This article, from the August 2020 edition of the Charmeck Chronicle, is published here with permission of the author.
By DonnaMarie Woodson
I’d like to introduce you to an incredibly determined, and passionate 9-year old “Change Maker” – Havana Chapman-Edwards. She gives me hope for a future of warriors fighting for and advancing the cause of civil rights and humanity – a cause started by John Lewis 55 years ago. But, Havana is more than capable of explaining her quest for civil rights and the power of Black Girl Magic.
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She may be just nine years old, but Havana Chapman-Edwards is already a seasoned and powerful activist. The daughter of a U.S. diplomat and international teacher, she said her travels to more than 30 countries have allowed her to see that racism is a global issue.
And after watching the events that unfolded in the U.S. — the death of George Floyd and the protests and unrest that followed — she knew she needed to speak out.
So, Havana and her father wrote this powerful poem together.
My ancestors were kings and queens,
you know what I mean.
Then others sacrificed and died,
to allow us to have better lives.
No matter how hard the world tries to leave people like me behind,
we still rise.
Dreaming to be on top of the world,
a wonderful time to be a girl.
Confident and strong while moving along,
this is where I belong.
Think of me
when you have the opportunity
to vote in your community.
Don’t try to stop me,
I have a dream that you can’t see
That keeps me flying free.
Havana Chapman-Edwards, I have five questions for you:
1. Why do our teachers read books about enslavement, but not about black inventors, astronauts, scientists, dancers, pilots, diplomats, and judges?
2. Why do I go to school each year without ever having a teacher who looks like me?
3. When do I go from cute to dangerous?
4. Why do our leaders only talk about Black Lives Matter when it is close to an election?
5. Why do I have to live with the fear that my brother and my dad might not make it home?
We, the kids, need answers.
Havana first made headlines in March 2018, as one of the youngest members (age 7) of the nationwide cohort of students asking for gun control change. Dressed in an orange astronaut suit, Havana was the only student at her Alexandria, Virginia, elementary school to join the National School Walkout on April 20, and an image of her sitting alone that day quickly caught people’s attention on social media.
“I want to help the big kids and adults and show them I support them as much as I can until I am old enough to vote,” Havana told Teen Vogue.
“Parenting Havana since she could talk and walk, Bethany Edwards speaks about her daughter, she has always been the person to look out for others,” Edwards told TODAY. “Because of our travels, she saw so much inequality, especially in girls who looked like her. So, part of this feels like, of course this was going to happen, this was destined to happen, because she has never felt it was someone else’s job to make that difference.”
Ask Havana what’s she learned about this whirlwind of an experience, and she’ll tell you what she proved from the start: “Even if you’re tiny, your voice is not. The world leaders need to listen to the little girls trying to make change.”
As the daughter of an international-school teacher and an African American Diplomat, she’s traveled the world and lived in five different countries. During these travels, she’s seen the tremendous impact of education on young girls’ lives.
“I have been to 26 countries, and there are so many girls that are not in school,” Havana says. “I speak out for better gun laws because they have big dreams just like me and they deserve to
conquer them, but clean water, gun violence, and climate change are all keeping girls out of school.”
Although these issues are a lot to handle, Havana is promoting a simple yet powerful solution: literacy and getting books in the hands of girls worldwide.
After her image went viral post-walkout, Havana started a GoFundMe account to finance a book club, which went from $800 to $6,000, triple her goal, in about 24 hours. She also used her newfound fame to aid a GoFundMe account started with her friend Taylor Richardson, which raised money to buy supplies for girls at an orphanage in Ghana.
When asked to imagine 21 years from now, Havana has big hopes for others embracing the work that she’s doing.
“I’m doing the book club right now, and in 21 years, I’m hoping to see that girls are doing their own book clubs and donating books to kids and girls.
“Girls really need to see themselves in books and know that their future is unlimited. I think that girls can conquer their big, giant dreams and they won’t ever be silent.”
God bless you, Havana. You give me such hope for our future!
“9-Year-Old Activist Shares Powerful Poem”
Bethany Edwards, “The Downside of traveling the world as a Multicultural Family”
Bryanna Cappadona, “8-year-old activist Havana Chapman-Edwards wants to put a book in every girl’s hands”