10-Year-Old Paints for Racial Justice

By Amanda Sangster - July 26, 2020

When coronavirus first broke out and 10-year-old Gabrielle Klapman was home from school, she created a painting that read “We are all in this together” in rainbow colors. Decorated with a little picture of the virus, the painting sat in the window of her family’s home as a symbol of unity.

With her pet bearded dragon Skeeter sitting in her lap, Gabrielle continued to paint as the pandemic progressed as a means of enjoyment and relaxation. “Painting is a way for me to relieve stress… it’s soothing and calming,” said Gabrielle.

But when civil unrest became the focal point of every major news story following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, her purpose changed. “I started painting subjects about justice and equality instead,” she said.

Gabrielle Klapman and her pet lizard Skeeter

This purpose became deeply personal for Gabrielle because her family is multiracial. Her uncle is Black and her cousins are biracial. That gives her a deeper reason to want to make a difference. After finishing a few paintings, it occurred to Gabrielle that she might be able to sell her paintings to raise money for charities and organizations like Black Lives Matter and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Gabrielle says she has a lot to say about these social issues and if she gets the chance to participate in a march for racial equality, her sign would say, “We’re all human, we’re all equal, so act nice.”

“I just want to help make things right,” said Gabrielle. “People are being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin, and that’s not OK. We’re all human, it doesn’t matter your color or your race. Just because someone is white, it doesn’t mean they should have better privileges in life. Just because someone is Black, they shouldn’t be treated unfairly.”

Gabrielle has loved drawing since she was a baby and first started scribbling all over the place. As she got older, she began taking art classes and painting more at school. Gabrielle loves abstract painting because “you can make a mistake in abstract and nobody will notice. You can just paint the way you want, and it doesn’t really matter.”

When asked about her heroes, Gabrielle says she looks up to her dad. Her father is Dr. Jason Klapman, medical director and section chief of Endoscopy in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center. She says her mother, father and older brother have completely supported her throughout this endeavor. “They’re always helping me with anything I want to do,” she said.

Like her father, Gabrielle is passionate about wanting to help people. She wants to be a lawyer, doctor or veterinarian when she grows up. Currently, Gabrielle is working with a local artist and her father on how to grow awareness and raise money for social justice organizations. As for the rest of the summer, Gabrielle plans to visit her family and continue painting for a cause.


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