Sunday, April 5, 2020
Leveling the Playing Field with the Children’s Defense Fund
By Shannen Hill – Contributing Writer
Published April 13, 2016

Women bring their voices to speak on ways to help California’s children at the California African American Museum.

Women leaders joined with host Alex Johnson to discuss children's needs. (courtesy photo)

Women leaders joined with host Alex Johnson to discuss children’s needs. (courtesy photo)

The Children’s Defense Fund gathered a panel of five women from different age groups and ethnicities at the California African American Museum to have an open conversation about what children need on Thursday, March 31.

In honor of the last day of Women’s History Month, the CDF wanted to include a diverse group of women, from teachers to senators, to give their insight. The conversation presented topics of the effects of mass incarceration, racism and poverty on children.

“It was very enlightening to see The Children’s Defense Fund, people who are actually trying to further education and not just bring kids to prison,” said Kaitlin Mills, 22, one of the audience members who is thinking of getting into education. “It’s insane to me how many people give up on children and just send them away instead of trying to help them.”

The topic of the responsibility of adults came up during the conversation when asked about children’s greatest challenges. Founder and President of the CDF, Marian Edelman, told the audience that it takes a village. The panelists talked about how there are 500,000 children living in California whose parents make under $1,000 a month. They talked about how there are many parents who don’t have time and how those kids should be able to turn the adults in their community.

“Today’s adults are our children’s biggest challenge,” said LaPhonza Butler, a panelists and president of labor union SEIU Local 2015.

The panelists also touched on the education of children living in poverty along with the underrepresentation of culture in curriculum. The women stressed the importance of having good educators, not only in schools, but also after and before school. Dr. Melina Abdullah, panelist and chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University Los Angeles, raised the point that adults not only should educate and encourage, but also be a voice for the countless children who feel like they have no voice.

“All of the panelists had really incredible things to say. I always love seeing people get together for different causes like Black lives and women lives, but something I haven’t really seen is children’s lives,” said Shani Stader, 22, who works with City Year, a nonprofit organization that works to decrease dropout rates. “Sometimes I take my work for granted and I think that no one recognizes that I’m doing this, but being here showed me that there are a lot of people who care.”


The event also included a spoken word performance by Sarai McKenzie, one of the youth leaders of the CDF. The theme of the night was ‘Leveling the Playing Field for California’s Children’ and while every problem can’t be solved in one night, the panelists presented different perspectives and dialogue which the audience can pull from and use in their industries of children outreach.

“It was very impactful because all of the women had different stories from different perspectives,” said Ashley Wiley, an educator with the Wiley Center for Speech and Language Development. “I really liked the general feeling of collaboration.”

For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund and ways to get involved, visit

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