Actress Nia Long Takes a Stand for Healthy, Safe Children

By Nia Long

June 9, 2016

I grew up in South Central Los Angeles and I remember what it was like to feel unsafe. Often times I would come home from school to an empty house. My mother was a single mom, a city bus driver, and worked late hours. Gang violence was a sad reality and drug deals were regularly made on the corner near the park I walked through to get home. I would run home as fast as I could without looking back, without making eye contact, in fear.

Nia Long and her son on a car journey

Nia Long and her son on a car journey

As I waited for my mom to come home, gun shots would ring through the air after dark. My mother established two rules: don’t answer the phone unless it was our designated secret phone ring and don’t answer the door. I felt safe once I was inside the house, but her arrival couldn’t come soon enough. My mother did her best and worked tirelessly to change our circumstances, which eventually she did. I will never forget the anxiety I felt being alone and unprotected during those hours when she was working hard to pay the bills and put food on the table.

As a mother, my primary concern is safety. Overcoming certain fears is a part of growing up, but a child should never fear for his or her life. When I look into the eyes of my youngest son, I can often sense his feelings without a single word being spoken. It is my mother’s instinct to encourage his happiness and gently guide him through his fears. I have the freedom to redirect his path at any given moment and provide a safe space for him to flourish. It has become painfully impossible to disconnect myself from the helpless children around the world who are void of life’s God-given rights.

Picture of children celebrating Universal Children's Day

Children in Juba celebrate Universal Children’s Day with face painting. Photo courtesy UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

I can no longer sit in silence and watch the news clips of babies being forced to be soldiers and girls being used as sex slaves, or of children becoming ill or dying from preventable diseases. Their fears have become my fears. I often don’t feel safe with what’s going on in the world. My wish for all children everywhere, is that they feel safe and loved in any given circumstance. Every child deserves safety, love, and the pursuit of happiness. If only I could bring all the world’s vulnerable children to my home and fiercely protect, patiently teach, and unconditionally love them.

Nia Long - 2

Nia and her son pose for a photo.

Looking into the eyes of a child who has been robbed of the basic human right of safety breaks my heart. Safety is the beginning, the foundation of every child’s development and growth. Safety is the space where it is acceptable to be vulnerable; where children are invited to grow and learn in a safe environment. Safety is the space where curiosity is sparked and dreams are formed. Safety is the space where leaders are born and developed. Without safety a child feels stuck, insecure, afraid and more concerned about surviving than exploring the magic of laughter.

My global wish for all children is the human right to live and grow in a safe environment.

With love,

This story is part of the 4th annual Global Moms Relay, our campaign to raise money and awareness of the issues that impact families around the world. The 2016 campaign has ended, but you can continue to take action by joining our community.

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