder and CEO of the #Blendoor app. This week, we want to recognize 11-year-old middle-schooler, #MarleyEmersonDias of Essex County.

Dias isn’t your ordinary 11-year-old, she has set sights on her dreams and made it her mission to make reading enjoyable for other little girls, like her.

After realizing the lack of African American female representation in books for children, she decided to collect 1,000 books, all featuring black girls.

After reaching and exceeding her goal of 1,000 books via social media, with the launch of #1000BlackGirlBooks, Dias was named Editor-in-Residence for Elle.com and was given the opportunity to create a new special edition magazine just for the publication called, Marley Mag.

Dias introduced her new ‘zine in a letter written on Elle.com. She explained her project, her current issue of the magazine and her experience of interviewing women who have inspired her, including #MistyCopeland and #AvaDuVernay. She thanked Elle for the opportunity and spoke on her next endeavors, on her mission to make a difference.

“My generation feels the pressure to make things better, but we need more spaces to speak our minds and to make a difference. I hope that, no matter how old you are, you enjoy this issue and that it inspires you to think. Most importantly, I hope it inspires you to act. The women and girls in this issue show us how,” she wrote in the letter.

Dias’ #blackgirlmagic didn’t stop there. According to reports, the 11-year-old also donated the first 1,000 books she received to the Retreat Primary and Junior School and library in #Jamaica, where her mother grew up. She also sent some extra books to her old school in #WestOrange, NJ.

It is safe to say, Miss. Dias exemplifies #blackexcellence, she is our #ballerifickid.

Check out Marley Dias’s full letter below, via ELLE.com

Hi friends,

I have to admit that I’m very nervous about writing this letter. It’s a lot of responsibility for an 11-year-old! But here we go.

Last year around this time, I was like so many other kids—lying on my bed, reading books, waiting for school to start, looking forward to seeing my old friends, and meeting new ones. I was excited but anxious, too, about the kinds of books I would be assigned. I wanted something new, something different from fifth grade. I wanted more—more books about girls like me.

It was the desire to see black girls and our experiences in the books that I was given to read at school that forced me to speak my truth. I launched  #1000BlackGirlBooks, a book drive to collect the stories of women of color. It took a little while, but I started a movement that inspired people I didn’t even know. I went on TV and was interviewed for some of my favorite websites, including Elle.com. During our conversation, I said I wanted to edit a magazine someday. I didn’t expect it to happen so fast! A few months later, ELLE.com invited me to create a zine for the website.

In the blink of an eye, I’ve gone from being a book nerd in West Orange, New Jersey, to an Editor-in-Residence in New York City. I’ve always said that books have taken me on many adventures, but none of those adventures have been quite like this one. This isn’t a dystopian novel or a fantasy. It’s my real life. I, Marley Emerson Dias, have gotten the chance of a lifetime. I’m creating a brand-new zine for one of the most-read magazines in the world.

My passion for books has changed my life. Between school, homework, tests, and play time with my friends, I have worked my butt off to create this space where black girls’ stories are read and celebrated in schools and libraries. I have collected more than 7,000 books, been on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, been honored at events, and even met Oprah and the fantastic Michelle Obama. And yet I am still just a girly tomboy who drinks Blue Raspberry Coolattas, builds Play-Doh people, and watches cat videos.

A year ago, I wanted to collect #1000BlackGirlBooks, but I see now that there is so much more to do and so much more to this journey. I want to use what I’ve learned to elevate the voices of all those who have been ignored and left out. This experience at ELLE has given me a preview into my future and shown me what is possible. So even though I am still very nervous, I hope you will enjoy what this amazing team of women and I have put together. Here are some of what you’ll find in this issue:

This issue is about women and girls who have left their imprint on the world. Some of them have charted new courses. Some have expanded the way we see the world and what we think is possible. And all the women (and man! Hi, Larry Wilmore!) in Marley Mag are people who have inspired me.

Misty Copeland sat with me in a small room during a very loud event to talk to me about her pathway to greatness. As the first African American female principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, Misty has changed the way we think about the strength and power of black women. Like her, I have broad shoulders and an athletic body. She’s shown me that my body is not an obstacle. My body is my strength.

Taking time out of her incredibly busy schedule, Ava DuVernay spoke with me for almost an hour—all while enduring the sweltering heat of New Orleans. I was star struck to meet her. Even though I cried when I watched “Selma”, I loved it. And I’m so excited to see “A Wrinkle in Time”, which she is directing now! Once I even wrote a blog about her. I couldn’t believe she was there, sitting across from me. I tried to play it cool, but it was so amazing.

And finally, a shout-out to Mattie Kahn, my supervisor on this issue. She is a fearless woman. It takes an innovative person to think of putting an 11-year-old in charge of a magazine. I am so happy she did.

So, what’s next? I’m not exactly sure, but I have one goal: I want to change the way we imagine black girls in books and in culture and I want to create new spaces for black girls to be represented.

With that in mind, I’ll continue my work to motivate black girls and all people to use their voices to be positive influences in their communities. As members of society, we should always be pushing our girls to strive to be the best and to speak up and out about issues we see.

My generation feels the pressure to make things better, but we need more spaces to speak our minds and to make a difference. I hope that, no matter how old you are, you enjoy this issue and that it inspires you to think. Most importantly, I hope it inspires you to act. The women and girls in this issue show us how.

Love, Marley Dias

About MsJennyb

Jen is a Writer and Content Curator for Baller Alert, who writes under the alias “MsJennyb.” In this role, Jen develops and contributes relevant special-themed content to attract readers. Before joining the Entertainment Industry via Baller Alert, Jen spent one year as a Freelance Writer and two years as a Human Resources assistant in a corporate office. Jen has a degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University with a concentration in Africana Studies.

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