Giavanni Malia Powell ~~ a movement artist, choreographer, muse, poet, speaker, teacher, advocate, and activist ~~ a young woman with a voice and vision to honor those that came before her and elevate those who will come after. Love and light was manifested in Giavanni on the day of her birth, July 15, 1997. That radiant light dimmed on earth and ascended to the heavenly realm on December 20, 2021.
Giavanni was born in Washington, DC to her proud and adoring parents, Albert D. Powell, Jr. and Tonia Jones Powell. Giavanni, affectionately known as “Gia”, was reared in Maryland. Nurtured both at home and through the watchful, caring eyes of the community, Gia was truly raised by our village, and she developed her lifelong passion for dance and artistic expression at Dance Expressions, Inc. Gia excelled in many areas and engaged in numerous school and community activities. She traveled abroad with her high school to Germany, Switzerland, and France and visited places like Dachau Concentration Camp, which deepened her understanding of oppression, bigotry, and social injustice.
Gia graduated as a Linehan Artist Scholar from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) with a B.A. in Dance and an Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor in 2019. She served in many leadership and community service roles while matriculating at UMBC. In Fall 2017, Gia became a member of the Lambda Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (served as 1st and 2nd Vice President) along with 13 other dynamic young women whose bonds were strengthened through shared experiences and working together in service to the community.
During her college years, Gia trained in dance at Hubbard Street Chicago, Broadway Dance Center, and MODULE with Sidra Bell Dance in NY. She also performed at Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in NY, with the Baltimore Dance Project, and later with The Company @MC3 in Annapolis. Giavanni has also performed internationally with Culture Shock DC and with other ensembles at The Kennedy Center, The Fillmore, The Lyric Theatre, Sax DC, and other venues. Gia took dance classes whenever opportunity presented including on excursions to London, Paris, Barcelona, and in Italy. After graduation, Giavanni shared her love of dance by teaching ballet, jazz, modern/contemporary, and tap at Dance Expressions, Inc. and Greater Annapolis Ballet. She also taught dance and gained experience in arts administration through her work with Joe’s Movement Emporium, Dance Institute of Washington, and Momies TLC. Gia also performed in music videos, appeared in commercial advertisements and television, and was on The Real Housewives of Potomac. She further sharpened her teaching skills as an assistant to college dance professors on the collegiate level at UMBC.
During the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, Gia collaborated with others and helped found the Black Onyx Movement in response to the horrific death of George Floyd and too many others. With Black Onyx Movement, Gia held protests in DC that centered on social justice for both Black women and men alike and the demand to reallocate local government funds to provide well-funded social services to deprived Black and Brown communities. She also planned events to celebrate Black little joy such as the 2020 Juneteenth Celebration in which she gave a platform for Black DMV artists to perform and share their talent during a time of social unrest around the country and, particularly, a time of grief with the Black community. Most importantly, she helped Black Onyx Movement facilitate ways to provide resources to people in need by fundraising, hosting clothing drives, and going door-to-door to share resources, such as rent assistance, that were not well-advertised by the local government.
She met with representatives from the Department of Justice and collaborated with other grass roots organizations advocating on police reform. Inspired by the tumultuous events of 2020 and by artists / activists such as Nina Simone and Nikki Giovanni, the first iteration of Gia’s short movement film entitled Facade was created and features her original choreography, poetry, and production. Facade was released in December 2020 under her project, Murano Woman. Giavanni used dance and other art mediums as a communicative and reflective tool in evaluating the current socio-political climate.
Gia was blessed with numerous accolades and awards, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) award for her Black History Month Performance (2020), 37th Annual Choreographers Showcase Award, (performed hEATed My Place-choreographer – Shaness D. Kemp) (2020), UMBC Dance Summer Research Award (2016), Excellence in the Arts Award from Baltimore County Alumnae Chapter (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.) (2016), Colonel Charles Young Memorial Continuing Education Scholarship (2015 – 2019), and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Award (2012), among others.
In September 2021, Gia accepted a dance apprenticeship with Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre in Chicago. She performed in the 25th Anniversary Showcase, danced on Good Morning America with the company to the music of Gospel singer Donald Lawrence, and danced at Purdue University in the span of 2 and a half months. While living in Chicago, Gia also worked in a program assisting those with Alzheimer’s and dementia with home care and therapy. Her passion for assisting elderly in this regard grew out of her personal observation and care of family members with dementias.
Giavanni was a natural leader, communicator, and organizer with an irrefutable appetite to help people. Gia gave her time and talent supporting many organizations and individuals. She always found the good in all situations and uplifted those around her. A kind and compassionate young woman, she gave the best of herself to others.