11-Year-Old Naomi Wadler Speaks for African-American Girls Whose Stories ‘Don't Make the Front Page'

"For far too long these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers"

Some of the most powerful voices at Saturday's March for Our Lives came from the youngest speakers.

Naomi Wadler, of Alexandria, Virginia, is only 11, but all eyes were on her when she took the stage in support of the African-American women and girls who have been victims of gun violence.

"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," Wadler said. 

Wadler, a 5th grader, helped organize a walkout at her elementary school on March 14, where students walked out for 18 minutes: a minute for each victim of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and an extra minute for 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington, an African-American student who was a victim of school gun violence in Alabama earlier this month.

"It is my privilege to be here today," Wadler said. "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'm here to say never again for those girls, too."

Wadler also spoke out against critics who say she is too young to be involved in the fight against gun violence.

"People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own," she said. "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."

At home Saturday night, Wadler reflected on her newfound status as one of America's youngest anti-gun activists: "I feel like the day today was really surreal. I mean, I personally haven't done anything like this, and it feels like I'm really making a difference."

Wadler said she was inspired to do something after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month, so she helped organize a walkout at her school. She said she was featured in a video that went viral, and then she got a call inviting her to speak at Saturday's march.

"This has really proven to me the strength that I have as a person, and what I could do beyond this," she said.

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