Marian Wright Edelman, a longtime rights activist and the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, is officially stepping down as the head of the nonprofit, and an activist from the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri protests is taking over.
Edelman took to the streets this summer to protest the police killing of George Floyd, joining millions. According to the New York Times, she says demonstrating she was a part of thrust her back into the 1950s, when she was a teenager in the segregated South.
“I was out there every night,” said Mrs. Edelman. “It felt like the sit-in movement to me. It felt like everything I’ve been living all my life. You see yourself again at 17, 18 and 19. Young people were finding their voice and I could relate in a deep way.”
On Wednesday (September 2), Rev. Starsky Wilson, an activist known for his work during the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, will take over the reins of the organization. Edelman will remain as president emerita but will not be involved in day-to-day operations.
The Children’s Defense Fund was created in 1973 and was created to improve the lives of poor children, children of color and children with disabilities. Mr. Wilson’s hiring represents a historic shift in the organization.
Angela Glover Blackwell, chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors says Wilson was someone present at a critical moment in the Black Lives Matter movement and is able to act as a bridge between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and now.
According to census estimates, the majority of children in America under 18 are nonwhite, yet they remain behind their white peers in many aspects, says Blackwell. “Systems of structural racism have left these children in this position,” she said, adding that Wilson “is the right person at the right time.”
Wilson was a co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, a group of volunteers that convened to review the racial and economic inequities of Ferguson after the killing of Michael Brown.
“His record speaks for itself. He is widely respected. I adore him,” Mrs. Edelman said, according to the Times. “He’s absolutely the right choice. He’s got so much strength. What I hope he is and has been already is a servant leader.”
Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for NAACP LDF