By MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN
Children’s Defense Fund
You may be hurting or afraid. Show up.
We’ll gather healing on the way. Show up.
We will be strong, we will be brave. Show up.
Dream of the world we will create. Show up.
– Joe Davis
Joe Davis is an artist, educator, and speaker “committed to activism and compelled to create work that celebrates social transformation, healing and liberation,” and he is presenting his poem, Show Up, during the Children’s Defense Fund’s annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry being held virtually from July 20-22. All are welcome and attendance is free of charge! The Proctor Institute gathers clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders, community organizers and other faith-based advocates for spiritual renewal, networking, movement-building and theological reflection about the urgent needs of children at the intersection of race and poverty.
This year’s theme is “Listening to the Children: A Radical Revolution of Values.” Joe Davis is a former participant in the Proctor Institute’s Dale P. Andrews Freedom Seminary, an immersion experience for seminary students who also wish to “show up” and work with communities fighting systemic injustices that impact children and youths.
The Proctor Institute was created in 1995 by CDF’s then Religious Affairs Director Shannon Daley-Harris in response to a gap in preparation for ministry. Most seminaries provided classes in theology, preaching, Christian education and youth ministry, but few were providing both the content and frame of justice and child advocacy to prepare clergy and others for ministry in and with a world of systemic inequities. Proctor allows students to join in and build on CDF’s decades of work to improve children’s lives.
The Freedom Seminary course led by Dr. Janet Wolf and a consortium of faculty is now offered for credit by more than 20 institutions. It is rooted in the Black prophetic church and freedom movement traditions, and it is an opportunity to redefine religious leadership through the lens of the sacredness of every child. The course explores questions like these: “What theologies perpetuate poverty, mass incarceration, white supremacy and oppression? How can we move faith communities from charity to justice? How can we develop strong and effective interfaith partnerships to seek justice for all of our children?”
Children need adults in every faith community who are asking these kinds of questions. I hope you and the members of your congregation will join us next week for the Proctor Institute as we consider the many ways and reasons to show up for children. As Joe Davis writes:
I show up because I know I am worthy of abundant joy, profound peace, and luxurious love in this lifetime.
I show up because the pulsating rhythm of my ancestors’ songs sing in my soul, moving my body to dance wild and free – without apology or resistance, but with exuberance and ease.
I show up because the Spirit of the Most High breathes heaven through my being with a subversive sovereignty, rising and rooted in a wellspring of life and power.
I show up because my family shows me what it looks like to carry faith and integrity through the waves of trial and tribulation, to stand as a testament of vulnerability and strength.
I show up because I know all humans cause harm to other humans – myself included. I’m committed to practicing healing justice and freedom work to reduce the harm and create more space for reparative action and communal flourishing.
I show up because I want to remind others the world we long for is not only possible but irresistible, growing bigger each moment we choose intentionality and purpose over unconsciousness and carelessness. The future we dream of is ushered through us, through our presence.
Why do you show up?
Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission is “Leave No Child Behind.” For more information, visit https://www.childrensdefense.org.