Last month, Havana Chapman-Edwards, a 7-year-old who has suffered personal loss due to gun violence, was the only student in her elementary school to walk out in protest on National School Walkout Day. In recognition of the fearless way this inspiring girl continues to lead and advocate for change, the teen organizers of National Die-In Day invited her to speak at their national protest in Washington, DC yesterday.
Hosted on the second anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando, Florida, the die-in, which lasted for 12 minutes, 720 seconds, and was proceeded by a speaker-led rally, aimed “to protest continued government inaction on gun control laws”, while “honoring the 49 innocent lives lost” on June 12, 2016.
We are honored to publish Havana’s powerful speech in its entirety, which she delivered to the crowd of students and activists gathered on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol…
“Hello, my name is Havana Chapman-Edwards and I am in 1st grade.
“This spring, I participated in the March for Our Lives and then the National Walk Out Day. I walked out to honor the kids who died in Columbine and the first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as my cousin Tony who was shot and killed when he was 17 years old. I was the only one to walk out at my school, but I knew I was not alone.
“I walked out because I believe the United States government needs to have laws to protect us. If they don’t fight for us, we have to fight for ourselves, just like the kids did in the Children’s March in Alabama. We will not learn poems about lockdown drills or suck on lollipops so we can stay quiet while we hide under our teacher’s desk. I am here to say for the kids in elementary school, enough is enough. We may be little, but we are fierce, and we will not be afraid.
“Since the walkouts, people keep saying how cute I am with my astronaut suit on and how I am going to change the world. But to some people out there, my astronaut suit tells them black girls are strong and beautiful and deserve the same chance as everyone else to grow up and conquer our big giant dreams. Every time I refuse to let someone tell me I can’t do something because I am just a girl or just a kid, black girl magic is changing the world. And YOU can change the world every day too.
“I know that just because I am only 7 doesn’t mean that I can’t help change the laws. There are adults who keep saying that kids don’t know what we are talking about. But we know we are never too little to make a difference.
“To all of the little kids who are listening, let’s show the US Government that kids know how do more than just eat spaghetti and watch cartoons while we pick our noses.
“I wear Orange again today in honor of the 49 people who were killed at the Pulse Dance Club. But every time I put on orange, it is for my cousin Tony as well. Every time we celebrate Christmas or have a Sunday dinner, Tony is not there. If we really want America to be safe, we have to fight for equal rights for everybody. We have to keep our neighborhoods, coffee shops, parks, backyards, and of course schools safe for kids who look like my cousin Tony and me.
“We are all here today because we want to take action. I am too young to vote in Virginia today, but I am taking action in my community. Nelson Mandela said education is our most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world and Ms. Ava DuVernay also told us you have to fight with light.
“So I started a book club with my choir last year called Rhymers Are Readers #37books. Rhymers are readers because we love to sing, dance, and read. And #37books because around America, black kids have 37 less books that white kids at home. My goal was buy those extra 37 books for everyone in my choir. And I did it. I raised $6,000 to buy books for the kids in my community. Now I am raising more to give books to girls in Ghana this summer with my friend Taylor Richardson because one girl is powerful, but a movement of girls is UNSTOPPABLE.
“I will finish with a quote from Winnie the Pooh:
You are braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.’
“Thank you very much for having me.” – Havana Chapman-Edwards
Lead photo featuring 7-year-old Havana Chapman-Edwards delivering her Die-In speech on June 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. Standing beside her is Brenna Levitan – @brenbizou on Twitter – President of Montgomery County Students For Gun Control Legislation.