Monday, May 29, 2006

Heroines in Advocacy - Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman is truly an inspiration to all. I first became acquainted with Mrs. Edelman's work when I read her book - The Measure of Our Success: Letter to My Children and Yours in which she emphasizes the values of hard work, service, responsibility, and faith that her parents not only preached, but also lived. She wrote the book for her sons as they approached adulthood but it's applicable to everyone. It's one of my favorites. After reading the book, I became more interested in her as a person and in the work that she has accomplished. What I discovered was a brazen and impassioned woman who fervently fights for children, family and education. I share with you now, her biography that I found on the National Women's History Project website.

A Biography of Marian Wright Edelman(b. 1939)

Learning from the example of her parents, Marian Wright Edelman has never stopped her battle for equality, freedom, and civil rights. Growing up in the segregated town of Bennetsville, South Carolina, Edelman saw the terrible effects of racial segregation. Black children couldn’t play in the park or sit in the drug store to order a soda. She also saw the power of positive action as her father created parks and soft drink stands for black children and a Home for the Aged for African Americans.

After graduating from college, she heard inspiring lectures by civil rights leaders and realized that law school would better allow her to create the change her country desperately needed. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1963 and moved to Mississippi, becoming the first African-American woman admitted to the state bar. It was in Mississippi that she experienced first hand institutionalized illiteracy, poverty, hunger, lack of health care, and lack of hope. Edelman assisted in restoring federal Head Start funds, expanded food stamp eligibility, and served as council to the Child Development Group.

She married civil rights lawyer, Peter Edelman in 1968, and moved to Washington where she served as council to the Poor People’s Campaign and created the Washington Research Project, a public interest advocacy group.

In 1973, Marian Wright Edelman established the Children’s Defense Fund, the most powerful voice ever created for the millions of poor children in the United States. Over the past quarter-century, the Children’s Defense Fund has fought for funding for Head Start and other related programs that successfully provide health care, immunizations, nutritious food, and educational opportunities for poor children and their families. She has also investigated juvenile justice and foster care systems and supported anti-gun legislation.

A prolific author, lecturer, and proud social agitator, Edelman has touched the lives of countless children by providing the basic necessities of success—educational opportunity, equality, justice, and hope. Edelman has received dozens of honorary degrees and many awards including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Prize. Marian Wright Edelman shines as a beacon of light illuminating what is possible for an individual to accomplish as well as a beacon of hope safeguarding all American children.

Print Bibliography
Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors. Perennial, 2000
Marian Wright Edelman honors the "lanterns" who helped shape and influence her life in this memoir. These mentors include her parents, teachers, and civil rights activists like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Martin Luther King.

Guide My Feet: Prayers and Meditations for Our Children. Perennial, 2000
Here are prayers and meditations for parents and others who strive to instill values of faith, integrity, compassion, and service in our children at a time when these ideas are threatened by commercialism and violence. With warmth and conviction, Edelman shares his own prayers as well as inspirational readings from others. Turn in this book for guidelines and support--again and again.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Heroines in Advocacy - Andrea Conte

I've decided to begin a series of posts that will feature heroines in victims' rights advocacy. Some are survivors and some are not. Each are truly impassioned, courageous, and unstoppable in their commitment to end violence and are leading the fight against violence by speaking out about their personal stories, raising awareness, establishing foundations, changing legislation, developing programs, and inspiring others to act.

Andrea Conte, The First Lady of Tennessee. I lived in Nashville for over 10 years and although I've never met her, I got to witness her accomplishments as a member of the community. She truly has been a beacon of light and inspiration within the Nashville community and in the state of Tennessee and is loved by the citizens. Andrea is a survivor of violence. In the late 80s, Andrea was violently attacked by a man tried to kidnap her from the parking lot of the store she owned. She successfully fought him off and escaped with a broken cheekbone, hand, and bruises. A year later, the same attacker murdered a young woman in a local park. The attacker was caught, and is now serving a life sentence.

As a survivor, Andrea recognized that healing begins when crime survivors acknowledge that they cannot change the past but do have the power to make a difference in the future. During her husband's 8-year tenure as Mayor, she assisted in establishing a domestic violence response unit in the city's Metro Police Department, a model replicated in other police departments across the country and which has been credited with helping to drastically reduce Nashville's domestic murder rate. The unit was developed with an emphasis on domestic violence because, as opposed to random crime, crimes in which the victim and perpetrator have a relationship are more preventable through increased awareness and education. From the symptoms of abuse, threats, power misuse, and control issues to counseling, shelters, hotlines and other resources.

In 1993, she founded You Have the Power... Know How to Use It, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to raising awareness about crime and justice issues and is still operating today. The group continues to produce documentary videos and resource guidebooks on topics such as elder abuse, domestic violence and child sexual abuse. The videos are distributed nationwide to law enforcement agencies, schools, civic groups and therapists. You Have the Power also conducts numerous programs across Tennessee providing the public with information that can be used to prevent crime and victimization.

When her husband was elected to Governor in 2002, Andrea continued her work in advocacy and took it to a higher level. For the second year in a row, Andrea has led Andrea Walks for Tennessee's Children, an initiative featuring a series of walk events to raise awareness about child abuse prevention and funds for Child Advocacy Centers that provide support programs for child abuse victims and their families. In 2004 alone, she walked more than 600 miles between all of the Child Advocacy Centers across the state of Tennessee and raised approximately $1.4 million in cash and in-kind donations for these organizations.

Andrea, a resident of Tennessee for the last 30 years, was born in Massachusetts and attended public schools. She earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from University of Washington at Seattle, and an MBA from Tennessee State University in Nashville. She and Governor Phil Bredesen have one son. For more information about Andrea and Governor Bredesen, click here.