Ms. Marian Wright Edelman has seen a lot of ugliness. She’s faced down snarling police dogs, baton-wielding cops, racist mobs and the threat of physical injury – and much worse – in her decades of advocacy for equality.
Her many exceptional accomplishments are well-known. She was the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1963. She served as counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King in planning the Poor People’s campaign and march in 1968. In 1973, she founded The Children’s Defense Fund and helped organize the 1996 Stand for Children rally in Washington D.C. that gave rise to the organization we all serve today.
Last Wednesday in Portland, Stand for Children teams from across the country were treated to Ms. Wright Edelman’s first-hand account of history. It was a rare opportunity to hear about history from an icon that helped shape it.
After more than 40 years of important advocacy work, and into her eighth decade, she commands a room with more passion and energy than anyone. There’s no bluster, no bragging, no name dropping, no self-aggrandizement. She’s distinguished, thoughtful and humble – an unassuming force of nature.
For Ashley Thomas, an Indiana Stand UP graduate turned Family Engagement & Organizing Specialist for Stand Indiana, meeting Ms. Edelman Wright and hearing her words had deep meaning, best expressed by Ms. Thomas herself:
“I froze the moment I saw her walk through the door. As a young African American advocate, we idolize the "greats" in our history that prove that everything we are trying to do can be done one step at a time. Mrs. Marian Wright Edelman speaking at our luncheon had me in tears. I was so very encouraged to continue on with the fight. I tell many parents every day, we sacrifice, we push, we do this for all children because WHO ELSE WILL DO IT, if we don't? We become the voice of the children, our community and mimic the voice of our ancestors. I cannot explain how honored I was to be in the presence of such an honorable woman who STOOD UP and continues to STAND UP for our future! I will forever STAND and Marian Wright Edelman showed me that longevity is necessary and possible.”
Although her son – Stand for Children Founder Jonah Edelman – half-jokingly remarked that his mom will probably live to be 125 years old, Ms. Edelman Wright addressed the importance of finding the next leaders to carry on the fight.
Those will be some big shoes to fill.
- STAND INDIANA -