Naomi Wadler had a powerful message to share with March For Our Lives
A black child is 10 times more likely to be the victim of gun violence than a white child. So says a 2017 report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An 11-year-old elementary school student named Naomi Wadler spoke on this very subject on Saturday. Addressing the massive crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. to attend the March For Our Lives demonstration, Ms. Wadler spoke passionately about an issue that gets too little attention.
Let her words speak for themselves. Watch the speech above and read the full transcript, below.
Hi. My name is Naomi and I’m 11 years old.
Me and my friend Carter led a walkout at our elementary school on [March 14]. 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.
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 dead in her home here 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. Whose 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 and full of potential.
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 and women 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.
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 Capitol 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.
In the spirit of Ms. Wadler’s words, take her call to action a few steps further. Read up on some of the stories she referenced, and find some of the others that she didn’t.
Read about Courtlin Arrington, the 17-year-old who had already laid out her plans to study nursing in college when a bullet fired from a classmate’s gun pierced her heart. This happened in March, almost a month after the Parkland shooting.
Read about Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago woman who performed at former President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013. One week later, she died when two gang members mistook her for a member of a rival gang and allegedly shot her in the back.
Read about Taiyania Thompson, who one day wanted to open her own business and help support her mother. Ms. Thompson turned 16 one month before she was shot in the head and killed in a Washington, D.C. apartment. Her father had also been the victim of gun violence at age 17, when Taiyania was just 5 months old.
If Ms. Wadler’s speech left you in tears, good. Take that emotion and do something constructive with it.
Read up on the violent crimes that don’t make the front page, as she suggested, and spend some time considering the role the victim’s skin color played in that. Share what you learn with people in your circle. Start a conversation. If Ms. Wadler’s speech can go viral, so too can the many under-reported stories of gun violence in America.