7-year-old future astronaut Havana Chapman-Edwards fights for girls' education in Ghana
If you’ve heard the saying “you are never too little to make a difference” and shrugged it off, well Havana Chapman-Edwards is here to make sure you don’t do that again, ever, because she gives credence to that saying. Oh and she’s 7-Year-Old, loves reading, and is headed to Ghana in West Africa come this July. Plus she wants to be an astronaut in the future… How about that!
TheAfricanDream.net (T.A.D.) would like to thank the parents of Havana Chapman-Edwards for giving us this opportunity to delve a little into their young daughter’s life and share her inspiring story not only with young girls her age, but persons all over so they too believe that it’s not how little you are, but how determined you can be.
Read all about T.A.D.’s chat with Havana, who boldly speaks for herself by the way. Her parent’s comments will have to come later, for now, let’s watch Havana shine:
T.A.D.: What triggered your love for books and reading?
Havana: It started when my parents read books to me every day since I was born. I learned that books were important but they were also fun. Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon that we can use to change the world,” and I believe him.
I want to learn about other people in the world by reading, but also by traveling and learning multiple languages too. I also love learning about science, animals, and important people in history.
T.A.D.: Do you have a favorite book, and why that book?
Havana: My favorite book is Each Kindness, a Jacqueline Woodson’s story that teaches you how to be kind and generous to new kids when they come to your school. Because my dad is a diplomat and my mom is an international teacher, my family moves a lot over the world.
I have changed schools 4 times already so I can relate to Maya, who is the main character in the book. My favorite quote from the book is “This is what kindness does. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”
T.A.D.: What fascinates you about being an astronaut?
Havana: I want to be an astronaut when I grow up because I really love math and science. I want to work on the Space Station and go to Mars. I really love Dr. Mae Jemison and every time we talk about the planets and space in Science at school, I think it is so interesting.
You also have to know a lot of languages when you work with astronauts from other countries, and I have learned 8 languages so far. (NOT all at the same time ): Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Wolof, French, Spanish, and English. I also want to be the President of the United States, a gymnast, and an artist when I grow up.
T.A.D. asked Hanava’s parents: How do you help her manage all the attention she’s getting?
Parents: Havana has no idea how many followers on social media she has. We don’t talk about numbers, likes, or video views. We use the positive and wonderful messages people send to practice reading aloud, typing, and modeling positive communication through social media.
But every time someone sends books or donates to her GoFundMe she writes a thank you note. We believe in showing gratitude and humility no matter what.
And we separate the social media attention from real life. Havana helps people in her community and her church and that is not advertised for others. First and foremost, we are teaching her to value doing the right thing when no one else is looking.
T.A.D.: Why did you choose to travel to Ghana?
Havana: I was born in Egypt, and when I was in Pre-School, we lived in Mauritania for 2 years. I love living in Africa and want to visit as many countries as possible.
My godmother, LaSheena Washington works at the US Embassy in Ghana and she volunteers at the local orphanage called the St. Bakhita Foundation. We wanted to hand deliver A Wrinkle in Time books to each of the 17 girls (ages 3-17) at the orphanage.
We want the girls to see and read about #blackgirlmagic since representation matters. ALL kids should have equal opportunities in their education and by having books, each of the girls will be inspired to be warriors and never give up on their dreams, even when it seems impossible.
T.A.D. asked Havana’s father Anthony: Take us on a brief journey of how you traced your roots to Ghana?
Anthony: I have always been interested in history, including the genealogy of my family. As with most African-American families, discovering our African ancestral lineage has been difficult, until recently when DNA technology became affordable.
In 2016, as a result of a Christmas gift, I submitted a DNA sample that resulted in the scientific discovery of my Ghanaian and Cameroonian connection.
Prior to the DNA discovery, while living in Mauritania from 2014-2016, most encounters with local citizens assumed I spoke Wolof because of my distinctive physical attributes associated with people from West African countries, minus my American nationality and the missing journey tied to the western slave trade.
Therefore, this journey to Ghana will truly be a homecoming of sorts and hopefully a more in-depth discovery of my possible Ashanti tribal affiliation.
While we were in Mauritania, we took trips to visit Goree Island and several historical sites where slavery took place in the Gambia. Recent visits to the Smithsonian National African American History Museum here in DC articulates the forced migration that we saw in West Africa.
Seeing both sides of the horrifying conditions people endured for hundreds of years as well as the ongoing struggle not yet resolved, while displaying the beauty rarely expressed of African heritage and culture, including the contributions of how they help build America has been transformational.
T.A.D.: Are there plans to do other countries after Ghana, else what’s next?
Havana: I am going to keep working with my local bookstore, Mahogany Books, donating books and doing a story hour for kids every week.
I am going to continue raising money for my book club: Rhymers are Readers #37books.
Scholastic did a study last year that shows that in America, black and brown children have 37 fewer books in their homes than white children. They also found that only 18% of African American 4th graders are proficient readers.
I want to help change that, with my book club. I want kids to feel confident in their reading ability and to see kids who look like them in the books they read. I am going to donate books about amazing African and African-American female role models. Girls AND boys need to see strong black females in their books. I call these women and girls ‘sheroes’.
I want as many kids as possible to be able to read great books at home and travel the world through the pages of our books! I think I can change the world one bedtime story at a time!
One girl is powerful, but a movement of girls is unstoppable. So I am going to help other girls around the world start book clubs as well.
I am also going to be volunteering to speak at other elementary schools and working on projects with UNICEF such as Trick or Treat for UNICEF and helping human rights organizations get the Convention of the Rights of a Child passed in the United States.
Next summer, we will be moving overseas again so it depends on where we move to know exactly which countries we will travel to next.
T.A.D.: Before we finish, what else do you want to tell the world?
Havana: Ms. Ava DuVernay [the American filmmaker] told us we can be warriors. But believing in ourselves takes practice. Some of my ancestors weren’t allowed to learn to read or go to school at all, much less a really nice school like mine on the top of the hill with a Spanish immersion program.
But Shirley Chisholm said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” 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.
I know that just because I am only 7 doesn’t mean that I can’t help fight for equality in education. Kids should know they are never too little to make a difference.