PG County Seal

Marion Wright Edelman
Marion Wright Edelman

Benjamin L. Crardin
Benjamin L .Cardin

Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

 Mark Morial

Marion Wight Edelman
ChildWatch: Much More Than Summer School

Close your eyes and think about the words summer school. What comes to mind? If you picture a room full of children clapping, cheering, laughing and falling in love with reading you could be imagining the experience thousands of children across the country are about to have as they participate in the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. More than 1,400 college-aged servant leader interns, site coordinators and partners came together this week for National Training at historic CDF Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee to learn how to teach the “Freedom Schools way,” strategies for productive classroom management, and everything in between so they’ll be ready to lead the six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program for more than 12,000 K–12 scholars this summer.

The program’s roots are in the Mississippi Freedom Summer project of 1964, but 55 years later its mission is as urgent as ever. Today data show the majority of public school students cannot read or compute at grade level and poor children and children of color are still particularly behind. Hostile school environments and exclusionary discipline policies disproportionately deny children of color and children with disabilities opportunities for success and contribute to their risk of

entering the school-to-prison pipeline. Everyone today should ask the Department of Education why they are seeking to halt or reverse some efforts to create a level education playing field for all children. Freedom Schools fills a gap created by an unequal and unjust system. The program stops summer learning loss using wonderful books that allow our scholars to read about their true history and see themselves in a range of age appropriate culturally diverse books selected by a distinguished committee of children’s book writers, illustrators, historians, and educators.

The CDF Freedom Schools program is designed to serve children and youth in communities where quality academic enrichment programming is limited, too expensive, or non-existent. By partnering with schools, faith and community-based organizations, municipalities, colleges and universities, and juvenile detention facilities, the program is offered in these communities at no cost to low-income families who enroll their children. The model and the excellent, carefully-chosen books used in the multicultural Integrated Reading Curriculum are all designed to empower children to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, country and world with hope, education and action.

The CDF Freedom Schools program is also a servant leadership incubator for two generations—the children served and the college-aged servant leader interns who teach and serve them. The teachers’ energy and enthusiasm during National Training is infectious and they carry that joy back to their classrooms throughout the summer and beyond. I am proud that many of our servant leader interns have gone on to become committed teachers, counselors, and school administrators. We are especially eager to create a pipeline of desperately needed Black and Latino male teachers for our nation’s public schools. Not only do many servant leader interns fall in love with teaching during Freedom Schools, they also report back that they are now inspiring the next generation of teachers:

“I had an activity where my scholars had to list what they wanted to be when they got older. [One student] couldn't write down an answer. By the end of Freedom Schools when I did the activity again, she wrote down that she wanted to become a servant leader intern and a teacher. This impacted me because I know that I have impacted her life.”

“One of my scholars keeps asking me what she can do to become a Freedom Schools intern, and that makes my heart so happy. She says she can’t imagine a summer without Freedom Schools in it, and honestly, neither can I.”

“I found my voice in Freedom Schools. I found my why. Freedom Schools is built in me. It’s part of who I am.”

We will send this year’s young servant leader teachers—like the thousands we have trained before them—out to educate and empower the next generation and spend their lives committed to service for our nation’s children. They will lead us forward and deliver on our promise to create a level playing field for all children.



Marc Morial, President and CEO National Urban Legue

To Be Equal: Leah Chase: “We Changed The Course Of The World Over a Bowl of Gumbo”

“I was taught that your job was to make this earth better. I hope my children will carry on. I hope I’ve taught them enough to keep trying to grow, keep trying to make people understand how to enjoy life. Look at all the beautiful things around you, look at the progress. You gotta enjoy that, you gotta appreciate that, and I do.”
—Leah Chase


With the passing this week of New Orleans’ Queen of Creole cuisine, Leah Chase, a part of New Orleans has died.

It was at her table where the Freedom Riders gathered to break bread after their dangerous journey into the segregated south. It was there where the NAACP planned strategy. She hosted musicians, artists, actors and Presidents. In typical fashion, she scolded President Obama for adding hot sauce to her already-perfectly-seasoned gumbo.

My earliest memories of Mrs. Chase were Friday night outings with my grandparents to her landmark restaurant, Dooky Chase.  In the days of Jim Crow, most of the upscale restaurants refused to serve Black patrons, so Dooky Chase quickly became a cultural, social and political center for Black life in New Orleans.

When the National Urban League held our conference in New Orleans in 2012, I was proud to hold our Board of Trustees meeting there.

No visit home to New Orleans has ever been complete without a meal at Dooky Chase and a visit to the kitchen to catch up with its tireless proprietress.

The woman whose portrait is enshrined in the National Portrait Gallery, and whose life inspired a beloved Disney character was born in Madisonville, Louisiana, across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans. One of 11 children, she was 6 years old when the Great Depression struck, and she recalled wearing clothes made from grain sacks and subsisting on food from their own garden.

She arrived in New Orleans to attend Catholic high school, and went on to work at a French Quarter restaurant for $1 a day.

Just after World War II ended, she married jazz musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase, whose parents owned a po’ boy stand in Treme. Over the years she would transform the business into one of the most significant and celebrated restaurants in the entire country.

A generation of children were introduced to Leah Chase in the character of Tiana, Disney’s first African-American princess, in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog.

When he first visited Dooky Chase, the film’s co-director John Musker, he was surprised to see a photo of General George Patton on the wall among Mrs. Chase’s famed collection of African-American art.

“She goes, ‘That was a man that I admired,’” Musker recalled. “It was just a great thing to see this warm and nurturing thing, but she has this flinty side, too, where she can be both. That’s what we tried to get with Tiana, that she’s very warm and vulnerable but she has a passion, spine and a backbone and she’s really trying to get something done and doesn’t give in easily to things.”

Mrs. Chase always said, “In my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken.” It was an honor beyond words to count her among my friends, and to carry forth her legacy.


Benjamin L. Cardin

Cardin, Van Hollen, Hoyer Call on CDC to Review Guidelines For Adenovirus Outbreaks

WASHINGTON (June 4, 2019)—U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen with Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (all D-Md.) have written to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert R. Redfield, urging an evaluation of current CDC guidelines for adenovirus outbreaks. The request comes after an outbreak last year on the University of Maryland, College Park campus that sickened more than 40 students. The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents has recently said it will be investigating the response to the outbreak.

Reports indicate that University administration and health officials relied heavily on CDC guidelines for appropriate notification of the campus community regarding the campus outbreak of adenovirus. The notification was too late for student Olivia Paregol, who tragically who died from complications related to adenovirus 7. Ms. Paregol had a weakened immune system from Crohn’s disease and the lawmakers are asking CDC if the current guidelines take into account individuals with already compromised immune systems.

The full letter follows and can be found at Adenovirus Letter_Signed.pdf


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