One of America’s most prominent child welfare groups, the Children’s Defense Fund, is saying goodbye to co-founder and longtime leader Marian Wright Edelman, and welcoming a new CEO at this crucial time in history.
Wright Edelman takes her leave after 47 years running the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit as the nation confronts its legacy of racial injustice and economic inequality and battles a devastating pandemic.
Taking the reins will be the Rev. Starsky Wilson, a St. Louis civil rights activist and children’s advocate, whom Wright Edelman called “the right leader at the right time for the Children’s Defense Fund,” adding that he has worked closely with her as a leader on at least a couple of major initiatives.
“I’ve gotten to know him over the years and I have only grown more impressed,” she added in a news release.
In the wake of the 2014 shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of police in a St. Louis suburb, Wilson co-chaired the Ferguson Commission, which called for sweeping changes in policing, the criminal justice system, child well-being and economic mobility.
Those calls echo today even more strongly after police killed George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis in May, sparking multiracial protests across the country.
Wilson said he was honored to be chosen to carry on and expand the legacy of the only leader the organization has ever had.
“As we wrestle with the politics of the pandemic, protests, and a presidential election,” he said in the news release, “it’s a little too easy to forget about crafting policy for children who don’t get to vote, don’t have lobbyists and can’t make campaign contributions.”
Through a racial equity lens, the Children’s Defense Fund works to eliminate child poverty in America, fights to improve the lot of children and families in the child welfare system, condemns the national gun violence epidemic that has killed so many children, and works to protect children’s health care coverage.
Wilson will begin his tenure as president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund in December.