The Crusade for Children: An Afternoon with Marian Wright Edelman

Yesterday, I had the privilege to attend an event hosted by Northern California Grantmakers and sponsored by the Rosenberg Foundation to highlight Marian Wright Edelman’s Black Community Crusade for Children.  Mrs. Edelman is the founder of Children’s Defense Fund, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, and the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar.  It’s always inspirational to hear her speak.  Mayor Ed Lee, SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia, Tim Silard and Lateefah Simon of the Rosenberg Foundation, and Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani of the Glide Foundation were in attendance, among others from the philanthropic community who fight for quality education.

Mrs. Edelman cited some abysmal statistics on the plight of youth in America today.  Here’s a sampling of some of those stats.  A public school student is suspended in the U.S. every second. A high school student drops out every 8 seconds.  A child is arrested every 21 seconds.  A child is born into poverty every 34 seconds.  A baby is born without health insurance every 87 seconds.  A child is killed by abuse or neglect every five and a half hours.  While Mrs. Edelman started her talk with some grim numbers, she went on to encourage the audience regarding what we can do to help change the quality of life for young people in the United States.

She said that we need to “close the courage gap.”  We need to stop thinking that our efforts aren’t strong enough to combat these problems.  She said that the ark was built by amateurs.  The Titanic was built by professionals.  So, don’t assume that you have to be an expert to accomplish great things or to be successful.  While each one of us can play a role in fighting for youth in America, Mrs. Edelman also pointed out that individual achievement is not a substitute for lifting the whole community.  We need to work together.  We need to be “strategic fleas” working together to make the biggest dogs of corporations, big money, and government uncomfortable.  She advocated for a level playing field for everyone.

May our joint efforts to improve the quality of life for youth in the United States bring about positive change for all.

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