Marian Wright Edelman’s Message to Parents of Color: Wake Up!

Marian Wright Edelman and me –Houston, TX    Photo Credit: Kim Coffman

I recently had the utter thrill of meeting someone who I have admired my entire adult life. “Admire” is such an understatement. Let’s just say, if I were prone to “groupie-hood” for anyone, I’d be a Marian Wright Edelman groupie, for sure! Ms. Edelman is the Founder and Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, wherein she has devoted her life to helping and bringing attention to the needs of children in this country and beyond.

She is a wise and focused woman who, among many other accomplishments, has written several books–two of which are among my favorites. One is about parenting, The Measure of Our Success.  And one is about caring for the world’s children, The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small. I wrote about the timeless lessons from the small but powerful The Measure of Our Success many years ago and it continues to be a popular post. (Read it HERE).

As the honored guest of the Texas Children’s Defense Fund’s Annual Beat the Odds Luncheon , Ms. Edelman shared her lifetime of insights about how to serve children, with her talk – “Lessons Learned From the Ark”  Ms. Edelman has presented this topic before, but this past month she offered us an updated and focused version for our work here in Houston and everywhere that folks are currently devoted to addressing the hopes of future generations. She says: “As we take stock of the current state of America’s children and the desperate need to change direction for the future, some ancient wisdom can give us a blueprint for setting sail and getting our children to safe harbor.”

This is what I gleaned from Edelman’s most recent “Lessons Learned From the Ark”

  1. Don’t Miss The Boat.  “Currently in the U.S., 60% of our children cannot read at grade level… and too many children of color are not proficient at using the computer.” But we hold the distinct honor of being the world’s largest jailer. If we don’t begin to make some changes in priority, our children will not be competitive globally.
  2. We are all in the same boat. If you think you have nothing to gain by helping poor and minority children, think again. These populations now make up the majority in this country, so-… “The children in the ghetto and the barrio are the people who will shape our future.”
  3. Plan Ahead. “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.” Tomorrow is today. There are 2 million uninsured children in Texas. Children need to be healthy now and be educated now; have their childhoods now.
  4. Don’t Listen to Naysayers.  So we must have courage and get on with the business of closing our healthcare coverage gap.
  5. For Safety’s Sake, Travel in Pairs. Travel, politically speaking, in community groups.  Highlight the skills that children and communities have. Lift children up in prayer and in action. “Imagine if places of faith just took care of the kids in their own immediate vicinity.”
  6. Recognize that the Ark was built by Amateurs. “The Titanic, on the other hand, was built by professionals.” Don’t want for someone to come and tell you what to do. If we don’t get up and be heard, we lose. There is not time left to wait for a rescuer. He’s not coming!
  7. Build Our Children’s Future on High Ground. … so you can keep a look out! Wright-Edelman says: “ I am ashamed that this is the first generation that will not do as well as their parents.” We must build a movement where we care about other children as much as we care about our own.

    In serious agreement about the role parents of color MUST assume for all children! Photo Credit: Kim Coffman

Its no mystery why The Children’s Defense Fund continues to improve the lives of children all over the country.  The organization, under Edelman’s leadership, has been rallying forces for the good of children for over three decades. When I had a moment to speak with Ms. Edelman, I asked her what a lowly parenting blogger like myself could do in the effort to raise up children who are at risk.  She told me that if I am going to write to parents of color, tell them this:

We’ve got to wake up and see what is happening to the services and policies that effect children and families of color. We are going to lose the progress we’ve made if we don’t pay attention, shift our priorities and advocate on crucial issues that matter.

She and I agreed that we need a Black parenting movement, wherein we focus on such things as educational equality; health and health care; and a return to values that perpetuate community advancement.

I want this for us. But where do we begin?  Once again, looking to Ms. Edelman’s example, here is an offering of how to start…and sustain our efforts:

Begin to Move: We can begin by paying attention and learning the facts.

Stand and Be Heard: We can step forward and create an active community. Join the national conversation that concerns our children in particular.

This is not a talk conference. It’s an act conference. It’s not a problem-wallowing, hand-wringing conference. It’s a strategic problem solving conference.

  • Demand representation. Connect with your legislators online—You can advocate for children to Congress right from your computer. It’s easy and effective. See How HERE.

Start a Movement of Expansive Parenting and Giving in Your Sphere of Influence (as in, your neighborhood: Find a way to help children in your  own community—

  • Check out the CDF’s  Freedom Schools Program in your area.
  • Are the organizations to which you belong doing meaningful work in the community?
  • Check out these examples of individual and groups making a difference in their communities– HERE and HERE!  (yes, gotta represent my own folks!)

Then please write me, send comments. Let me know what you are doing so that I can highlight how we are making a difference—There is power in models, examples and common endeavor– we all can help and push each other.

As Ms. Edelman-Wright says—we gotta stop waiting to be rescued and start to right this ship ourselves!



  1. What a great story! I am intrigued by the organization.

    • This is truly a ‘great story’. Children will always be the future of the our generation. I am glad that such an organization will help remove many of these impediments and challenges facing our children, thereby giving them hope.

  2. Michelle Barnes says:

    Thank you for making this information available. It’s most confirming and helpful for those of us working “on the ground” building a values-based legacy as a bridge to our children’s future that we can only imagine.

  3. Thank YOU, MIchelle! For your comment and for all that you do (and have done) in the Houston Community. You are a shining and untiring example of how to help children keep their hopes alive, especially as artists and creatives!

  4. Thank you, Gina, for this wonderful post! I’ve shared it with our followers on Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully we can encourage even more parents to speak out about these concerns and challenges confronting our children and possibly inspire a group from Houston to attend CDF’s national conference together this Summer as a Child Action Team.

    Thank you!

  5. Thanks, Anat, for sharing! Yes, a Houaston delegation to the CDF national conference. Please let me know how I can help!

  6. Education if the keep to a brighter future in this era. It is my opinion that parents always push their children to reach to the sky. In that way the next generation would get out of this poverty cycle.

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