Celebrating Marian Wright Edelman, a shining light among those who care about children

features@beaufortgazette.comApril 1, 2014 

Marian Wright Edelman is the founder of the Children's Defense Fund and is among the inductees in this year's 1862 Circle of Penn Center.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

In 1993, members of the Burton community and retired educators felt there was a need to provide after-school care for children. A board was formed to study the issue -- this group valued education and as they met, it was clear they wanted learning to be part of any future program.

Douglass Gregg was among those who supported the idea.

During board discussions, he told us about a former classmate of his from Bennettsville. Marian Wright Edelman, who was the first African-American woman to be admitted into the Mississippi bar, had founded the Children's Defense Fund, a child advocacy group that arose from the civil rights movement in 1973. The organization aims to end child hunger, protect children from abuse and neglect and prepare children for school at an early age.

Edelman had clearly influenced Gregg in an important way; he suggested that those of us on the board attend one of his friend's conferences sometime.

Edelman's name was again mentioned to me by a fellow member of the Southern Regional Council. Mae Bertha Carter of Drew, Miss., had the same enthusiasm for Edelman's work that Gregg did. Carter told me that Edelman, who was the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund office in Jackson, Miss., had challenged the "freedom of choice" to enroll eight of Carter's children in an all-white school.

Edelman, the daughter of a Baptist minister, grew up in the church, where her mother played the organ and directed the choir. Bennettsville is a small town, and Edelman graduated from a segregated and unequally equipped school. Despite this, she went on to earn degrees from Spelman College and Yale Law School. She is the author of "Lanterns," a memoir of mentors; "The Measure of Our Success," a letter to children; and "Guide Me, Feet -- I'm Your Child, God," a book of hope and prayer.

I was finally able to attend a Children's Defense Fund conference, where I was among a group of like-minded folks gathered from across the country. People who worked with or on behalf of children -- whether at schools, in churches or in parks and recreation -- met for seminars each day. In the mornings, Edelman came by and spoke to all of us. We started and ended each day with a prayer. If there was a conference that blended faith, love and determination for youth, Children's Defense Fund was it.

Edelman is a light that shines brightly among those who care about children. There is no doubt, this is her calling. And it is for this that she has been chosen as one of the inductees for this year's 1862 Circle of Penn Center.

FESTIVE CRANBERRY PUNCH

Makes: 30 servings

64 ounces cranberry juice

1 quart pineapple juice

1 cup granulated sugar

1 quart carbonated lemon-lime soda

Combine cranberry juice, pineapple juice and sugar. Stir mixture until sugar dissolves; freeze. Prior to serving thaw juice in covered punch bowl until it forms a solid slush, approximately 1 hour. Add soda immediately before serving and mix well.

Source: "Southern Homecoming Traditions, Recipes and Remembrances," by Carolyn Quick Tillery (2006)

SIMPLY FRUIT PUNCH

Makes: 30 servings

1 46-ounce can pineapple juice, chilled

1 45-ounce can apricot nectar, chilled

1 6-ounce can frozen limeade concentrate

2 liters lemon-lime soda, chilled

10 ounces Maraschino cherries with juice, chilled

Combine the above chilled ingredients in bowl, mix well and add ice. While not necessary, chilling your punch ingredients before serving permits the use of less ice to chill the punch and also causes the ice to melt more slowly, making less watery punch.

Source: "Southern Homecoming Traditions, Recipes and Remembrances," by Carolyn Quick Tillery (2006)

TROPICAL ISLAND PUNCH

Makes: 30 servings

1 64-ounce bottle fruit punch

2 15-ounce cans of pineapple chunks, chilled

1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 banana, sliced

2 pints lemon sherbet

1 2-liter bottle lemon-lime soda

Ice

Pour fruit punch into a large bowl. Add fruit and scoops of the sherbet. Pour soda over the mixture. Add ice to taste or as necessary.

Source: "Southern Homecoming Traditions, Recipes and Remembrances," by Carolyn Quick Tillery (2006)

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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