Naomi Wadler is a prominent activist in the fight against gun violence in the United States., especially advocating for Black women. She began speaking up against gun violence at only 11 years old, and while most of her peers were playing Barbie, the young activist was busy participating in and organizing marches.
So, what inspired her? Read on to explore Naomi Wadler’s fascinating journey as a young activist below.
An Activist Born Out of Racism
Naomi Wadler isn’t your typical teenager. The now-17-year-old was adopted from an orphanage in Ethiopia by her adoptive mom, Julie. Naomi’s first brush with racism was at school when a classmate told her she could only play beggar or a slave when she attended her school’s character day dressed up as Heidi Heckelbeck, a popular children’s book heroine.
Typical of any fifth-grader, Naomi went home in tears that day. Her adoptive father, Monte encouraged her by telling her she could be whatever she wanted to be, and this experience strengthened the fighter spirit in her. “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper,” she said in a three-minute speech at a march in Washington D.C. in 2018. “I represent the African-American women who are victims of violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls who are full of potential.”
The Extra Minute
This incident inspired Naomi Wadler to live life as a fearless, empathetic child with a deep sense of justice. However, the beginning of her activism journey occurred on February 14, when a gunman on a killing spree took the lives of 17 students at a Parkland, Florida school, including a friend. In response, Naomi organized a school walkout during which they observed 18 minutes of silence. The extra minute of silence was in honor of Courtlin Arrington, a Black teen fatally shot at another high school after the initial incident, a tragedy which, unfortunately, had no media attention.
This extra minute was observed at Naomi Wadler’s suggestion. Although her suggestion was inspired by her deep empathy and sense of justice, that extra minute unexpectedly garnered international attention. Media outlets drawn to her eloquence and confidence began conducting interviews at her home. "I think [that] specifically African-American women, when they are shot and killed, or when they are killed in general, their names aren’t remembered," Wadler told The Guardian about her walkout. "So I thought it would be important to add an extra one minute."
A Life-Changing Speech
Naomi, with her parents' help, crafted a speech that would unknowingly change all their lives. Stepping onto the stage, the then-11-year-old girl passionately, and eloquently delivered a compelling speech addressing the entwined issues of gun violence and racism. The impact of Naomi’s speech was immediate—it had been tweeted and retweeted endlessly, and her family line was swamped by calls from media houses and celebrities, including Ellen Degeneres, who wanted to book her for interviews.
This marked the beginning of her journey as an advocate against gun violence against black people, particularly black females.
More Than 15 Minutes of Fame
Naomi is one of the most renowned Black gun violence activists there is. She has spoken at numerous high-profile events, including the Women in the World Annual Summit and the Tribeca Film Festival, where she received a standing ovation and an award for her powerful, inspiring speech. The eloquent teen has also been featured on the New York Magazine cover and was on Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 List. As she juggles her school life, adolescence, and activism, Naomi Waddler is undoubtedly a beacon of hope for a better society.