On Saturday, March 24, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler stood before a crowd of hundreds of thousands of protestors who formed the powerful “March for Our Lives” march on Washington D.C. This march was organized in 5 short weeks by youth who have been deeply impacted by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 people — students and staff — lost their lives to a former student who showed up on campus with an assault weapon. The march also looked at the culture of gun violence that has plagued our schools and youth in general.
Naomi spoke truth to power when she pointed out the unnamed, unspoken Black girls and women who have been victims of gun violence. Naomi pointed out that Courtlin Arrington of Alabama was senselessly killed at her high school right after the Parkland shootings but hardly any news agency carried the story. Naomi called out the names of Hadiya Pendleton and Tianna Thompson, two young Black girls killed in Chicago and Washington, DC, respectively. Naomi along with her friend Carter organized a walkout at her elementary school in protest of the recent school shootings. However, rather than walk out for 17 minutes, they walked out for 18 minutes—adding that additional minute on behalf of Courtlin Arrington.
In an interview Naomi said she was unsure if her speech would be considered “off topic” but she said it anyway. Naomi’s courage is what this next generation is all about. For far too long Black children have been deprived of an authentic childhood. Instead of having the ability to run and jump and play they are dodging bullets. Instead of dreaming and playing make believe they are hiding under desks and in closets. Instead of being seen as a part of the human development continuum, Black children are treated as if they are men and women by educators and law enforcement that should know better.
Naomi’s speech shows what happens when children have to fight for their own childhood. If we are going to make them become grownups, then we are going to see what kind of grownup message they intend to deliver. They will not forget who listened to them and responded. They will not forget who put their own political futures ahead of the people’s lives. They will not forget the names of the thousands of Black people — children and adults — who lose their lives to senseless gun violence.
I am encouraged and excited by the Naomi Wadlers of our nation. She may be just 11-years old. She may be from an immigrant background. She may be Black. None of these facts about Naomi Wadler diminishes her voice and her power. In the conclusion of her talk she quoted Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison when she said, “If there is a book that you want to read that hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one who writes it!”
Naomi, thank you for re-writing the gun violence narrative. Thank you for including my grandchildren. Thank you for including the children in my church. Thank you for including the children in my community.
(Naomi) Wadler Forever!