Community Activism Endures
We like to say, “Children Are Our Future.” But are we supplying our children with the tools they need to take care of their world tomorrow?
Gabriela (Gabby) Thomas, 11, is determined to make a difference, now and in the future, for her North Bed-Stuy community. Except for the lessons she learns with respect and patience from her mom, Gabby does not appear to be waiting to be taught about self-leadership. Nor leading the way.
In an interview with Our Time Press following a phenomenally successful community Giveaway event yesterday sponsored by Brooklyn Bank and partners, Gabby informed us, “My mom (Allison Thomas) makes sure that I always give back to the community. Community activism is a big part of the world.” And Gabby’s world is big. So is her spirit and stamina.
Gabby biked around her neighborhood Tuesday evening with her grandfather, spreading the word about yesterday’s giveaway of masks and food. Hundreds of people showed up.
Not only is she a top student and the valedictorian of her fifth-grade class, she is a program- and project-developer, strategist and ace speaker. Her community work commenced officially during Thanksgiving week in 2018, when she made two huge Rice Krispie turkeys for the 79th precinct. Along with the special delivery came a Thankful Tree write-up on what she thought of them — “which is still in Community Affairs officer Charles’s office,” she told us proudly.
When Gabby’s role model, Captain Victoria Perry, transferred to another precinct (the 104th in Ridgewood, Queens), she created and hosted a “Mother’s Day” goodbye dinner for her idol.
For Father’s Day, she came up with an idea for a poker theme gift. Every male in the precinct received something, “because they are all that and a bag of chips.”
This crafter also makes her own GET Your Hands Clean sanitizer. In case you do not “get” it: Gabby’s initials are GET, for Gabriela Evon Thomas.
Victims of domestic violence, children, seniors and other organizations have benefited from Gabby’s clever ideas and good work, so much so that at the recommendation of Officer Charles and Tremaine Wright, Miss Thomas became the youngest-ever recipient of the Woman of Distinction award at the March 2019 ceremony. She earned a trophy and three certificates.
At a major debate competition last November, she walked away with the top prize for her speaking gifts.
On her way to becoming a law enforcement official, Miss Thomas says she has several many other objectives, including lawyer, judge, dancer/actress (Gabby has studied with Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet at Mr. Pisgah Church, where she is a member). And then there’s Activist.
As a result of her community service work this week, nearly 500 families and individuals lined up in front of The Brooklyn Bank for large boxes of food donated by Fresh Direct and much-needed PPE supplies distributed by Bernard and friends.
What’s Gabby’s message to others who may want to follow in her footsteps? She gave us several points to relay to readers her age: “Know you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Stay more focused on school (especially since we are inside).
“If you must go outside, follow the distance rules; be self-protective, six feet apart. Also, we need to tell everyone to not give up on dreams no matter what situation we’re going through now.
“Stay off social media. It’s not always the best motivator. And, if you are ‘of age,’ VOTE! It’s important!”
We did not ask Gabby about politics, but she offered her thoughts anyway — not surprising since she truly likes political activism, too.
“I feel activists have a positive role to play in the community she said, “because (our leaders) really don’t pay much attention to communities like ours… (But) I would pay (attention).
“I feel Donald Trump is not hitting all points, and he needs to stay off social media.”
Then we asked her the if-you-were-president question. “I would focus on human rights,” she said, adding, “I would try to make myself like Obama. If we could re-elect President Obama, I would totally do it.”
At the top of Gabby’s college list are: Harvard, Yale, Duke and John Jay. “I want to focus on Criminology.” But she also has an interest in history and International Affairs.
Since it is Children’s Awareness Month, we asked Gabby to name one of her favorite characters in conjunction with a favorite book. She cited the story of a real-life hero: the late Iqbal Masih of Pakistan, considered, as noted on the website, “a symbol for the fight against harmful child labor and slavery all over the world.”
Iqbal was enslaved in a carpet factory to pay off his sick mother’s debt, Gabby noted. “He encouraged other children to leave their owners. At age 12 he tried to get more children out of slavery and into education.
Born in 1983, children’s rights activist Iqbal Masih reportedly helped free 3,000 children from slavery. He was 12 when he died.
“He understood wrong and right,” Gabby told us. “More young people should read about Iqbal. He is an inspiration.”