Marley Dias guides a pre-school audience through a celebration of Black voices in an accessible and important Netflix kids’ series.
Kids like Marley Dias, who hosts, executive produces, and reads in the new Netflix kids’ show Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices, make you feel bad about yourself. I turn 30 in a few days and, on balance, I’ve done virtually nothing of any real cultural importance. The 15-year-old Dias, on the other hand, has been writing about and championing diversity, activism, and representation since she was 13, and making strides in those areas since before that. She founded the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign as a response to being tired of how few Black girls she saw in the books she read when she was in elementary school. What were you doing at that age?
Bookmarks, with the marketing might and global reach of Netflix, is the logical extension of that campaign, which has supplied schools and libraries with stories featuring young, Black girls. Here, in twelve bite-sized five-minute episodes, Dias has assembled a litany of well-known Black celebrities and artists to read children’s books from Black authors. Produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment, the show will air on both Netflix and the Netflix Jr. YouTube channel, giving these stories the widest possible platform.
Nobody should require any explanation as to why this kind of project is vital, which is why some seriously big names are attached to it, including but not limited to Tiffany Haddish, Lupita Nyong’o, and… Common, much better here than he was in Ava, although you have to wonder if any kids who’re in the target demographic for Let’s Talk About Race, the book he reads, should really know who Common is. Maybe they liked his great 2016 album Black America Again.
A lot of the reading material – Marley Dias herself pushed for the show to have a resource guide, by the way – is about race, but largely as a reminder that for people of color race is part of their story but not the sum total of who they are. The stories promote the idea that fundamentally we’re all the same, but also that we’re all very different and those differences should be embraced and celebrated. It’s attempting to unpack the “Black experience” not as a monolith but as a diverse range of stories, and Dias, among the generation being spoken to, is the perfect guide for that kind of difficult but necessary dialogue. She herself is one of the readers – reading from Shane Evans’s We March – and her intimate involvement in Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices is proof that young Black kids don’t just have to hear their own stories – they can help to tell them too.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.