Marian Wright Edelman spoke to a diverse collection of people at the OkCU gymnasium on Wednesday night for a little over an hour, with a brief segment for questions.
With a 10 year wait and a previously canceled event due to illness and weather, the assembled were eager to hear her message. Half the room gave her a standing ovation as she began.
With the stage flanked by uniformed armed security, it was noted by OkCU President Robert Henry, that this Civil Rights legend visits to Oklahoma City had previously been quite sourly rebuked by the Oklahoman newspaper and had been honored by the University of Oklahoma Law School with an honorary Doctoral degree.
Marian Wright Edelman has a pretty broad collection of books and lectures on the topic of children, and better care for our children in the USA. Her focus on life giving services, which honor basic human rights calls for improvement in proper nutritious food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education for the youngest citizens.
The OkCU dean of the College of Law, Valerie Couch hit on the fact that Edelman was probably one of the first people in child rights to convert troubling scenarios into rapidfire and comprehensible statistics which could be used to pave the way to understanding discrepancies and needs. This with a clear eye to discrimination in race and class, but also with an eye towards possibilities and change in meeting those needs with better policies, procedures, funding, customs and laws.
Edelman noted that Oklahoma is one of the few states which fails to attend things like year round free meals for school aged children. That Oklahoma continues to fail it’s children in basic education, particularly reading and computation skills.
Edelman did cite the advanced status of Headstart and Pre-Kindergarten here, and yet Oklahoma children in percentage still are not there in as full attendance as they could be.
Oklahoma is a fairly ready manifestation of Edelman’s theory turned movement, “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” which hatched in 2007 http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/cradle-prison-pipeline-report-2007-full-highres.html Edelman overtly and repeatedly questioned why any state would spend more on imprisonment of youth than on providing basic cost per student for education, as Oklahoma does and has done for a number of years.
Edelman at no point made mention of privatization of prisons, nor regarding incentivism, as noted by her peer in studying racism, classism and sexism Michelle Alexander, of “The New Jim Crow”.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvUeOvLSEMI Edelman noted that America faces a new apartheid. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apartheid
There is something of a one note at times in listening to Edelman speak, in that she makes a conscious choice not in ignorance but in intentionality to focus and refocus conversations in simplicity to believe that changing the paradigm is both possible and necessary. Her singular statement that it is never clear when the paradigm will change was immediately followed by the importance of continuing to present and pursue those basic child rights above. This not because other things are not necessary, but because hitting the baseline will ultimately prevent various other slippage towards apartheid, but also promote development of a stronger and more diversified leadership and workforce and thereby community and country.
Persisting in the importance of voting, inviting better policy in care of children, acknowledging the radiating spectrum of improved and meaningful education, and the need for young people to be exposed to an educated and caring racially like resource invites continued hopes, wishes and dreams towards meaningful intergenerational actions to be educated and to lead.
Edelman was met with a full audience standing ovation upon completion of her presentation, which was followed by questions.