At the March for Our Lives protest, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler urged the country not to forget the Black women and girls who are victims of gun violence.
Wadler, a fifth grader from Alexandria, Va., was chosen to speak at the rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday after she organized a walkout at her elementary school to honor the 17 people shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
A march organizer called Wadler’s mother, Julie, and asked if her daughter would speak. George and Amal Clooney donated $500,000 to make March for Our Lives a reality. Clooney called Wadler on Thursday, also asking her to give a speech, and mentioned he watched the 11-year-old’s interview with NowThis.
“He said he loved how I spoke so eloquently and the message I was trying to get across, and I was kind of like, ‘Yes. Yes. Okay. Yes. Okay,” Wadler told The Washington Post.
The elementary student’s insightful speech on Saturday highlighted that the murders of Black women and girls rarely receive national news coverage or incite national protests against gun violence.
“My name is Naomi and I’m 11 years old,” she said to a crowd of protesters estimated at 800,000, according to March for Our Lives organizers.
“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 honor Courtlin Arrington, an African American girl who was the victim of gun violence in her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting.”
Courtlin Arrington, 17, was killed in a shooting by another 17-year-old at Huffman High School in Birmingham, Ala., on March 7. One other student was injured but survived. Arrington, a senior, would have turned 18 on April 17 and already was accepted to study nursing in college.
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 16 was shot dead at her home here in Washington, D.C.”
Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot and killed in Chicago in January 2013. The sophomore and drum majorette lost her life just a week after she had performed at festivities for former President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Five years later, in January, a trial has been scheduled for the two men charged in her death.
The study finds substantial bias toward Black girls beginning at age five.
“I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper,” Wadler said. “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.
“It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I’m 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 and women have been just numbers. I’m here to say, ‘Never again for those girls, too.’
“I am here to say that everyone should value those girls, too. 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 know that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.
“So I am here today to honor 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 honor the girls, the women of color, 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.”
The Washington Post reports that “Wadler was born in Ethiopia and attends a school where nearly six in 10 students are white, a third are Hispanic and 6 percent are Black. Her mom is white, and her dad, a recreational hunter, is Black.”
According to a report by the Violence Policy Center, in 2014, Black women were murdered at more than twice the rate of white women. Of Black victims who knew their killers, 57 percent were killed by an intimate partner. In more than 50 percent of cases where the weapon could be identified, Black women were killed with a firearm.
“Despite higher labor participation and voting rates, at all educational levels Black women are concentrated in lower paying jobs than most other groups of workers, and have poor outcomes in healthcare, criminal justice and life expectancy.”
The National Domestic Workers Alliance’s “The Status of Black Women in the United States,” released last June, offers solutions to the disparities facing Black women and girls include having Black women in political office.
Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Yvette Clarke (D-Calif.) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) formed The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls in 2016. It is the first-ever caucus dedicated to removing barriers and disparities experienced by Black females. The Caucus is now composed of more than 20 lawmakers.
The report also states that social justice movements that place Black women’s experiences and interests at the forefront “can address these barriers by building on the legacy of Black women’s activism and leadership — a legacy of working to build a nation in which justice, democracy, and equal opportunity can be truly realized.”