Havana Chapman-Edwards, a 7-year-old first-grader from Alexandria, VA, was the only student to walk out of her school during the National School Walkout on April 20.
Her mother Bethany Edwards told CNN that her daughter was initially crushed no one else had walked out with her. But then they watched TV coverage of millions of students walking out across the country, and that gave her hope. "She wanted to represent for African and African-American girls who are victims of gun violence, as well as her cousin, Tony, who was a victim of gun violence," Edwards said.
On Tuesday, Chapman-Edwards was no longer alone. She faced a crowd of other young people on the lawn of the Capitol in Washington, DC, who were rallying as part of National Die-In Day. Across the US — from the nation's capital to Mar-a-Lago and Marco Rubio's office — students gathered to call for common-sense gun laws, like banning assault weapons, universal background checks, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic violence perpetrators. Rallies with speakers were followed by 12-minute "die-ins" at noon. The day marked two years since the Pulse shooting, in which a gunman opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Florida, killing 49 people — the second-deadliest shooting in modern US history.
"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'm here to say, for the kids in elementary school: Enough is enough. We may be little, but we are fierce," Chapman-Edwards said to the crowd.
We caught up with Chapman-Edwards after she spoke at the rally, just as she was heading to her Girl Scout bridging ceremony, where she became a Brownie. "I felt good about it," she told Refinery29 of speaking at the Capitol. "Strong, Black-girl power, facing the world."
When asked why it's important for her to speak out about gun violence, she mentioned Tony, who was shot and killed when he was just 17. "I want to do that because I want to honour the people that died in Columbine and Sandy Hook," she added. "The US government needs to make rules to protect us. If they don't fight for us, we have to fight for ourselves."
An avid bookworm — the Jada Jones series is one of her favourites — Chapman-Edwards wants to make it possible for more girls around the world to read books with characters that reflect and inspire them. This summer, she's going to an orphanage in Ghana to deliver books to girls so that they, too, can read about the strong Black women she looks up to — like Rosa Parks, Nina Simone, Ava DuVernay, and Audrey Faye Hendricks.
She's also going to space camp this summer to help fulfil her dreams of being an astronaut (and she's already practicing by wearing a space suit). But that's not all she wants to be.
"I want to be an astronaut, and an activist, and an engineer, and a gymnast, and a ballet dancer, and a whole lot of other things. Like the president," she said. After a pause, she added: "I want to be an artist, too." #Havana2046. (TBH, we're kind of sad we have to wait at least 28 years until she can be president.)