Fifteen-year-old activist Marley Dias serves as host and executive producer of the 12-episode Netflix series celebrating the Black experience

By Sam Gillette
Updated August 25, 2020 11:00 AM
Products in this story are independently selected and featured editorially. If you make a purchase using these links we may earn commission.
Advertisement

A new Netflix series is celebrating the Black experience through the power of children's books.

Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices has brought together an impressive roster of stars to read picture books so parents can have important conversations about issues like identity, justice, and kindness with their children.

PEOPLE has the exclusive first look at the trailer for the 12-episode series, which premieres on Netflix on Sept. 1.

Some celebrities read from their own books, like Lupita Nyong'o (Sulwe) and Grace Byers (I Am Enough), while others perform books written by top children's authors, like Tiffany Haddish (I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley) and Common (Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester).

Marley Dias, the 15-year-old activist, author and founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, serves as host and executive producer.

"I am beyond grateful and excited to be the host and executive producer of Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices," Dias tells PEOPLE in a statement. "Not only is the series providing representation for people who look like me, it's helping to educate other children on ways to become more socially conscious."

Marley Dias
Elsa/Getty

The conversation doesn't end with the five-minute episodes. Adults can find additional books and resources on NetflixBookmarks.com.

"This series creates a vehicle for children and families to begin to have conversations around concepts of racial identity and social justice through prolific Black voices," creative producer Kevin A. Clark said in a statement. "I’m excited to be part of a project that leverages the power of Black storytellers and provides an opportunity for children to see themselves and their communities on screen."

One of the books featured, Sulwe by Nyong'o, was inspired by the Us actress' own childhood struggles with colorism.

"I wrote my children’s book Sulwe based on my experience with colorism from a very young age," Nyong’o told PEOPLE in November 2019. "My goal was to plant a seed of self-worth in children just as they are starting to get a sense of the larger world, and internalizing how other people see them."

Sulwe, which means “star” in Luo, Nyong’o’s native language, tells the story of a 5-year-old girl growing up in Kenya who is uncomfortable because she has the darkest skin color in her family. Through an adventure in the sky (and with help from her mom), she begins to see herself as beautiful.

Nyong’o felt it was important to address the issue in a way that young mind’s could easily understand.

“Although colorism is a heavy topic, it was important to me that Sulwe’s story have warmth, whimsy and exist in a land of dreams,” she said.

Balzer + Bray

Other performances include: Caleb McLaughlin (Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes), Marsai Martin (ABC’s For Girls Like Me by Melanie Goolsby), Karamo Brown (I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown), Jill Scott (Pretty Brown Face by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker), Misty Copeland (Firebird by Misty Copeland), Jacqueline Woodson (The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson), Kendrick Sampson (Anti-Racist Baby by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi), and Marley Dias (We March by Shane W. Evans).