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11-year-old speaks up for the black girls whose stories don’t make the front page

Naomi Wadler took the stage at Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington with one message: Black girls have been left out of the gun violence conversation for too long.

“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 the evening news,” Naomi said to cheers.

The 11-year-old led a walkout at her elementary school on March 14 as part of the national effort to bring attention to gun violence in American schools. She said she and her peers stood outside for 18 minutes, a minute longer than many schools around the country had planned to walkout.

They added a minute, she said, for Courtlin Arrington, a black girl who was killed in a school shooting in Alabama after the massacre in Parkland.

“I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls that fill a potential,” she said.

Naomi noted the privilege she said, in that she was being heard, while many black women are not. She was at the march for them.

“For far too long these names, these black girls and women have been just numbers,” Naomi told the crowd. “I’m here to say ‘never again’ for those girls, too.”

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

Naomi and her peers also know, that in 7 years, they will also be able to vote, she said.

Naomi repeated the words of author Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

“I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told. To honor the girls, the women of color who are murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation. I urge each of you to help me write the narrative for this world and understand, so that these girls and women are never forgotten.”