Anyone who thinks children should be seen and not heard has clearly never heard of Naomi Wadler. The 11-year-old blew millions of minds when she appeared onstage at last month’s March for Our Lives “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.”
On Tuesday, Naomi did it again while accepting a well-deserved Disruptive Innovation Award at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Though one of the youngest of this year’s 20 honorees, who included Questlove, DJ Kool Herc and Tarana Burke (who asked via video that we “disrupt sexual violence”), Naomi inspired the first standing ovation of the afternoon when, while accepting her award alongside best friend, classmate and fellow student activist Carter Anderson, she used her moment on the mic to once again bring focus to the many black women and girls lost to gun violence.
“Black women are forgotten, and their names aren’t remembered,” she said, forcefully speaking without notes or a script. “They aren’t thought of as humans; they’re thought of as numbers and statistics.”
Naomi then said the name of DeEbony Groves, the sole female victim of the recent Waffle House shooting in Antioch, Tenn., her voice rising as she spoke of racial bias, telling the packed, predominantly white and well-heeled crowd: “Her murderer was just offered bail. And you know if her murderer had been a person of color, that would never have happened.”
It was a breathtaking speech that left even Tamron Hall, the ceremony’s host, in need of a moment to regain her composure before proclaiming along with the audience that Naomi should run for president.
And her stunning appearance at Tribeca was just part of a busy day for Naomi during her visit to New York City. She also participated in designer and philanthropist Tory Burch’s Embrace Ambition Summit, joining #1000BlackGirlBooks founder Marley Dias on a panel of young activists at the female-centric event, no doubt inspiring and impressing that audience as much as she had ours.
In Naomi’s lauded speech at the March for Our Lives, she spoke of her own privilege—the privilege of having a voice and a platform to speak on behalf of others. As that platform is growing, Naomi, like fellow “disruptor” Tarana Burke, is continuing to use her privilege to grow and do the work, and using every possible moment to #SayHerName.