When Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, takes to the stage this Thursday at the Charlotte Convention Center for a luncheon address, attendees can expect a gift and a call to action.

For the combined book-tour-and rally, audience members will receive a copy of Edelman’s latest book, “The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting A Course for the Next Generation.” The book is described as a charge to action on the urgent needs of children—a topic that has been the hallmark of Edelman’s work through the years.

Sponsored by the Junior League of Charlotte, Wachovia Foundation and Carolinas Healthcare Foundation, the luncheon is free. However, a suggested donation of $75 (or whatever attendees give) will be accepted, said Junior League spokeswoman Lisa Vaughn. Money raised will benefit the Junior League programs.

Vaughn said Edelman was the perfect choice for the fundraiser because of her lifelong work and the Charlotte Junior League’s mission to improve the community through effective action.

“We’re very excited that she chose to come to Charlotte because she’s definitely someone who speaks our language,” Vaughn said.

Edelman’s latest book is a series of letters to various groups reflecting on social and economic progress as well as setbacks since Martin Luther King Jr.’s death 40 years ago. In 1968, Edelman served as legal counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign being organized by King shortly before his death.

In 1973, the Bennettsville, S.C., native founded the Children’s Defense Fund, which is regarded as the nation’s leading advocacy organization for children’s issues. Edelman also was the first black woman to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar in the mid-1960s and directed the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund in Jackson, Miss., in the 60s.

Edelman has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings. One of her eight books, “The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours,” was on the New York Times bestseller list.

Interest in the event has been so high that the Junior League has moved to a larger room in the Convention Center and additional seats are available, said Vaughn. For more information, contact the League office at 704.372.5993 or go to www.jlcharlotte.org.

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