By Marianne Schild
National YWCA DNC Correspondent
The convention is here, y’all! I know former Mayor Vinroot, the “token Republican” on the DNC Host Committee is right, viewers and visitors are going to like what they see.
Sunday afternoon, I entered the hot sanctuary of the Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church. Aside from the heat and women gently fanning themselves with their bulletins, this service is unlike any other I’ve ever attended. Some say Sunday is the most segregated day of the week, but not in this sanctuary. The diversity is truly amazing – age, nationality, sex, race and faith among others all sitting together and chatting idly as you do before the service begins. This interfaith service, “Prayers for Children: An Interfaith Call to Action” is hosted by Mecklenburg Ministries, Council for Children’s Rights, Freedom Schools and Charlotte in 2012, featuring Marian Wright Edelman. The purpose of the service is for justice for children, the impoverished and those disenfranchised among us. They displayed facts on large screens in the sanctuary. Some highlights:
- North Carolina is ranked 44th in per pupil expenditures,
- In Mecklenburg County, 45% of all births are to mothers receiving Medicaid,
- 86.1% of Mecklenburg County mothers received first trimester prenatal care,
- Nationally, a baby is born to a teen mother every minute.
I scan the pews, and I spot Susanne Sawyer, past Board Chair of YWCA Central Carolinas and a fearless and fabulous persimmon woman, with her friends Anne Hobson, a Charlotte native, and John Ellis, Director of Area Mental Health. I join them. A pianist set the mood with “We Are the World,” a children’s choir sang beautifully, speakers from a variety of faith backgrounds read from their sacred texts and spoke about children, families, poverty and those on the margins of society. We in the pews sang Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, and all in the room were truly “victors in the midst of strife.”
I was especially excited to hear Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, as (in my experience) she is an extremely inspirational speaker without coming across as preaching. She delivered. Marian Wright Edelman gave a brief speech about this pivotal, sacred moment in our country to decide our future. She explained the Dow Jones is not a measure of our quality of life. She called for no more tax cuts for the wealthy, as we do not have a money problem in our wealthy country, but we have a values problem. WAKE UP, she said, it is common sense to take care of our children. She explained how a child’s inability to read leads to a lifetime of incarceration as an adult.
The most moving moment for me was when four year-old Alexis Agurs sang “I Need You to Survive.” Her angelic voice sent waves of tears through the pews. When the other children in the choir joined her, then all of us in the pews, solidarity swept the room. All of us, different from one another in many ways, including faith, were singing together about helping each other.
Speakers invoked Dr. King’s teachings, used words like truth, justice and peace. It was nonpartisan, and politically charged at the same time. Brett Loftis of Council for Children’s Rights in Charlotte urged the full sanctuary that our greatest act of faith will be to build infrastructure in our country to provide basic resources to ALL families, so they can go to work and provide to their children. The event was inherently nonpartisan, but had an emphasis on social programs, which one may align with the Democratic platform. My question is, since when did the protection of children and words like truth, justice and peace get a political connotation?
As we exited the sanctuary, ushers handed us Prayers for the Children Call to Action sheets, describing ways individuals can act in our community to turn this around as a nation.
YWCA correspondent Marianne Schild is attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., from September 3-6. Ask her questions and our Twitter updates by using these Twitter hashtag: #ywcaDNC. Learn more.