Marley Dias is 15 years old and already changing the world. Named after Bob Marley, she is of Jamaican and Cape Verdan descent. She is eloquent, powerful with her words, and has done things most adults could only dream of- like speak at the White House’s United States of Women event alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah . She is the founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, which she created after wanting to see more children books where Black girls are the main characters.
In 2018, Dias was recognized by TIME as one of the 25 most influential teens in 2018. She is also the youngest member of the Forbes 30 under 30 list to date. She is the host and executive producer of Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, a new Netflix series in which Black celebrities read children‘s books by Black authors. Lupita Nyong’o , Tiffany Haddish , Common and Jill Scott are among the readers. Dias is also the author of Marley Dias Gets it Done: And So Can You!
She recently hosted an Airbnb online experience called “How to be a Social Problem Solver” with her parents and sat down with Hola! USA to talk about the experience, being a 15 year old girl, and how adults can help change the world we created.
Hola! USA: So let‘s talk a little bit about your Airbnb experience first that I know you have coming up tomorrow. Tell me a little bit in your words what it is and what to expect.
Marley Dias: So my Airbnb experience alongside my mom and dad is called ‘How To Be a Social Problem Solver.’ I am super excited because usually after when I do speaking engagements people come up to [my parents] and ask “oh how does she do that? Did you write that for her? For her to say that? And they‘re kind of doubting the ability I have to speak for myself and the passion I have for the work that I do with a 1000 Black Girl Books. So Airbnb presents the opportunity for me to talk about the campaign... and show and represent the value that I have in my work. How to be a social problem solver obviously comes from the success found in my campaign, but that success is and kind of rests on the ability that my parents have had to invest in me and these ideas. So it’s really exciting to have something that we all do together. My mom and I have only done one speaking engagement together before and... it’s a really limited edition thing. We are very different in the way that we talk about social justice, we don’t necessarily have the same presentation with all our ideas. So it’s super fun, especially now that I am older and I think I have more independent and mature ideas.
Hola! USA: That‘s a really good point. I can understand and can see how people would try to downplay you and say that your parents are writing all this stuff for you or that these thoughts aren’t coming from your own head. I think it’s cool that you’re creating your own agency and independence. What age range is this experience for?
Marley Dias: I think that‘s a good question cause although I definitely want to say that it’s for all ages. I think social action became something that I cared about when I was around 10 years old… It is a guide and a resource for all ages, but I think when you become 10 years old you start to have your moral perspective- You feel like you’re a big kid, you’re in elementary school and you experience more independence and have to work on self-efficacy and self-agency. So the event is really focused on being 10 and up and we want to make sure that younger kids if they have ideas are able to attend as well and theirs no limitations. But when it comes to all those kids we also want to encourage that their parents are along with them. This isn’t the kind of event where you can just click the link for your children. We wanna make sure they are both engaged and listening to what we have to say. Because although I’m hosting the experience, we are gonna talk about my dad’s perspective of watching me grow and my mom’s experience… So we are going to be covering those bases for both children and adults.
Hola! USA: So obviously becoming a youth activist and being able to have a little bit of power to enact social justice and change takes some time and some confidence... What are they gonna leave with that they can use in their every day life that‘s not necessarily super hard to understand or super radical? Something you can do every day to bring change, or be an activist in the small things you do at home or in your community.
Marley Dias: So I think that‘s an interesting question because the reason why the event isn’t called “how to be an activist” is because activism is kind of a label that has been used as a career.. But in reality, activism is about being a social problem solver. So there will be every day steps and one of the things I’m going to encourage is for kids to become socially observant and for parents to help them do that. To notice things that frustrate them in everyday life, find the systems they’re apart of, learn about the roots and histories of these challenges, and try to figure out how that relates to their everyday life. Activist is a word that I would use to describe myself because I think it’s an easy thing to understand for a lot of people, but I feel like its at the core of all work such as social entrepreneurship and solving problems within your community. So that something that we really want to make sure that kids don’t think (that changing the world is harder than an everyday task). But by taking the steps to be brave, challenge notions and ideas, to learn more about your community is apart of being an activist.
Hola! USA: Thank you. I just wanted to just talk a little bit about you, I think that you‘re absolutely fascinating, you’re so intelligent. Everything that you’re doing is amazing and I 100% believe that this is all coming from your brain. Especially talking to you, it sounds like I’m talking to someone who is like this professor somewhere. How are you managing to do all of this and at the same time just being a 15-year-old girl during these wild times?
Marley Dias: Well right not honestly I don‘t think I’m doing it very well. I have been more stressed than normal but I’m trying my best. Doing school online is a lot more tiring than in person, so I think it’s a new adjustment for everybody. But I definitely try not to hide the fact that I might be stressed about things because I don’t think that helps people see more about who I am. But it has been a tiring past couple of weeks adjusting to new school, with my own personal projects, 1000 Black Girl Books and events, and all these types of things but I am trying my best overall.
Hola! USA: Okay, that‘s good. what is some general kind of hopes and fears that you have during this time? As a younger generation in this world. I mean I’m not that much older than you, but this world that you and I have at our plate. I know my hopes and I have my own fears and I’m wondering what yours are? We can be hopeful and fearful during these times.
Marley Dias: Well, I think one thing that makes me hopeful is that people are a lot less.. Once they‘re able to get the words and the information and the social vocabulary [people] are much less tolerant to the injustices that they see. And I think social media has helped with that because people are able to connect their experiences and found they’re not alone... That’s an important tool that I’ve been able to experience my whole life... One thing that does definitely scare me is that I think stories about people like me, Black girls… and all types of people are not being told accurately and enough. I think that we need to definitely have more representation and we’re really fighting for stories about all kinds of Black people, all kinds of Asian people, and making sure that even within diverse experiences we are telling diverse stories. And that‘s something that does worry me with all these companies and organizations that may be committed to justice and committed to representation are only willing to accept or show or value certain types of these people... and I think its really important to tell everything we can about these people’s experiences and not just one.
Hola! USA: That‘s awesome. Okay well thank you so much and I’ll let you share anything that you want to share. If you just want to get any thoughts off your mind or anything that’s sitting with you.
Marley Dias: One thing I do want to do for all the adults that are listening, that are 18 and older, encourage them to vote and do their best to help calm down our fears as children. I don’t have the ability to vote yet and I think by encouraging all people to do that it can take some stress off me. Because I don‘t have a say in what happens in my local elections. And for any kids out there and any parents that want to help their kids my book ‘Marley Dias Gets it Done: And So Can You!’ which is published by Scholastic... It’s basically available in all book realtor stores... and kids can use it as a guide to social action and learn more and more about everyday kids that are making a difference.