Awakening community while improving opportunities is leaders' aim

DETROIT — Black leaders Geoffrey Canada and Marian Wright Edelman visited The Skillman Foundation for a day of history and important information imparted to grantees and others who work in the Foundation’s Good Neighborhoods.

Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, and Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, made their first stop in Detroit as part of their national tour following a December three-day crusade at the CDF-Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tenn.

The meeting’s purpose was threefold:

  • Awaken the black community and the nation to the ominous clouds encircling black children and youth whose life chances are less positive than their parents and white peers. 
  • Get commitment to help replace the “cradle to prison” pipeline with a pipeline to college, productive work and successful adulthood for all black children. 
  • Share and discuss plans to launch the second Black Community Crusade for Children.

“We have to again come together to stop the backward slide of our children,” said Wright Edelman. “We need to revive a policy voice for children.”

According to the 2010 Census, black children are three times as likely to be poor as white children. Forty percent of black children are born to poor families, compared with 8 percent of white children, and a black boy born in the past decade has a 1-in-3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime.

“We’ve got great models, but it’s not helpful to the nation when we’re saving 2,000 kids and we’re losing hundreds of thousands,” said Canada. His program has created a web of community services in Harlem to aid impoverished children and their families.

An added component to Canada and Wright Edelman’s message was that of the CDF Freedom Schools program. The program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a model curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high-quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health. The Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes toward learning and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities.