By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

A week before what former President Barack Obama called possibly the “most important election of our lifetimes,” the Washington Area Women’s Foundation gathered for their annual luncheon, yet it wasn’t full bellies people walked away with, but a call to action to vote, particularly from a big voice in a small body- 12-year-old, Naomi Wadler.

“The Washington Area Women’s Foundation is such an important organization for women of color in this city and I am so happy to be here with you today,” Wadler said to the crowd on October 30 at the Marriot Marquis in Northwest, Washington, D.C.  Wadler lit the stage and country on fire at the March for Our Lives in March, when, at the age of 11, she broke down reasons why gun reform is vital.

Naomi Wadler, with her new shaved, orange hair in protest to gun violence, accepts an award from the Washington Area Women’s Foundation presented by mistress of ceremonies and TV anchor Leslie Foster. (Courtesy Photo)

Minutes before Wadler took the stage, she took a moment to speak with the AFRO about why she missed school to come out for a 20-year-old organization focusing on women.

“I’m here today because I believe in progress,” Wadler told the AFRO.

At such a young age, Wadler feels she is accountable to her community and country in order to see change.

“I feel like it is my responsibility to also tell people it is their responsibility to make a difference.”

The Alexandria, Virginia native definitely held up her duty- emphasizing to people to “make a difference” by getting out the vote.  Yet before speaking in front of thousands on Tuesday at the luncheon she showed her dedication to her cause and voting by changing her look from big curly coils to a shaved head.

“When you are an activist at 12, and it is one week, before the most important election of certainly my lifetime if not all of yours, well it’s frustrating,” she said.  “So I thought my shaved, orange hair might motivate all of you.  Motivate you to not only go out and vote because I cannot, but to bring every single person you know with you.  Truly, tell everyone you know that if some 12 year old girl can shave her head and dye it orange, the least they can do is go and vote,” she said to the audience.

Although unable to vote, Wadler is well aware of how important her voice is.

“It hasn’t been thought of before but children are more powerful than we think,” she told the AFRO.

In an impassioned moment, she expressed why its even more important than ever to vote.

“There has never been a more important time for women, for girls like me, to stand up and be heard.  Vickie Jones and Maurice Stallard were murdered in a Kroger’s last week simply because they were Black Americans.  11 people were slaughtered this weekend because of their religious beliefs.  1000s of poor, desperate brown people are being villainized because of their desire for a better life.  And, these are the stories on the front pages.   A child was murdered in a school yesterday in a North Carolina, and classes continued…. A 14 year old girl was tased and beaten by several police officers in Florida last week,” she said fighting through tears.

“If you don’t stand in your power today, if you don’t raise your voice in protest, march to the voting booth next week – then when will you?”

Wadler reminded audiences the impact of Black women’s voice.

“Because young women have always been on the forefront of every important movement in our history.  Harriet Tubman was 27 when she escaped slavery; Claudette Colvin was 17 when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus (9 months before Rosa Parks) and Ruby Bridges was 6 years old when she bravely faced down racism day after day for the right to get an education,” she said.

She concluded her speech with a charge to the audience to understand the integral voice of women of color and the importance of bringing change for them.

“I ask each of you today to join me in bringing change to girls of color here and everywhere.  We need your help to make this a reality across this city, and across this country.”