“My biggest goals are to make positive changes to the world that will survive me and inspire young Black girls to fight for themselves and their dreams.” Gabby
Three years ago, and just 15-years-old, Gabby Brown was already interning with an attorney and state representative two days a week, being asked to sit on organizations’ boards, and speaking on multiple panel discussions advocating for the racial justice changes she would like to see.
“My biggest goals are to make positive changes to the world that will survive me and inspire young Black girls to fight for themselves and their dreams,” she said then.
Now 18, she just started studying anthropology and pre-law at the prestigious Williams College, in Massachusetts.
Before she left, the FabNewport veteran dropped off a gift bag to Ellen Pinnock, its Director of Community Engagement. Inside was a refrigerator magnet that says, “Williams’ mom.” It brought Pinnock to tears.
“It’s been such an honor watching Gabby grow and not just watching, but being an active part of her life,” Pinnock said while explaining the relationship she has with Gabby, her younger sister, Lacie, also a long-time FabNewporter, and their mother, Marcia Brown.
Regarding the gift, she continued, “I cannot even express what that meant. I mean I know that I have that role in peoples’ lives, but when someone recognizes that that is who you are in their life, that just does something to me. She’s not my biological child, but I love her like she is.”
While Pinnock and others may have anxiety towards her going to college, Gabby is excited and prepared, especially because of the skills learned from her many years at FabNewport. She started as an early middle schooler in Fab’s open lab with coding, sewing, embroidery and other design activities. As she explained why she kept coming, she said, “There’s so much to explore that you never really can be done learning.”
She continued, “Besides the practical stuff, like vinyl cutting and my very limited carpentry skills, it just teaches you that you can approach any new thing in a very tactical way and figure it out.”
Gabby can’t imagine her childhood without FabNewport as it has been such a part of those milestone moments of growth for her. It was her place to be a kid and explore and try things outside of her comfort zone like public speaking and hiking with Executive Director Steve Heath and nearly all boys.
She said she grew to enjoy hiking but switched to storytelling and podcasting with Pinnock.
“Anytime with Ellen is a great time,” she said about the North End community leader. Gabby also lives in the North End.
In describing her special mother, daughter-like bond with her, Gabby said, “I am going to try not to cry like her, but I have never been in a situation where I felt like there was no help, no way out, because if it wasn’t Ellen, the support network that I created in Newport is something I think grows from being at FabNewport. It’s really beautiful and comforting for sure.”
This past year, Gabby was part of Fab’s new conservation crew at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, a six-week learning in service program where once you are taught something, like invasives, and then cleared invasives from local walking trails. Her final project was creating a salt marsh lesson plan for kids.
A year prior, she and Katie Ochoa, another Fab veteran, helped start the Young Philosophers high school club that co-authored the anti-racism policy being considered for all Newport schools. Her activism grew deeper within that program, especially for the North End Redevelopment Plan – some of the youth’s amendments were adopted – so the community has a voice and gentrification doesn’t creep in.
She said she is also very passionate about educational equity, and interned with the policy organization, Equity Institute, for the past two school years. She even helped develop training for teachers.
“I think the whole idea of what Fab is fits into educational equity because they meet the learner where they are at and give students equitable access to different activities while providing transportation and having a sliding scale for fees [although most programs are free.]”
She also credits Fab leaders with recognizing community is so important. The organization doesn’t exist, and can’t exist without stretching their staff too thin, she said, without community partnerships and teen navigators, of which Gabby was one, who are likely to be their neighborhood’s next leaders.
Said Gabby, “One child needs so many people.”