Hannah Bauman (MPP '18) is submitting this field report from her summer 2017 internship at the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) where she worked on the policy team.
This summer, I interned on the policy team at the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all children have an equal opportunity to succeed in life. My dream of working at CDF began four years prior, when I saw the founder and president, Marian Wright Edelman, speak on a panel in Montgomery, Alabama where I was then a high school teacher. Mrs. Edelman, the first African-American woman to pass the bar in the state of Mississippi, has been a tireless child advocate and a pillar of the civil rights movement since the 1960s, when she led a group of policymakers, including Senator Robert Kennedy, through the Mississippi Delta to raise awareness about child hunger and poverty in the region, a tour that culminated in a national discussion about the state of our nation's most vulnerable children.
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I too spent a formative, sweltering summer in the Delta, teaching summer school to a group of lovable seventh graders in Belzoni, Mississippi as part of my training to be a teacher. Belzoni, one of four U.S. cities that lays claim to the title "Catfish Capital USA," is also the site of the 1955 murder of local NAACP official and voting rights activist Rev. George Lee, a killing that many believe to mark the beginning of the modern day civil rights movement. My time in Belzoni was marked by a sharp and growing awareness of the very tangible ways in which the past leaves its mark on the present; an awareness rendered possible only by my own racial, economic, and educational privilege. It is impossible to drive through the cotton fields and not-quite ghost towns of the South and not understand the ways that our country's violent and oppressive history colors, quite literally, our present. The sins of our nation's past continue to reach forward and grab hold of our future through children; one in five children in the U.S. grows up in poverty, for children of color that number rises to one in three.
It was that summer that laid the foundation for me to believe deeply in the mission of the Children's Defense Fund. Mrs. Edelman's insistence on justice for children--which acknowledges the intersections of race, poverty, disability, and immigration status--is unfortunately rare in the world of policy and one of the reasons that I have long admired CDF's work. As an intern on the policy team, I spent my time this summer doing research for some of CDF's most well-known reports including Ending Child Poverty Now and State of America's Children. I also had the chance to write memos for Mrs. Edelman about efforts surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report on America's 1968 riots as well as the 50th anniversary of the Poor People's campaign. Along with writing a report summarizing new and relevant research on child poverty alleviation policies, as well as attending meetings and rallies on the Hill surrounding the summer's contentious health care discussion, I was quite busy!
The chance to intern at the Children’s Defense Fund was the next step in what I hope to be a lifelong career advocating for children like the ones that both I and Mrs. Edelman had the pleasure of meeting in Mississippi, and an experience for which I will be forever grateful.
Hannah Bauman (MPP '18) was a high school English teacher in Montgomery, Alabama for three years before coming to the Ford School. She completed Teach for America and opted to continue in her placement school while earning her teaching certificate. Bauman graduated from Grinnell College in 2013 with a dual-bachelor's in history and French. She is primarily interested in poverty, children, and urban social policy.
Bauman's internship at the Children's Defense Fund was made possible through support from Mitch (MPP '78) and Johanna Vernick.