Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Columns
Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the President of CDF. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families.
Her Child Watch column is sent every Friday to subscribers and posted to The Huffington Post weekly.
Child Watch Column Archives
Child Watch® Column: "Seizing an Opportunity in Education Reform"
As America's children headed back to school in September, President Obama delivered a televised back-to-school address to the nation's students from the Julia R. Masterman School in Philadelphia, an acclaimed public magnet school for fifth through twelfth graders. He spoke about the importance of hard work—a lesson his own mother was quick to drill into him as soon as she sensed his effort level in high school was starting to hit a slump.
Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Varnette Honeywood"
Artist Varnette Honeywood had a clear vision of how she perceived Black people and families and a gift for sharing her joyful, colorful perspective with the rest of the world. She was a dear friend to the Children's Defense Fund and the illustrator and creator of our beautiful logo for the Black Community Crusade for Children's Leave No Child Behind® movement. Her death in September at age 59 was a sad loss for all of us.
Child Watch® Column: "Getting All Children the Schools They Deserve"
As a new academic year starts, children around the country are going back to school and settling into new classes. Meanwhile, parents, educators, policy experts, and politicians are gearing up again to monitor and measure student learning—and preparing to ask the hard questions about whether or not the children in their care are getting the best possible education.
Child Watch® Column: "Jefferson Thomas and the Courage of Children"
"[Jefferson] Thomas was just a teenager when he became one of the first African-American students to enroll in Little Rock Central High School. Yet even at such a young age, he had the courage to risk his own safety, to defy a governor and a mob, and to walk proudly into that school even though it would have been far easier to give up and turn back. And through this simple act of pursuing an equal education, he and his fellow members of the Little Rock Nine helped open the doors of opportunity for their generation and for those that followed."
Child Watch® Column: "Gun Violence and Children: Have We No Shame or Respect for Child Life?"
. The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) has documented the threat of gun violence against American children for nearly two decades since we learned in a Peter Hart Associates poll undertaken by CDF's Black Community Crusade for Children that the number one concern of Black adults and youths was gun violence. So many in both generations feared they or their children would never reach adulthood because of pervasive gun violence.
Child Watch® Column: "Katrina, Five Years Later"
Five years later, for many of Katrina's children and families home is still not back to the way it was. New roadblocks keep appearing on the road to recovery. The city's resilience is still strong, but challenges remain.
Child Watch® Column: "Children Need Emergency Help in this Deep Recession Now!"
Children have only one childhood and it is right now. Millions of children in our nation require emergency attention in our recession ravaged economy as poverty, including extreme child poverty, hunger, and homelessness have increased, if irreparable harm is not to be inflicted on them and on our nation's future.
Child Watch® Column: "Changing the Status Quo in Our Schools"
In late July, both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the National Urban League's Centennial Conference about what the President called "an issue that I believe will largely determine not only African American success, but the success of our nation in the 21st century -- and that is whether we are offering our children the very best education possible." Right now, of course, the answer is no so President Obama and Secretary Duncan were there to speak about the Administration's plans for education reform.
Child Watch® Column: "Education as Opportunity"
African Americans have always seen education as a key to life and freedom. In his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass taught us that to educate a man is to "forever unfit him to be a slave," but to deny a person education is to "[shut him or her] up in mental darkness." Douglass said that when his former master ordered his wife to stop teaching Douglass to read, he felt he was being treated "as though I were a brute."
Child Watch® Column: Listening to Shirley Sherrod
By now much of the nation has followed the story of former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from her post earlier this month after dishonestly being accused of racism in a March speech, only to be vindicated as soon as someone took the time to get a copy of what she actually said and allow the truth to come to light. But for those people who know Shirley and her husband, civil rights leader Charles Sherrod, the fact that the smears on her character were outrageous and false was never in doubt.
Child Watch® Column: "Abyssinian Development Corporation: Creating Community Change"
ADC's mission is to "increase the availability of quality housing to people of diverse incomes; enhance the delivery of social services, particularly to the homeless, elderly, families, and children; foster economic revitalization; enhance educational and developmental opportunities for youth; and build community capacity through civic engagement."
Child Watch® Column: The Importance of Healthy Communities for Boys of Color
A new report was released in June that sheds a sobering light on how many Black and Latino boys grow up in communities that are, in a number of ways, dangerous to their health. Called "Healthy Communities Matter: The Importance of Place to the Health of Boys of Color," the report contained contributions from scholars and researchers at the RAND Corporation, PolicyLink, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, and the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice and the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University. It was funded by the California Endowment. Some of its data and best practices focus on California but the lessons learned apply to communities across the country.
Child Watch® Column: CDF Freedom Schools® National Days of Social Action
Service is a key part of the CDF Freedom Schools experience, and every year sites across the country participate in coordinated National Days of Social Action. This year's National Days of Social Action are focused on ensuring every child a Healthy Start in life and access to affordable, seamless, and comprehensive health and mental health coverage.
Child Watch® Column: The Oil Spill's Impact
Katrina changed and damaged lives and livelihoods all around the Gulf region, many forever, including many of the same communities that are now dealing with the aftermath of the oil spill. This new crisis is leaving numerous families in these already vulnerable and fragile communities even more hopeless.
Child Watch® Column: Honoring Our Legacies
Thousands of people who never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in person visit Atlanta every year to walk along Auburn Avenue, step inside the Heritage Sanctuary at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and tour the house at 501 Auburn where Dr. King was born. When they do, for a little while they have the chance to feel as if they were walking in Dr. King's footsteps.
Child Watch® Column: Expanding the Child Health Safety Net
The landmark health reform legislation – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 - signed by President Obama in March guarantees access to health coverage for 32 million people in America, including more than 95% of all children.
Child Watch® Column: The Living Skills Fifth Grade Semester: A Vision for Fighting Child Obesity
My remarkable friend Szekely is now focusing on a new target audience: our nation's children. She is adding her extraordinary mind, energy, and voice to the chorus of those concerned about America's child obesity problem. Together with Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner and now Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, she is promoting a pilot program they hope will help educate schoolchildren on the importance of healthy lifestyles.
Child Watch® Column: University of Notre Dame Valedictorian Katie Washington: A Terrific Role Model
As colleges and universities across the country celebrated their students' accomplishments this commencement season, the news about the top student at the University of Notre Dame was especially inspiring for me. Twenty-one-year-old Katie Washington from Gary, Indiana made history as Notre Dame's first Black valedictorian. Katie was a biological sciences major with a minor in Catholic social teaching who earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Child Watch® Column: More Threats to School Diversity
The new health reform law also established a number of important prevention initiatives, including the Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Early childhood home visiting programs provide voluntary, in-home services to families with young children beginning prenatally and going up to kindergarten entry age.
Child Watch® Column: "Dr. Elliott “Dad” Mason, Sr.: A Great Prayer Warrior"
Dr. Mason preached his first sermon at age 16—the same year he entered Dillard University, where he was honored three years in a row as the top student in religion and philosophy. He received a second bachelor's degree in divinity from the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, where he also ranked first in his class.
Child Watch® Column: "The Playground Jail"
Adults often start conversations with children by asking them what they want to be when they grow up. We tell them to dream big, and encourage them by giving them pretend doctor's kits, fancy dress-up clothes, and other toys that let them imitate adult life.
Child Watch® Column: "Dr. Dorothy Height—Extraordinary Leader, Lantern, and Role Model"
The brilliant Dr. Height was a lantern and role model for millions of women and a long haul social change agent blessed with uncommon commitment and talent. Her fingerprints are quietly embedded in many of the transforming events of the last seven decades as Blacks, women, and children pushed open and walked through previously closed doors of opportunity.
Child Watch® Column: "A Call for Education Equity"
Title I was created "to ensure all children a fair and equal opportunity to obtain a high-quality education." However, the formula for distributing Title I funds is stacked against the very children it was most intended to help.
Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Jaime Escalante"
When Jaime Escalante died of cancer on March 30, we lost a pioneering teacher who changed people's ideas of what children are capable of learning. Many people know about Escalante's work from the popular movie "Stand and Deliver," which depicted his success teaching Advanced Placement (AP) calculus classes to students at East Los Angeles's Garfield High School.
Child Watch® Column: "The Dangerous Drift Back Towards Segregated Schools"
Two recent decisions by school boards in North Carolina are local signs of a troubling national trend towards resegregation in public schools. In New Hanover County, which includes Wilmington, parents and advocates spent much of last year debating a new middle school redistricting plan that would focus on "neighborhood schools," essentially resegregating the schools by race and economic class because our neighborhoods look that way.
Child Watch® Column: "Haiti's Restavèk Children: The Child Servitude Crisis"
The recent earthquake in Haiti gave the rest of the world a glimpse of a form of child suffering that often goes unseen. When a group of American missionaries were accused of child trafficking, many people were confused by the story that unfolded. How could parents have been desperate enough to agree to simply give their children away to strangers? Sadly, this wasn't just an isolated event that only happened because of the earthquake.
Child Watch® Column: "Fighting Childhood Obesity"
When First Lady Michelle Obama decided to launch the "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, she brought much needed attention to a crisis facing millions of children. It's a special concern for children of color because new research shows Black and Hispanic children are disproportionally at risk for nearly a dozen factors that increase their chances to be obese.
Child Watch® Column: "Juvenile Justice Reform: Making the “Missouri Model” an American Model"
The state of Missouri has created a juvenile justice system that has proved so successful over the last thirty years it's known as the "Missouri Miracle." A number of practices combine to make Missouri's system unique: It's primarily made up of small facilities, generally designed for between ten and thirty youths, located at sites throughout the state that keep young people close to their own homes. These facilities don't look like jails with traditional cells; there are only eight isolation rooms in the entire state, which are seldom used and only for emergency situations. They feature a highly trained and educated staff working in teams with small groups of youths.
Child Watch® Column: "Children Need Better Protection from Abuse and Neglect"
In January 2008, four sisters were found dead in their southeast Washington, D.C. home. The girls, ages 5, 6, 11, and 17, had been murdered by their mother, Banita Jacks, months earlier. She was recently convicted and sentenced to 120 years in prison. None of the District of Columbia's social service agencies or the police intervened to save the girls despite some alarming signs that they were in great peril.
Child Watch® Column: "Wrong Place, Wrong Time"
When young Black men are the victims of violent injuries in their urban neighborhoods, what happens next? This question haunted Dr. John Rich, who was educated at Dartmouth, Duke, and Harvard, was a primary care doctor at Boston Medical Center, and was the founder of the city's Young Men's Health Clinic. In both settings he was in constant contact with young men who had been victims of violence, and of course he was deeply concerned about the physical scars he kept treating. But as a Black doctor dealing with the aftermath of violence in young Black men day after day, Dr. Rich felt a special connection with his patients and wanted to know about more than just the medical effects of the gunshot and knife wounds he was seeing.
Child Watch® Column: "Rosenwald Schools: Reclaiming a Legacy"
Across the country, schoolchildren have been studying Black History Month. But many Americans know very little about a group of schools that educated hundreds of thousands of Black children and are their own key piece of Black history. From 1913 to 1932, nearly 5,000 "Rosenwald schools" were built in 15 states, mostly in rural Southern communities.
Child Watch® Column: "Leaving the Littlest Ones Behind"
When people talk about the "achievement gap" at-risk children face, they often think of it in terms that apply to school-age children—but that gap can start much earlier than most people might guess. A recent report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group Child Trends showed that disparities actually begin appearing before children's first birthdays.
Child Watch® Column: "Remembering Howard Zinn"
When Howard Zinn passed away on January 27 at age 87, the nation mourned the loss of a pioneering historian and social activist who revolutionized the way millions of Americans, especially young Americans, understand our shared history. His writings and work inspired millions of readers, but I was among the generations of students privileged to know him as a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend. His first academic job after graduate study at Columbia University was at the historically Black, all-women Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, my alma mater.
Child Watch® Column: "SNCC, Fifty Years Later"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday every January becomes an occasion for looking back at the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. As the celebration of the King Holiday leads into February and Black History Month, it's a time to consider not only how far we've come but how far we still have to go, and to reflect on some of the milestones in movement history. This year, one of those national and personal milestones is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Child Watch® Column: "Children Drop Out and Into Lives of Poverty and Imprisonment"
A homeless man talking about how he ended up on the streets said he had wanted to get in with the "cool" crowd in 8th or 9th grade—a crowd that smoked marijuana, got into fights, and skipped school. No adult reached out to help him turn his life around so he continued his decline into a life of chronic joblessness and poverty, and long stretches of incarceration after he dropped out of school.
Child Watch® Column: "Jasmine Lynn: No Hiding Place From Gun Violence"
Nineteen-year-old Jasmine Lynn arrived at Atlanta's Spelman College, my alma mater, as a smart, dedicated student full of promise. She was a psychology major with a 3.8 grade point average who wanted to be a lawyer. Her friends knew her as "a beautiful, free spirited ball of energy [who] always had a smile on her face."
Child Watch® Column: "Urban Food Deserts Threaten Children's Health"
If any of us were forced to live in a desert we'd probably find trying to survive in a barren, desolate wasteland difficult. But through a series of public policies and private sector decisions, millions of mostly low-income and minority families in America have been condemned to subsist in vast urban "food deserts" that pose serious health threats to their children.
Child Watch® Column: "Powerful Special Interests Should Not Trump Children's Health Needs"
A theologian friend shared the story of taking her car to a Jiffy Lube for servicing. Not having anything to read, she picked up a manual on the coffee table about boating. A chapter on the rules for what happens when boats encounter one another on the open sea described two kinds of craft: burdened and privileged. The craft with power that can accelerate and push its way through the waves, change direction, and stop on demand is the burdened one. The craft dependent on the forces of nature, wind, tide, and human effort to keep going is the privileged craft.
Child Watch® Column: "Beating the Odds in Tough Times"
In these challenging economic times, when so many are struggling to keep their heads above water, life is toughest for children in broken families at the low end of the income scale. Yet despite struggling to live under the worst conditions, there are extraordinary young people who draw upon their inner strength to overcome the most daunting barriers.
Child Watch® Column: "A Thanksgiving Prayer to End Poverty in Our Time"
Thanksgiving is a time when many Americans pause to be grateful for all we have. In the current economic downturn when the gap between rich and poor is at the highest level since the Great Depression and the unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, millions of our neighbors, including many families with children, are struggling hard to count their blessings.
Child Watch® Column: "Amen! Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond and Ella"
On November 4, 2009, about 4,000 babies in strollers, young children, parents, youths, teachers, child care providers, doctors, and grandparents rallied and strolled all around our U.S. Capitol. We told Congress that millions of children must not be left worse off after health reform and that the effective and cost effective Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should be kept and improved rather than eliminated as the House health reform bill would do.
Child Watch® Column: "What Are America's Real Values?"
What is a child's life worth? What is a child's health worth? What is a child's spirit, battered by preventable suffering and chronic disease, worth? What are a child's hope and ability to learn worth? What are the true values of the world's richest nation that is so spiritually poor that it even debates whether it can afford to give all its children the basic right to health care?
Child Watch® Column: "Can Children Get Congress To Protect Their Health?"
In 1931, Grace Abbott, the Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau, gave a speech about her long and frustrating workdays in our nation's capital trying to advocate for children's needs. She said she felt all alone standing with her baby carriage on the sidewalk watching a great traffic jam moving toward the Capitol where Congress sits.