There were a number of moving speeches delivered Saturday during the March For Our Lives rally in Washington and around the nation but one seemed to stand out for many: 11-year-old Naomi Wadler who said she was present “to represent African-American girls whose stories aren’t told.”
Wadler helped organize a walkout at her school, George Mason Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. where she honored the 17 victims who died in the Parkland, Fla. school shooting and Birmingham’s Courtlin Arrington, an African American teenager who was shot and killed in Huffman High School after the Parkland shooting, by walking out for 18 minutes.
Thousands also gathered at Railroad Park in Birmingham to participate in the nationwide rally, one of eight held across the state on Saturday.
Wadler delivered a powerful and important speech at March For Our Lives.
“Me and my friend Carter led a walkout at our elementary school on the 14th,” she said, referring to the National School Walkout that took place on March 14. “We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honor [Courtlin] Arrington”, a senior at Huffman High School and was the victim of a shooting on March 7.
“I am here 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 full of potential,” Wadler told the crowd. “For far too long, 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 everyone should value those girls too.”
Wadler continued: “I might still be 11 and we might still be in elementary school but we know life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong.”
People on Twitter called it the most inspiring speech of the day – and of the year, for some.
Michael McBride, director of the advocacy campaign Live Free, recently wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post, saying “The ears of our nation have still not been trained to hear the prophetic voices of poor youths of color.”
According to a report published in 2017 in the American Academy of Pediatrics, African American children have the highest rates of firearm mortality. The report explained: “From 2012 to 2014, the annual firearm homicide rate for African American children (3.5 per 100000) was nearly twice as high as the rate for American Indian children (2.2 per 100000), 4 times higher than the rate for Hispanic children.
“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,” Wadler said.
Time, USA Today, ABC 33/40 contributed to this post.