I Saw Stars and Heroes Last Night

The stars aligned last night in Raleigh, NC — Bold, wonderful shining lights bright enough to illuminate a pathway to stronger children and families came out to celebrate and be celebrated during Action for Children’s 30th Anniversary Celebration. AfC, an advocacy group with a vision for improving the quality of life for NC’s children regardless of income, background, geography or circumstances, hosted the event at the NC Museum of History. Child advocacy legends and heroes filled the crowd — some better known than others. They were there to highlight AfC’s 30 years of bringing to NC’s collective consciousness the issues confronting children. One could not help but feel extremely warm and appreciative of the bold leadership brought by the folks attending. AfC honored former Senator Linda Garrou, Ms. Doris Mack, Senator (Dr.) William Purcell, and John and Clare Tate with special awards for their tremendous leadership and accomplishments in the field. These are exemplary people who do what is needed — look after children and families, most often vulnerable, with way too few resources and far too few people to care about the glaring resource challenges and gaps in their lives. These folks make the world safer for children, more protective, and yes sometimes even more regulated. Congratulations to the Board of Directors (past and present) of Action for Children for continuing to make children and families a priority. Too often their voices are like the proverbial tree falling in the political forest — making a noise, but wonder who’s hearing it. And thanks to the sponsors and donors that helped the event come to life.

North Carolina and in my view, this entire country, lacks a crystallized vision for raising healthy children and supporting families. Indeed, the recent past has been a startling wake up call to the erosion of political and economic supports in these areas. Our communities are literally crying out in pain for effective leadership to ensure that fewer children and their families are impacted by the growing disparities in resources  — there are cries of poverty and hunger, gun violence, health care shortages and disparate opportunities for treatment, human and sexual trafficking, youths sent to criminal/juvenile justice systems instead of more effective community solutions, educational system erosion among other concerns. It is very easy to become demoralized, to walk away with the lingering feeling that as long as the political situation remains as it is now, nothing will change.

Well folks, tough times call for innovation, transformative leadership, and greater energy than ever before. Our kids and communities need us now more than ever. Just like our daddies used to tell us, “if you quit now, you’ll be a quitter for life”. The circumstances confronting us should make us angry; where is the compassion and leadership we saw in the 60’s when persons of color and their allies so boldly stood up? Where is the outrage at the grossly disproportional conditions affecting families? What will it take for citizens to coalesce around children who desperately need us?

We need to bring our resources together, sharpen our vision and better define our mission, and then go after it with every ounce of our beings — our children and their families need us and depend on the hopes that someone, somewhere, will move the levers of power and find a way to make life better for kids and families. I’m not talking about socialism here — this is about recognizing that in a republic driven by market economies like in the United States, the winners take more and “losers” take little or none. That is fine as long as the “losers” don’t need health care, don’t attend public schools or get their health care at the Public Health Centers, don’t require jail or prison cells, or don’t need assistance in their golden years. But when these larger social questions confront us, we must find rational, affordable and more compassionate ways to meet the needs of our communities and families.

So let’s keep talking, celebrating our shining stars and heroes, and never walk away from those depending on us. Our religious doctrines (no matter the faith) teach us to “suffer the children” and to help those that cannot help themselves — groups like Action for Children, NC’s Covenant for Children, and others can be key catalysts for the conversations needed today. Let’s support them in deeds and words.


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