Naomi Wadler is an 11-year-old elementary school student from Alexandria, Va.. She delivered this rousing speech at the ‘March for Our Lives’ rally in D.C. on March 24, 2018.
“My name is Naomi and I’m eleven years old. Me and my friend Carter led a walk-out at our elementary school on [March] 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. 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, 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 eleven, 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’m 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 were 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. Thank you.”
Tiffany D. Loftin serves as the National Director of Youth and College at the NAACP. She brought over 1,000 students from all across the country to participate and had this to say when interviewed in the crowd.
“We are here for three important reasons. Number one, what they will not do is ignore Black voices. Number two, what they will make sure to do is include our agenda in the agenda for gun prevention reform. When we talk about legislative issues and solutions for gun violence, it has to include [the] intersections of Black violence. That means guns. That means gangs. That means schools. That means teachers. That means police brutality. That means state violence. It has to include all of that stuff if we’re going to do this together. This is not just about white people and school shootings in the classroom. They kill us in churches, they kill us on the streets, they kill us in the car, they kill us when we’re traveling AND they kill us in our classrooms. This is about all the young Black people that you are looking at right behind me. That’s what this is about. It’s not about none of this extra stuff with the concert. That’s great. We are here to organize, represent, and show power. And the third thing we’re here to do is make sure we have a great time. We came from all across the entire country to be here for this specific moment because I want my people to feel empowered, and I want them to go back to the field and know that when they get back to the local organizing… that’s where it matters.”