We the Girls Leadership Conference Held at Howard University

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Girls from D.C. Public Schools gathered at Howard University for the fifth We the Girls leadership conference – an event for sixth through 12th graders about empowering and advocating for young women of color.

Naomi Wadler, 15, spoke to the group. Four years ago, she spoke at the March for Our Lives rally in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

The recent school shooting in Texas made her feel fear and pain and reinforced the need for action on gun reform, she said.

“Speaking about what you want to be done is not the same thing as making a tangible change and actually doing it, and so, in my opinion, things like this are going to happen over and over again as it has happened over the last four years since I last spoke to you unless people do something about it,” she said.

Naomi also addressed racism and exclusion affecting woman of color, saying they’ve been erased from movements – modern and historic. She wants girls to be inspired and empowered.

“I was just so incredibly excited to speak to girls my own age, girls who look like me,” she said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have a woman of color role model I could look to and connect with.”

We the Girls is meant to help improve academic and social outcomes for students of color. They liked Naomi’s message.

“I thought it was very powerful and meaningful to talk about, to spread awareness to African American females and how they get treated versus how others get treated,” middle school student Kailie Duarte said.

It was the first field trip many of the girls have taken in two or three years because of the pandemic.

“Learning who we are as young women, learning about our identities, learning how to take better care of ourselves with the wellness, as well as learning how to be a leader,” said Christina Crowder, who planned the conference.

Naomi first started her activism staging an elementary school walkout. Now in high school, she’s continuing her efforts to bring forward the voices of women of color.

Naomi wants to be a journalist and work for the New York Times someday.

The event also involved workshops on topics such as identity, mindfulness, healthy relationships, leadership and college readiness.

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