US & Canada

Naomi Wadler - the girl inspiring America?

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Media caption'I represent African-American women who are simply statistics'

Naomi Wadler is only 11 - but her strong voice at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC, is still reverberating across the US.

The fifth grader from Alexandria, Virginia, said she represented African-American girls ignored by the media and suffering from gun violence.

Last week, she co-led her elementary school's walk-out, joining a national movement seeking stricter gun controls in the wake of 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month.

Naomi told the Guardian newspaper her school's walkout was longer - it was also honouring 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington who died in a school shooting in Alabama on 7 March.

The elementary school's principal was not initially "completely supportive" of Naomi and her friend Carter Anderson's efforts, but was won round after observing their determination.

Here is what Naomi Wadler said at March for Our Lives, inspiring those in the crowds and watching from home:

"Hi [giggles]. My name is Naomi and I'm 11 years old.

Me and my friend Carter led a walk-out at our elementary school on the 14th. We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute for Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence at her school, after the Parkland shooting.

I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who at just 16 years old, was shot dead at her home here in Washington, DC.

I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper [cheering and applause], whose stories don't lead on the evening news.

I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant beautiful girls full of potential [cheering and applause].

It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I'm here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names because I can. And I was asked to be.

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'm 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 am a tool of some nameless adult. It's not true.

My friends and I might be 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.

We also know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol, and we know that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.

So I am here to honour the words of Toni Morrison: if there is 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 honour the girls, the women of colour 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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