By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
An 11-year-old Alexandria resident and George Mason Elementary School fifth grade student made national news for her speech at March for Our Lives on Saturday.
Naomi Wadler, who organized a walkout with a friend at her elementary school for National Walkout Day, spoke about the lack of attention paid to black female victims of gun violence.
“I am here to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page” –Naomi Wadler, 11-years-old pic.twitter.com/SMDgcPHHtg
— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) March 24, 2018
“I am here today to represent Courtlin Errington. I am here to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Tiana Thompson, who at just 16 was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C.,” Wadler said in her speech. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls who don’t make the front pages of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African American girls who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential.”
Wadler’s speech, weighing in at three and a half minutes, was a breakout at the event, which attracted approximately 800,000 people. The speech quickly captured the attention of the Washington Post, the Guardian, the BBC, People, the Huffington Post, Time, Vox and Vogue, among others.
George Mason Elementary School Principal Brian Orrenmaa celebrated Wadler’s speech on Saturday on social media.
“When a student finds their voice, we celebrate. Today I want to recognize Naomi and her opportunity to influence a topic she is passionate about,” Orrenmaa said via Twitter.
Wadler concluded her speech with a call to action.
“People have said 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 we stand in the shadow of the Capitol and we know we have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote,” Wadler said in her speech.
“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,'” Wadler said. “I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling stories that aren’t told, to honor the girls, the women of color who are murdered at disproportionate rates in this country.”