Every now and then a single voice helps capture the spirit of a movement. Zianna Oliphant is one of those voices.
The 9-year-old first received news attention when she gave a moving and emotional statement to the Charlotte City Council in the wake of unrest in that city over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
“I’ve come here today to talk about how I feel,” Oliphant said. “And I feel like that we are treated differently than other people. And I don’t like how we are treated. And just because of our color doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Then, Hillary Clinton elevated Zianna further into the national spotlight when she mentioned the child at a church lectern on October 2 in the North Carolina city.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zianna Implored the Charlotte City Council to Make Sure Black People Are Treated Equally
Zianna spoke to the Charlotte City Council along with her brother, Marquis. At one point, Zianna stopped, and people in the audience urged her to keep speaking.
The little girl’s poise before the microphone drew national attention. According to NBC News, she said, “We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this. We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to and have rights.”
She continued, “I’ve been born and raised in Charlotte, and I’ve never felt this way until now…It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed, and we don’t get to see them anymore…we have tears and we shouldn’t have tears.”
The child started crying during various points in the speech.
2. Zianna Wants to Be a Doctor When She Grows Up
According to NBC News, the child says she hopes to be a doctor when she grows up.
Zianna said she wants to be a doctor because she likes helping people, the network said.
The child’s comments came six days after the police shooting in Charlotte of Keith Lamont Scott at a city council meeting packed with citizens.
Scott was shot by police after they went to an apartment complex to serve a warrant. Police say that he was armed with a gun he wouldn’t drop, and said that they found Scott’s fingerprints, blood, and DNA on the weapon. Police dispute accounts from Scott’s family and on social media that he was holding a book, saying they did not recover one at the scene.
They released body camera footage from the shooting. You can see it here:
3. Zianna’s Mother, Precious, Says the Speech Was Not Planned in Advance
NBC reports that Zianna’s mother, Precious Oliphant, said she didn’t expect Zianna and her brother to speak at the meeting when she first brought them there.
Zianna said in a video interview with NBC that she was nervous when she gave the speech, and that she was emotional. “The things that they are doing to us; it’s just a shame what they are doing to us.”
The Chicago Tribune said the little girl wore “a rainbow-colored skull-and-crossbones, with hearts floating from it” during the talk and that she was so small she could barely reach the microphone.
4. Zianna & Her Brother Are Involved in a Police Youth League
Zianna’s mother has told the news media that her children have also had positive interactions with police officers.
Zianna and her brother participate in a police youth league, according to The Washington Post, which wrote that their mother said the children “have grown up seeing law enforcement officers as role models but that they have also seen discrimination in their day-to-day lives.”
5. Hillary Clinton Mentioned the Child During Her Speech in Charlotte
Speaking in Charlotte on October 2, Hillary Clinton read Zianna’s words. Clinton said Zianna put tears into her eyes.
Clinton brought Zianna up to the podium.
“What courage and clarity that young lady showed to the world,” Clinton said. Clinton made her comments at Charlotte’s Little Rock AME Zion Church, in which she also said the city of Charlotte was in “pain” over Scott’s shooting and added that police need to deescalate encounters with citizens.