March 24, 2018

I'm not being flippant when I say we saw the future leaders of America speak today. Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old from Virginia, was just one:

"Hi. My name is Naomi, and I'm 11 years old," she began.

"Me and my friend Carter led a walkout of our elementary school on the 14th. We walked out. We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honor Courtland Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence in her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting. I am here today to represent Courtland Arrington.

"I am here today to represent Hadiyah Pendleton. I am here today to represent Tijana Thompson who at 16 was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C. I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper. These stories don't lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who were victims of gun violence, who were simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential." she said.

"It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I say their names because I can and I was asked to be here. 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. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls too.

"People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I'm 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 that there is an equal for everyone and we know right from wrong.

"We also know that we stand in the shadow of the capitol. And we know we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.

"So I'm here today to honor the words of Toni Morrison. If there 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 were 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. Thank you.

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