Eleven-year-old Naomi Wadler has become a hashtag, a global meme and the object of praise by celebrities from Lupita Nyong’o to Janelle Monae to Eddie Griffin ever since her soaring March for Our Lives speech on Saturday in Washington.
But the fifth grader has no idea of her global impact – because she’s not on social media.
“I have been accustomed to not Google myself, so I haven’t seen everything,” Wadler told The Washington PostSunday in a phone interview during her spring break beach trip.
“My speech might not have caused a giant impact on society, but I do hope all the Black girls and women realize there’s a growing value for them.”
In her 3-minute, 30-second address, Wadler, of Alexandria, Va. urged the nation not to forget black women, who are disproportionately represented among the victims of gun violence.
“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 said. “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”
“For far too long, these names, these Black girls and women, have been just numbers,” Wadler later said. “I’m here to say ‘Never again’ for those girls too.”
Just how has Wadler been able to amass all this wokeness at such a young age?
Below, some background on this incredible young lady via The Washington Post:
Wadler was born in Ethiopia and attends a school where nearly six in 10 students are white, a third are Hispanic and 6 percent are black. Her mom is white, and her dad, a recreational hunter, is black.
“We are a family that watches the news. She wants to know why on the news they identify black people as black, and not white people as white,” [her mother] Julie Wadler said. “She wants to know why Trayvon Martin was shot. She wants to know why Philando Castile was shot. Her father is black, and she wants to know, does she have to worry about him being stopped and killed?
“She’s an aware kid,” she said. “To listen to the past two years of our world and inside the Beltway, conversations about race are dinner table conversation for us.”
The path that took Wadler, who likes to sing, run and play tennis, to a worldwide stage started when the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., inspired her to activism.
Her mother, Julie Wadler, sat her down to talk about the shooting and shared a personal connection: A friend from high school, Fred Guttenberg, lost his daughter Jamie in the Parkland shooting.
Naomi Wadler was thinking about what she could do when she saw reports of high school and middle school students planning walkouts on the one-month anniversary of the Feb. 14 shooting. She and classmate Carter Anderson, a friend since kindergarten thought: Why not elementary school students too?
So, they organized a walkout at Alexandria’s George Mason Elementary School.
Like thousands of other students who helped organize walkouts, they wanted the disruption to last 17 minutes in honor of the 17 Parkland victims. But they decided to add an extra minute in memory of Courtlin Arrington, a 17-year old black girl who was shot to death at her Alabama high school March 7. That shooting, three weeks after Parkland, received far less national media attention.
Arrington, a high school senior, had been accepted to college and planned to become a nurse.
Wadler also spoke at a gun violence forum hosted by her congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
Her walkout garnered some media attention that made the rounds on social media. March for Our Lives organizers also noticed.
While Wadler wanted to attend the D.C. march, her family suggested they go to a sister march instead so that they could proceed with their spring break vacation as planned.
Those plans changed Thursday when a march organizer called Julie Wadler and asked if her daughter would speak. Naomi agreed without hesitation.
George Clooney, one of the celebrities who bankrolled the march, called Thursday too to say he’d seen an interview Wadler gave about her march.
“He said he loved how I spoke so eloquently and the message I was trying to get across, and I was kind of like, ‘Yes. Yes. Okay. Yes. Okay,” said Wadler, who hasn’t seen any of Clooney’s movies, but has watched him give interviews.
At first, she worried that talking about Black women would be off topic. But then she found out other students from all over would speak from their experiences, and she felt comfortable telling her story as a Black girl disappointed by how stories about gun violence involving people who look like her don’t incite the same outrage and sympathy or garner the same media attention.
On Saturday, a driver picked up Wadler and her mother to take them to the rally, and she sang “Rise Up,” by Andra Day, during the ride.
Backstage, she met Clooney, as well as director Steven Spielberg and rapper/activist Common. She was more excited to meet the Parkland student activists who she admired, including Emma González and Jaclyn Corin, who now have her email.
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