Too many African-American youths have never bothered to read about the famous black leaders of the past, and what's worse, they aren't being pushed by their parents or teachers to learn their history, according to a renowned author and advocate for the disadvantaged.
In addition, black youths have lost touch with the church and often become too "reckless" in society, said Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund and author of several books, including Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change.
"We've got to reweave the pattern of the fabric in the black community," said Dr. Edelman, keynote speaker yesterday at a breakfast sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
"Too many of our black children have never heard the words of [the Rev. Martin Luther] King and Ralph Bunche. They just don't know."
More than 1,400 people attended the 100 Black Women's sixth annual fund-raiser at Martin's West in Woodlawn. The nonprofit group is a women's and children's advocacy organization.
Anne O. Emery, president of the local chapter, said the organization hoped to raise about $40,000 yesterday to add to its yearly goal of about $150,000.
The money is used to assist disadvantaged mothers with their education and on-the-job training programs aimed to empower them to get off of public assistance.
In addition, Dr. Emery said 100,000 people registered to vote during a drive sponsored by the group. The group also works with middle school students throughout the year by exposing them to cultural and education programs.
Within the last four years, the local 100 Black Women chapter provided tuition for 11 students at the Baltimore City Community College, Dr. Emery said.
"I am extremely pleased with the support the community has provided," Dr. Emery said.
Among those at yesterday's breakfast -- which had the theme "It takes an entire village to raise a child" -- were Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
Mr. Schmoke said the organization helped him win the Democratic nomination for mayor in last month's primary election.
"I would not be standing here as a renominated mayor without their support," he said. "There was an historic voter turn-out in the African-American community this year. That sent a signal across the nation."
Marsha Reeves Jews, a charter member of the local 100 Black Women chapter and one of the organizers of yesterday's event, said the group has formed partnerships with the Associated Black Charities and the Liberty Medical Center. "Our goal is to lift up the African-American community as equity partners in this community," she said.