The ancestors must smile at Black girls like 11-year-old Naomi Wadler and 13-year-old Marley Dias. Both used their creativity and access points in challenging society to ask, “What about the Black girls?” 

Many activists, commentators and policymakers lauded Wadler as the most compelling speaker at the recent gun control demonstration March for Our Lives for critiquing societal erasure of Black girls and women as victims of gun violence. Similarly, Dias was championed for responding to an overabundance of white-boy-and-his-dog school books with #1000Blackgirlbooks, a campaign for Black girl protagonists. The two recently came together when Dias interviewed Wadler for Elle magazine about activism and imagining and sustaining better worlds for Black girls.

“For me, Naomi is a kindred soul,” Dias wrote of Wadler. “Though our lives are different, we share a commitment to a better and more equitable future. Most of all, we agree that ignorance feeds violence, and so we are determined to spread awareness instead.”

This awareness colored their conversation on everything from intentional media tropes (Wadler said Black girls in articles and on TV are often “oversexualized or made to look angrier than they are”) to educators who misrepresent the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow to social studies students. They discussed the long-standing effects of enslavement and racism on some Black people’s self-perceptions, and encouraged children who are dissatisfied with the status quo to creatively and bravely give voice and work toward a better world. 

While Wadler and Dias often sounded like a normal pre-teen and teen chatting, both explained how they cleverly worked up from interpersonal relationships with friends and loved ones to institutions like government and education. 

Before her school’s gun reform protest, Wadler secured administrator approval (similar to how adult organizers sometimes secure permits before demonstrations). She then helped create a press packet and encouraged more than 60 students to participate. The pre-teen also reminded lawmakers that she and her peers expect gun reform and will be voters soon. 

As Dias explained at the Forbes Women’s Summit last year, she began #1000Blackgirlbooks as more than a personal pet project. Sure, Dias wanted to collect books with Black girl main characters. She also worked to increase community donations of these books, write her own book, and dialogue with teachers and lawmakers about increasing racial representation within book pipelines. 

Whether through advocacy for Black girls’ lives amidst mounting state violence or through a challenge to center Black girls’ stories in our imaginations through books, both Wadler and Dias pay beautiful homage, particularly during Black Women’s History Month.