Naomi Wadler's March for Our Lives Speech Continues the Tradition of Outstanding Black Female Activism
The 11-year-old spoke out for black women and girls affected by gun violence across the country.
Taylor Crumpton MAR 26, 2018 2:56PM EDT
In this op-ed, writer Taylor Crumpton reflects on the impact of 11-year-old Naomi Wadler's speech about black girls and gun violence at the March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24.
To be a young black girl in America is to acknowledge from an early age that this country is always going to work against you. You are born into a society that does not allow you to be seen as a child; from the moment you are born, you lose ownership of your body and it becomes subject to fetishization. Your words are misconstructed into acts of aggression and violence, and the saddest realization is the experience of losing your family members and friends to gun violence, only to witness the erasure and demonization of their lives in mass media.
"We know life isn't equal for everyone," Naomi Walder, an 11-year-old old black girl, said at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24. In her speech, she addressed the erasure of black women and girls from the narratives about gun violence in America.
“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 on the evening news,” she said. “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls and full of potential.” She stood in solidarity with Courtlin Arlington, Hadiya Pendleton, Taiyania Thompson, and every vibrant and beautiful black girl who has lost her life to gun violence.
“For far too long," she explained, “these black girls and women have been just numbers. I am here to say never again for those girls, too. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls, too.”
Naomi spoke with the authority of generations of black women who have come before her, who have held society accountable for its crimes against black women and girls in the United States. She amplified the untold stories of black lives that were lost to state and police violence but denied a place in the narrative due to their racial background and gender. At a young age, Naomi brought the fullness of their lives into existence, instead of the "statistics" and "numbers” to which they are reduced in federal crime reports. While her white peers are enjoying the luxuries of their childhood, she is being steeped in the inequalities of adulthood for black women. She is 11, and she already knows more than childhood should ever have taught her.
Across social media, black women acknowledged the heartbreaking reality of Naomi’s speech and what it represents about the experience of being a young black girl in this country. Kimberly Rose Drew tweeted, “Some would call this #BlackGirlMagic but this speech professes an acute awareness of how undervalued and unsafe black girls feel. That's not magic, that's heartbreak.”
“Naomi Wadler is currently standing in the gap for all of the black girls and black women who are victims of gun violence,” Symone D. Sanders added. “All the black girls and Black women who don’t get a hashtag and who don’t become front page news. Thank you Naomi.”
The stories of these women and girls do not generate the same attention as those of other victims. America refuses to acknowledge the potential within black girls, because it would force to the country to address its historically racist ideologies about who is entitled to a basic level of humanity and to remembrance.
Her speech gave black female survivors of gun violence the humanity America is too afraid to give. Every day, young black girls are growing up in a world where their communities are terrorized by police, where their schools are underfunded and shut down, where their families are being ripped apart because of mass incarceration. The world asks so much of them at a young age and offers no solace in return; what person this young should be expected to stand in front of millions of strangers and call them out for their failure to act?
“I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren't told,” Naomi told the crowd. “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.”
The United States owes Naomi Walder and every woman and girl like her a great deal of admiration and respect. They are the ones advocating and organizing in their communities to initiate social change and reclaiming control of the narrative about what it means to a young black girl in America.
She has joined the lineage of young black women organizers who came before her, who have worked to construct a society and world where black people can enjoy and relish in their humanity, without the fear of death and malice, a world where a young black girl can be seen as a child. Naomi deserves praise for having the courage to force people to reflect on the world they created for her. But she should never have had to give that speech to begin with. The fact that she did, is proof that the world has already failed her.
Source : teen Vogue