Help! Our Children Need You This Summer

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[The Children's Corner]

All of us at the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) are deeply grateful for your continuing encouragement and support in these extremely challenging times for children and the poor.

So I write now to invite you to join me at CDF's first major intergenerational, interracial, interdisciplinary, and interfaith national conference since 2003 on July 22-25, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio: "Pursuing Justice for Children and the Poor with Urgency and Persistence: A Community and Youth Empowerment Conference." If you cannot attend, I urge you to help support a young adult leader or a community leader, who lack resources and face cascading federal, state, and local budget cuts, to attend.

They will return home strengthened by gathering with a community of committed advocates inspired by the many best practices underway for children across the nation that need to be scaled up and incorporated into policy. With your help we hope 3,000 leading child advocates and community leaders, including at least 1,500 young adult leaders, will attend. Please visit our website for more information about our 2012 national conference.

In this nation defining year, our goal is to confront what divides us and to help build the bridges for healing our racial and income divisions; to raise insistent and informed voices to close our huge wealth and income gaps; and to insist on transforming change through sustained and strategic action. Through cutting edge plenary sessions and dozens of compelling workshops, we will lift up the latest research, best policies and practices, community building and engagement models, and youth empowerment strategies to close the chasm between what we know works for children and what we actually do for our most vulnerable young.

America's top experts, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, faith and political leaders, community advocates, service providers, and effective activists will: help shape a robust national conversation about the urgent needs of children and the poor; develop a visionary but achievable agenda for 2012 and beyond and outline what we all can and must do to ensure economic, racial, and educational equity; identify the feeder systems in order to break up the Cradle to Prison Pipeline; challenge the pervasive racial profiling of Black males like Trayvon Martin; adopt action strategies to end the mass incarceration of Black males which is creating a new Jim Crow; and raise a loud sustained voice to create a just playing field for every child.

A joint Educational Testing Service (ETS)-CDF symposium will be conducted at the July conference focused on the needs of Black males ages 9-13, a vulnerable developmental period that helps determine their high school success and ability to avoid the prison pipeline.

I hope you will spread the word about this crucial conference with key activists and leaders in your community, family, and networks and consider sponsoring one or more young or community leaders we seek to train. The average cost for a young or community leader will be $1,000 for three days of intensive training.

This is not a talk conference. It is an act conference. It is not a problem-wallowing, handwringing conference. It is a strategic problem-solving conference. It is not just a conference of inspiring and cutting edge speeches. It is a conference for sharing and learning about best practices and effective community models and steps each of us can take home to implement and try to take to scale and sustainability in communities, schools, congregations, cities, and states across our nation.

They include CDF Freedom Schools programs; Beat the Odds celebrations of high school students (we are launching Ohio's first Beat the Odds celebration at the conference); a range of youth leadership development models including CDF's Young Advocate Leadership Training (YALT) programs at Haley Farm; Promise Neighborhoods based on Geoff Canada's Harlem Children's Zone; the "Missouri Miracle" juvenile justice reforms, and many others.

Please help CDF respond to children who are crying out for more adult caring, a sense of community, hope, and leadership. It's time to hear them, take their hands, and lead them into safe havens and hopeful futures. I hope you will answer our urgent call for committed and effective action for children and the poor now.

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