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Why Naomi Wadler’s Speech Matters

The March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018 saw Americans marching on a nation-wide scale in protest of gun violence and in support of gun control measures. There were moving performances from artists like Miley Cyrus, Common and Andra Day, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt, among others, as well as some powerful speeches by people who have lost close friends and family to gun violence and people who have been victims of gun violence themselves. These speeches included one given by 11-year-old Naomi Wadler of Alexandria, VA, which you can watch below if you haven’t seen it or want to watch it again.

Wadler is a fifth grade student who, along with a friend, organized a walkout at George Mason Elementary School on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, FL school shooting, one of many school walkouts across the country. This walkout differed from others, though; theirs lasted an extra minute longer than others. They added a minute to mourn the death of Courtlin Arrington, a 17-year-old Black girl in Alabama who was shot to death in her school but received far less national news coverage. In her speech at the March in Washington, D.C., Wadler implored the nation to acknowledge all of the Black women and girls who are victims of gun violence but are often ignored, forgotten, or underreported, like Arrington. As noted by the Center for Disease Control, non-Hispanic Black women are disproportionately affected by gun homicides. In nearly 54% of homicides of women of all ethnicities, firearms were used, and when examining specifically homicides of non-Hispanic Black women, this number jumps to nearly 58%, higher than that of any other ethnic minority group. More than half of all homicides of women involved intimate partner violence, and Black women experience IPV at 2.5 times the rate of women of non-White women of other races, and 35% higher than the rate of IPV experienced by White women.

And yet, in discussions of gun violence and calls for gun control, women of color are often excluded or underrepresented. Wadler wants to change that. She declared, “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 later continued, “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 was later praised by celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o, Eddie Griffin, George Clooney, Common, Senator Kamala Harris, and Janelle Monáe, among others, who called her eloquent, even encouraging her to run for President when she’s older.

#MarchForOurLives

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Keep fighting, Naomi. We’re fighting with you, and we can’t wait to see what extraordinary things you do next.

 

Main image from Mother Jones.

Rachel Minkovitz is a senior at Bates College double majoring in Psychology and French and Francophone Studies. She spends a lot of time listening to music, hanging out with friends, reading and writing, advocating for social justice, and looking for furry animals. 
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