Naomi Wadler is just 11 years old - but, on 24 March, she stood up in front of thousands of people to give voice to the many women of colour, especially black women, whose murders are overlooked.
On 24 March, the March For Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. saw over 800,000 students, teachers and gun reform activists come together to fight for gun control legislation.
Among them was Naomi Wadler from Alexandria, Virginia, who said she represented African-American girls ignored by the media after suffering from gun violence.
The 11-year-old – who co-led her elementary school’s walk-out, joining a national movement seeking stricter gun controls in the wake of 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month – stood up in front of the crowds to speak on behalf of all those who couldn’t.
“My name is Naomi, and I am 11 years old,” she began.
“Me and my friend Carter led a walk-out at our elementary school on the 14th. We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honour Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence at her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting.”
Wadler continued: “I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who at just 16 was shot here in her home in Washington D.C. I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. These stories don’t lead on the evening news.
“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential.”
Wadler went on to say: “It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names. Because I can. And I was asked to be. For far too long, these names, these black girls, have been just numbers. I am here to say never again, for those girls, too.
“I am here to say that everyone should value those girls, too.”
And, to all those who might have assumed that Wadler was just reading lines from a script provided to her by adults with an anti-gun agenda, the 11-year-old had this to say:
“People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true.
“My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn’t equal for everyone, and we know what is right and wrong. We also know that we stand in the shadow of the capital and we also know that we have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote.”
Wadler finished: “So I am here today to honour the words of Toni Morrison. ‘If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.’ I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told. To honour the girls and the women of colour who are murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation.
“I urge each of you to help me write the narrative for this world and understand so that these girls and women are never forgotten.”
Her words soon sent shockwaves over social media, with many calling Wadler’s “the single most powerful political speech of 2018”.
You can watch Wadler’s speech in full below: