Thursday, October 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Gia Alexandria Long, with some of the dolls she took on a recent trip to Africa, where she handed them out to young black girls in villages. | Photos courtesy Dr. Wanda J. Evans-Brewer
When Gia Alexandria Long accompanied her mother to Africa recently, she wasn’t satisfied with simply tagging along.
The 7-year-old, who attends Emerson Elementary School in Maywood, where she lives, had recently learned that the children in Tanzania and Uganda, where she’d be traveling, had no baby dolls that look like them.
“These are black nations with no black dolls,” her mother, Dr. Wanda J. Evans-Brewer, said during an interview last month. Evans-Brewer, a professor at Concordia University in River Forest, said they’ve been to Africa three times in the last year.
“Gia said, ‘I want to give them out.’ So, we started collecting and put a GoFundMe page up for it to help with her ticket.”
Long’s giving process, Evans-Brewer said, was premised on random acts of kindness.
“As we went through villages, she would see girls and say, ‘Mommy, I want to give her a doll. She doesn’t have anything.’ She would see a girl playing and say, ‘I’d like to give her a doll.’ It was all random and based on her spirit. If she locked eyes with a girl, she’d give out a doll.”
That simple act of kindness attracted the attention of the Global Girls Initiative, a performing arts and arts education group based on Chicago’s South Side. The organization will honor Long at its Women and Girls Inspiring Change Awards on Oct. 21 at the International House in Chicago.
“They said they’d like to honor her for being a change-maker,” Evans-Brewer said. “It did a lot for those girls’ self-esteem and self-worth. Even the parents were excited. Just the fact that this little girl, who doesn’t speak Swahili or Ugandan, decided to freely give dolls, this girl from Maywood no less — it’s sunshine for this community.”
The esteem-building effort, said Evans-Brewer — who also does activism, philanthropy and outreach work — starts at home.
“I do whatever is necessary to keep our people healthy and it starts with our daughters,” she said. “I’m dealing with my daughter now, because she’s a thick girl, she’s extra tall for her age, she’s chocolate and I want her to feel good about herself.”
When asked what motivated her to give the dolls, Long had a simple answer.
“I did it because I wanted to,” she said, with a smile. VFP
Gia Alexandria Long pictured last month back home in Maywood. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP
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