For three minutes, Naomi Wadler made America care about dead Black girls

in Race and Ethnicity by

Three minutes and 24 seconds.

That is how long it took 11-year-old Naomi Wadler to galvanize an international audience to think about dead Black girls, their disenfranchisement, and their relationship to gun violence in a national dialogue on gun laws.

“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 during her speech.

The public’s response to the Virginia girl’s powerful words was as urgent  and swift as her message.

Social media exploded following Naomi’s speech.

“When an 11 year old gives a better speech than the President, you know there is hope for the future!,” wrote on Twitter user.

Actress Tessa Thompson wrote, “Naomi Wadler is my President.”

The March for our Lives events on March 24 were the result of the Feb. 14 mass shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The goal of the student-led march in D.C. and the sibling events across the country, was to advocate for legislation to effectively address the gun violence.

While the nation continues to mourn the lives lost during the Parkland tragedy at the majority white Florida school, Naomi leveraged the platform to remind us of the forgotten: Courtlin Arrington, a victim of gun violence inside her school in Alabama; Hadiya Pendleton, of Chicago who was 17 when she was  she was killed only one week after performing at events for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and Taiyania Thompson, of Washington, D.C,  who was shot in the head at 16 during what police believed was a domestic dispute.

“For far too long, these names, these Black girls have been just numbers,” she said. “But everyone should value those girls, too.”

The data backs up Naomi’s claims. According to the CDC,  non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native women experienced the highest rates of homicide. Yet, you won’t find their stories on cable networks or most national newspapers. As Naomi put it, “their stories don’t lead the evening news.”

Standing in the shadows of the Capitol during the march to declare “never again” for the Black women and girls we lost to gun violence, Naomi represents what could be the beginning of a new wave of bold, diverse voices that are as fierce as they are inclusive in the fight for justice.

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Veteran newspaper and digital journalist, she is a thought leader in accountability journalism and ethics, and serves as a member of PBS’ Editorial Standards Review Committee.

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