Naomi Wadler, 11, delivered a moving speech at the March of Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, on March 24, where she spoke about how black women are disproportionately represented by the media as victims of gun violence.
“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,” Wadler said. “I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”
“For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers,” Wadler said. “I’m here to say ‘Never again’ for those girls, too.”
What else do we know about Wadler, the eloquent 5th grader who has become an advocate for underrepresented women?
1. She Co-Led Her Elementary School’s Walk-Out
Wadler co-led her elementary school’s walk-out, along with her friend since kindergarten, Carter Anderson. Together, the duo instigated a walk-out that lasted 17 minutes, plus one more minute to remember Courtlin Arrington, a 17-year-old black girl who was shot in Alabama at her high school in early March, according to the Washington Post. The outlet points out, “That shooting, three weeks after Parkland, received far less national media attention.”
Wadler and Anderson prepared for the event by discussing their intentions and hopes for the 17-minute silence. Wadler tells The Guardian, “We went over the expectations: that this was not recess time.”
She continued, “You’re not doing this to get out of school. How we expect to be silent, how we’re not gonna chant because we want learning in school to go on as normal. How if anybody chooses not to participate, we won’t give them a hard time. You don’t have to agree with people, but you do have to respect them.” Her partner in the efforts added on, “There’s always a small chance that somebody might act out during the walkout. But we’re trying to express our feelings.”
2. A Recent Study on Racial Differences in Homicide for Adult Women Shows That Black Women Have the Highest Rate of Death by Homicide
Last July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article titled, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence.” The piece states that between 2003 and 2014, black women had the highest rate of death by homicide, at 4.4 per 100,000.
In her speech, Wadler urged America, “It’s subconsciously embedded into peoples’ minds that somebody with a darker complexion is worth less and their life isn’t as valuable as a white girl or man’s.”
3. George Clooney Has Personally Recognized Her Efforts
Actor George Clooney put $50,000 towards the March of Our Lives rally. Prior to her speech, Clooney approached Naomi to commend her efforts. Wadler’s mother, Julie, told the Guardian, “He saw her out of the corner of his eye, and he stopped, and he grabbed her and he said ‘I know you. You are Naomi, and you are so eloquent’.”
Naomi has said that although she is 11, she is not too young to understand the ramifications of what is happening in the country these days. During her speech, she told the country, “I have grown up in an area where shootings aren’t the regular.”
Naomi is from Alexanderria, and her family has ties to the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Her mother’s friend, Fred Guttenberg, lost his daughter, 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, in the shooting. According to Fred Guttenberg, Wadler “is everything you see – she is a great, mature, smart, sophisticated kid who’s just going to do amazing things.”
4. She Is Not on Social Media
Naomi is not on social media, and her mother tells The Guardian that beause of this, she isn’t quite able to grasp the scope of her message and how many people she has touched.
She tells the outlet that Naomi has no idea “how viral this has gone.” Julie Wadler added, “She doesn’t really understand the fact that she has been trending on Twitter all day. She has no idea of the volume.”
Speaking to Ellen DeGeneres, Naomi says of her newfound fame, “It didn’t sink in for a while. So when I got home, I went to a friend’s house, I came back, and I noticed that my mom’s phone was blowing up with hundreds of emails in her inbox. And there’s celebrities tweeting and instagramming me.”
5. She Enjoys Tennis, Singing, & Running
While she may be being hailed as future president material, Naomi is, first and foremost, an elementary school student who enjoys activites like singing, tennis, and running.
In an attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy in their daughter’s life, the Wadlers took a week-long trip to a holiday beach house in Delaware the day after Naomi delivered her speech.
Julie Wadler told The Guardian, “We’re going to take a break because Naomi needs one – and she wants to figure out what she wants to do about all of this.”