The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is leaving his position as president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation to become president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in Washington, D.C., accepting the mantle of leadership from “the incomparable Marian Wright Edelman,” he said in an announcement.
“This is a great honor, as she has been a guiding light and one of the mothers of our movement for justice and child well-being,” Wilson said.
The former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission and former pastor of St. John Church (Beloved Community) will assume this new position in December. Wilson also serves as board chair for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and vice-chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration.
“This call is deeply aligned with my values, faith and commitment to our children’s thriving. It is also intimately linked to what we’ve been up to at Deaconess for the last nine years, building a community just for kids,” Wilson said.
“In fact, for the last five years, CDF has been one of our closest partners as we’ve planted a network of CDF Freedom Schools in churches through collaboration with local school districts.” He also had served as a leader of the annual CDF Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
“I’m honored to extend the legacy of Marian Wright Edelman and serve young people through the Children’s Defense Fund at this critical time,” said Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson. “As we wrestle with the politics of the pandemic, protests, and a presidential election, it’s a little too easy to forget about crafting policy for children who don’t get to vote, don’t have lobbyists and can’t make campaign contributions.”
This is the first change in leadership for the Children’s Defense Fund following 47 years of service from founder and civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman.
“Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is the right leader at the right time for the Children’s Defense Fund,” said Edelman. “I’ve gotten to know him over the years, and I have only grown more impressed. We’ve worked closely together on CDF Freedom Schools, and he has a longstanding relationship with the CDF Proctor Institute. Dr. Wilson shares our sense of servant leadership and is committed to training the next generation of servant leaders.”
In 1973, Wright Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund to serve as a strong and independent voice for all children facing challenges in America by advocating for solutions to improve their lives.
“Marian Wright Edelman is a legend – and one of my heroes,” said Hillary Clinton. “I am excited to cheer on her successor, Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, as he leads this vital organization through a moment of reckoning with racial and economic injustice and puts his experience and dedication to work by fighting on behalf of America’s children.”
“Marian Wright Edelman is a five star general in her fight as an advocate for the civil rights and protection of our children, especially those who have been marginalized,” said LaTanya and Samuel L. Jackson, longtime CDF supporters. “Filling her shoes is no easy task, but choosing Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is in perfect step with the goals which she has established. We look forward to continuing our relationship with CDF under Dr. Wilson’s comprehensive guidance.”
“As the Children’s Defense Fund enters this new chapter, the CDF Board is confident that Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is the right leader for this moment and for the future,” said Board Chair Angela Glover Blackwell.
“Just as Marian Wright Edelman created the nation’s premier child advocacy organization on the foundation of the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Wilson’s leadership carries CDF on to the foundation being laid by the Black Lives Matter movement. I look forward to working with Dr. Wilson and continuing this critical work under such an inspiring leader.”
Wilson will leave St. Louis to assume this new role.
“While I get to continue to choose children, justice, policy advocacy and power-building, the transition to CDF’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. will mean losing proximity to our passionate staff, dedicated board members and committed network of partners and child advocates in St. Louis,” Wilson said.
“Until I leave and for the rest of my life, I will continue to express my appreciation for the ways you have formed me for the future.”
He said he will be “running hard” here until he leaves.
“I plan on running hard through the finish line with the Deaconess team,” Wilson said. “Over the next few months, we’ve got a Census gap to close, a democracy to save and more investments in children and youth to make. So, join us.