She took the stage that day and introduced herself with a nervous giggle. Then, in an instant, she seemed to harness the strength and fervor of the hundreds of thousands stretched before her. Four feet six inches tall, a child who hadn’t yet retired her Barbies, Naomi said she represented the African American girls and women who are victims of gun violence but “whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news.”
She represented those who are “simply statistics,” she continued, “instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”
The crowd was mesmerized, punctuating her every utterance with roaring cheers.
Midway through, Naomi shot a glance at her mother, who was standing in the wings, as if to say, “Look, Mom, I’ve got this.” Her command of the podium would soon become familiar. But in that moment, Julie Wadler was overcome, speechless. When Naomi walked off the stage, relieved and ready to go get lunch, she jumped into her mother’s arms and, unbeknownst to both of them, into the start of a dizzying new life.
In just weeks, Naomi would fly to Los Angeles to be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, then Atlanta to appear at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Georgia State Capitol, on to New York for a Women in the World summit at Lincoln Center and the Tribeca Film Festival, then the Tory Burch Foundation Summit, the Birmingham public-school district, the Urban League, and a Nats game where she was honored.
That was just April. […]