Listening To The Children

Naomi Wadler

If you haven’t had a chance to hear March For Our Lives, youth activist, Naomi Wadler’s speech, please take a few minutes to listen or a moment to read the transcript at the end of the post.

This is what racial justice work is all about. 

The children know, they know. 

If YOU want to know what the kids know, and what the young people in our Youth Leadership Initiative have taught us, take some time to read about YW Boston’s advocacy work.  Five months ago, our advocacy committee published a press release announcing the focus of our civic commitment to supporting families and girls of color.

Focused specifically on how the school-to-prison pipeline affects girls of color, YW Boston’s committee is taking a closer look at state and nationwide trends and examining factors that lead to the criminalization of youth of color. While many studies have found higher discipline, suspension, and expulsion rates for youth of color compared to their white counterparts, there is limited public awareness about the rising number of incidents involving girls of color.  Multiple reports present concerning data on harsh disciplinary practices in Boston schools. Black female students in Massachusetts are referred to police three times more often than their white peers and the problem may be compounding.

A voice like Naomi’s is incredibly important.  She is standing up for her peers, facing the reality of the numbers, referencing in her speech, the statistics that continue to show violent and brutal patterns emerging toward people of color, specifically, black men, black women and black youth. 

Throughout the month of April, YW Boston is calling on every single member in our community to take a STAND AGAINST RACISM.  We’re inviting everyone we know to join us in a nation-wide campaign that helps raise awareness of issues like the ones so powerfully articulated in Naomi’s speech. 

If like most of us, you’ve been moved by the words that our children are speaking, then make a commitment to participating in this years #STAND2018.  Register to access the SAR Toolkit, choose any week in April and get together with your community to sign and display pledge boards and kickstart group discussions using a powerful series of materials curated by leaders in our community who care deeply about helping eliminate racism.

Naomi is not alone in this.  Many communities like ours at YW Boston, are rallying to support her message and the message of children like her who have chosen to stand up to the injustices they witness every day in their communities.  We are honored to have the privilege of supporting our children’s efforts in the fight for racial justice, equality and renewed possibilities for a future open to all.

The time is now. 


Naomi Wadler’s Speech
“People have said that I’m too young to have these thoughts on my own…not true”

Speech Transcript:

Hi. My name is Naomi and I’m 11 years old.

Me and my friend Carter led a walkout at our elementary school on [March 14]. We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honor Courtlin 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 Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who at just 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. 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 and full of potential.

It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I am 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 am 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 am 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 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 today to honor 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 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.

Thank you.