In this episode, Diana talks to Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the Executive Director and President of Children’s Defense Fund, which focuses on advocating for the whole child. CDF envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. 

Dr. Wilson joined CDF in 2020, following the living legend Marian Edelman Wright. Dr. Wilson is a gifted preacher, community organizer and leader.

In this heartwarming conversation, Diana and Dr. Wilson discuss:

  • CDF’s work which spans 30 states
  • The annual report produced by CDF, “State of America’s Children” 
  • How CDF centers joy into their work
  • Why childhood poverty is a policy choice and how we can hold our leaders accountable
  • CDF’s policy agenda for the coming six years
  • How Christianity and religion has been used as a reason to marginalize and exclude
  • Why It’s important to expose young people to those who are different than them
  • What parents can do to build a “beloved community” and combat hate

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00:08 – Diana Limongi (Host)
Welcome to Parenting and Politics, a podcast for parents who want to make a difference, where we look at parenting through a political lens. I’m Diana Limongi. Today, our guest is Reverend Dr Starsky Wilson, the executive director and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, which focuses on advocating for the whole child. CDF envisions a nation where marginalized children, flourish leaders prioritize their well-being and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. Dr Wilson joined CDF in 2020 after following the living legend Marion Edelman Wright. You got some big shoes to fill, but I think you’re doing an excellent job. I’m so excited you’re here, dr Wilson.

00:49 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Hi, hi glad to be here, I’m just going to dive right into it.

00:54 – Diana Limongi (Host)
I had a bunch of other things to say, but let’s just get to it, because I’m really excited and have been looking forward to this conversation since I first heard you in November at the 50th anniversary of CDF.

01:09 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
I’m glad to be with you, excited at what? You’re doing and glad to hang with you for a bit.

01:15 – Diana Limongi (Host)
I always start the podcast with the question parenting and politics. Why are we talking about this? I started the podcast as this passion project. I did it because I am a political junkie, but I’m also a mom. Whenever I would watch even cable news, no one was looking at how all of these issues affected parents and families. I was like, well, why are we not doing that Now? That was in 2018, before COVID and before groups like Moms for Liberty are banning books and doing all these awful things. Now, I think that we all know that parenting and politics should be talked about. I think it’s a topic that’s in today’s very front and center. I do always start with parenting and politics. What comes to mind when I put those two things together?

02:09 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, the two things I think about is my mama figuring out how she was going to allocate resources at the house. Definition of politics I learned as a political science major, I learned as a university was who gets what, when, where and why. Nobody was higher on the totem pole for determining the allocation of resources in my family than my mom. There are five of us. I’m the third of five children, the middle child, dun dun dun. It really did come down to the allocation of resources. My mom was in charge of that. That matters for me because I think it’s the same thing. We talk about public policy. It’s really about the allocation of resources who gets what, when, where and why. I think that those who are called to care for people mama’s, big mama’s, abuelitas, fathers across country as well should determine how we allocate resources. Parenting and politics goes together, because that’s who takes care of folks. The economics of the house that’s what comes together. For me, it mirrors what I grew up with. We should be playing that out in the public square as well.

03:24 – Diana Limongi (Host)
I love that you included abuelitas there because they hold it down. I can tell you my mom stepped in for childcare when childcare would have caused my entire paycheck. I get it Absolutely. I’m so grateful for Grandpas and grandpas and everyone who helps us, because it does it takes a whole village. We hear that all the time, but it’s true. It’s not only about mom and dad. We need so many people to come together to help raise our kids.

03:53 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)

03:55 – Diana Limongi (Host)
Absolutely. The Children’s Defense Fund is doing amazing work across the country. You’re present in 30 states, which is very impressive. Before we discuss the work and the policy priorities, I want to start the conversation talking about joy, because I know it’s central to your work. Your tagline is unleashing the joy in growing up, which is so beautiful and something that I think so many of us right now, in this moment, are struggling with. I think let’s talk about why you center joy and well-being at CDF in your work and why we are working to frame everything around the lens of dignity, hope and joy.

04:34 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, I think joy reminds us of why we’re really here. The reality is, within young people there is a commitment, a kind of a jubilance, that we sometimes lose over time. It’s hard to define. People talk about happiness a lot, but there’s something that’s more core, more significant at its essence, that we begin to experience. I know no one who expresses that more and more significantly than my eight-year-old daughter. Her name is Amber. No matter what’s going on in the world, amber is singing, dancing, creating, making up stories, and she’s able to do that when things around her are safe, secure, she feels seen and her needs are met.

The reality is that’s what we want for all young people. We want them to be able to live out and express the essence of what they are here for that moment, which is to experience the world, to be curious, to explore. It’s our responsibility to shape a world, to craft public policy to make that possible. We talk about it fundamentally in this global children’s rights framework. The three-legged stool of children’s rights is really provision, participation and protection. Have we given young people all the things they need? Are we listening to their voices about things that impact them? Are we creating the space where they are not harmed but actually can be fulfilled in their development.

If we’re doing those things, then what they get to do is to be joyous. They don’t have to carry the worries of the world, they don’t have to grow up too soon, they don’t have to be concerned with harm. Our responsibility is to craft communities, to build communities, so young people grow up with that dignity, hope and joy. That’s what we affirm, that’s what we commit ourselves to is to make that possible for 74 million children in America. You talked about big shoes to fill. Frankly, it’s even a bigger challenge to meet up to. I’m glad that we get to do it with folks like you from all over the country.

06:56 – Diana Limongi (Host)
And let’s talk about the state of our country’s children. And State of America’s Children is the title of this report that CDF puts together every year, which, for anybody who doesn’t know, I encourage you to check it out. It is so thorough and has so many statistics that are mind-blowing and you might be really angry after reading it. The report summarizes the status of America’s children in 11 areas Child population, child poverty, income and wealth, inequality, housing and homelessness, child hunger and nutrition, child health, early childhood education, child welfare, youth justice and gun violence. So let’s I’m going to share a little bit of the statistics.

There are 11 million children living in poverty in the United States, and the report explains that I’m going to quote the children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color, children under five, children of single mothers and children in the South suffering from the highest poverty rates.

The report also discusses the under investments in areas such as early education and highlights that the US is spending 2.7 times as much per person on incarceration as it does on education. Right, so we are overspending to incarcerate people, but we are largely under spending to educate and really create those foundations when our kids are younger. So much of the challenges, with the precariousness in the poverty that children face, can be traced back to the policy makers decisions right about like expanding the child tax credit, or like funding WIC and SNAP, and these are issues that we hear about over and over again on the news and it’s always, it’s interesting, it’s always certain policymakers in certain states that are making these policy decisions about, you know, saying no, we, there’s no money, and giving bogus, bogus reasonings as to why they can’t give universal lunch, you know, to all the children.

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson

09:11 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
That’s right, yeah, and frankly, I mean a couple of things. Number one yes, poverty generally, and child poverty specifically, is a public policy choice. That is an option that people are opting for, and I say that without consideration of partisanship. I say that with an eye toward the historical horizon of two generations that the Children’s Defense Fund has served. We have chosen poverty for children by the allocation of resources in our country throughout federal budgets. We have chosen poverty in the last few years by expanding the child tax credit in 2021, creating a public national demonstration project that we can cut child poverty in half, that we have the resources to do it if we can get the will to do it, and then also demonstrating that we don’t have the moral courage, will and commitment to sustain the expanded child tax credit and allowing it to go away. So we doubled child poverty. The kind of remarkable great neck experience of me leading the Children’s Defense Fund is that I saw, in these short three years that I’ve been in service to the mission, that we have cut child poverty in half and we doubled it in a two year period, and so this demonstrates what we actually can do and it doesn’t make sense, right?

You mentioned universal free school meals. We’ve proved within the pandemic that number one. It is a moral choice that and it doesn’t make sense at all that everything at public school is free except for the food but that when we make the food available to all children in a school district, we reduce the shame that comes from standing in line or signing up for free and reduced lunch. We give young people access to the nourishment they need for their brains to actually work in class and fully function. And you know what else we do? We actually cut the cost of administering the lunches. So we cut, so it actually costs less to serve all the kids free lunch for a school district than it does to discriminate between who needs the free lunch and who doesn’t.

But this is also something that we’ve allowed to go away. So these are choices that we make as a country. We make it at an individual school level, we make it at a district level, we make it at a municipal level, we make it at a state level, we make it at a federal level. And so we do need, frankly, this kind of parent movement, this engagement of faith communities. We need the moral voice of young people themselves to continue to say that we’re critically important, and just because we don’t have a voter or lobbyist in Washington DC doesn’t mean that we don’t get prioritized in the allocation of resources.

We’re the country’s greatest treasure young people are, and so we need to hear that voice coming through and make decisions like we believe it.

12:01 – Diana Limongi (Host)
So you are a reverend man, so you know you mentioned we don’t have, we lack the moral courage and lawmakers are making policy choices that impoverish, that don’t feed, that don’t take care of children when they’re sick, right, you know, we have so many states that choose not to expand Medicaid, right.

12:26 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
For example, and choose to give summer feeding programs from the USDA this summer Right. Same states, by the way. So generally the same 15 states or so.

12:36 – Diana Limongi (Host)
Let’s just say it also the states who are saying no to all these programs, I’m going to say, are Republicans led states and they’re also the poorest states, right? So pause for like anger and frustration. So, as a reverend, because we hear there’s a lot of talk about you know family values and like Christian values, in the same states that are saying we’re not gonna choose to not feed children. So how do we reconcile that from that point of view and I ask you that because you are a reverend, so you have knowledge- yeah, I’ll double tap to contextualize.

13:22 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
You read from the state of America’s children that younger children are more likely to be poor, children in the South more likely to be poor. Children who are black or brown more likely to be poor.

So these are all the same states, right? So the Southern states that are not expanding healthcare, expanding Medicaid, those that are rejecting the summer feeding program, expansion from the USDA, those that are also the ones that are the blackest, the brownest and the youngest and the poorest, all those things go together in this context and, to your point, they also are many of the most religious, some of the most churched states, if you will operating this context.

So I think there are a couple of things to go with that. Number one as a Christian minister, what I recognize is that we have in the US unfortunately aligned in so very many ways the moniker of evangelicalism, the moniker of Christianity, with a conserving politic that is focused on personal piety and not the common good. That is not all of Christianity, that is not all of faith communities, but we have kind of aligned those things. And some of that has to do with folks being able to use political rhetoric or use campaigns around certain kinds of ideas to accumulate to themselves political authority and power. Frankly, churches did it around desegregation when they were required to desegregate schools, the establishment of some independent Christian churches and the wholesale kind of exit of white children from public schools in the South and some counties. This was a church construction but it was really about politics. I mean I should be clear to say that is not the faith of Christianity, that is not the core of these faiths, it is a co-opting of religion in the interest of politics. So part of the work we’ve got to do it’s not just critique. We do have to assess that, we have to know that that’s there from a political standpoint, but we also have to be able to provide an alternative witness. So what does it mean?

So part one of the things that we’re working on, the Children’s Defense Fund, is that for 30 years we’ve actually been organizing with religious leaders across the country. We convene hundreds of leaders at Alex Haley Farm in Tennessee every summer and we have something called the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths every October, where we invite faith communities from across the country to focus on children’s issues, to be thoughtful about ways that their theologies and their faith call them to act. So the same Christian evangelicals that are working in places to talk about personal responsibility read from a sacred text each week that says suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven. This idea of a new world is built upon and built around children. They’re the same ones who read a holy book that says let you, without money, come, eat and drink, a call to meet people at hunger and meet their needs. These are the same people who read from a book that talks about the peaceable kingdom being marked by a lion laying down with a lamb and a little child leading them, a picture of care for a toddler being a part of the vision for a new community.

So part of what’s happening is one of our leaders we work with. His name, otis Moss, the third in Trinity, united Church of Christ in Chicago. He says Christianity is not bad. Part of what’s wrong is the wrong. Part of what’s happening is the wrong people have the mic and so we have to kind of share more about the responsibility of care that is also within these faith traditions and apply that to our conversations about public policy, cause we’re called to care for the child, for the elder. We’re called to be a community and meet the needs of people who’ve been caged and incarcerated. We’re called to make sure that people have access to healing and healthcare. Like all of these things are in the same text, so part of what we’ve got to do is to share that message more broadly.

17:42 – Diana Limongi (Host)
So now let’s talk about your vision and your plan at CDF. I know that you laid out like a six year plan after you took some time to really listen to community, and so, yeah, talk to me about what’s going to happen.

18:01 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, really glad to To your point. In the freedom schools that we have in 30 states across the country, we took two summers to listen to students, to parents, to our scholars in that program and asked hey, what’s going on with you and your children, what’s making it hard for you to give them the lives they want? And we asked them what should be the policies that we work together on over the course of a longer term? How do you think about child well-being and how do you define freedom? These are the questions we actually put before parents all across the country, and what they, what they invited us to do, is a few things. Number one, to reframe our thinking that we want to focus on positive aspiration for children, and so we actually shifted our mission statement. We explained very clearly, because we knew that what happened with children was connected well to what was going to be happening in the neighborhood and what was happening with parents and what’s happened with policy. We decided to articulate a new mission that children’s defense fund builds community, so young people grow up with dignity, hope and joy. We know that we don’t do our work. Young people can’t live this expression, so that that’s first and foremost. Second, we knew that we wanted to keep a balance and how we talk about our work of the lived experience of these children, these parents, these young adults, these youth who are out there and what we know from research interests. So, yeah, we there are policy experts and we believe people are experts on their own experience, and so we hold those things together.

And we hold them for a few reasons. Number one we hold them because we have a child well being vision. We don’t want to just stop bad things from happening to children. We recognize we can end child poverty tomorrow and not have economic mobility for our children. We realize we could stop child abuse and neglect tomorrow and not have children be in healthy relationships. We realize we could stop the challenges that come from social, emotional wellness tomorrow and still not have young people who feel whole, seen and fulfilled. And so we needed a positive vision for child well being. That’s number one. Number two we needed to have a children’s rights politic. This is to say, your policies have to be rooted in a politic, and children’s rights suggest that young people are owed some things because they are human, not that they have to earn those things because they have come of age or fight for those things on their own, and so young people have, and our dear friend.

Adam Benforado in a book entitled.

20:39 – Diana Limongi (Host)
He’s Been on the Podcast, yeah, so that’s Adam talks about.

20:44 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
So we rock with Adam right, and this idea about a right to attachment and a right to investment of public and private resources and a right to community support and nurturing, a right to enjoy childhood and a right to be heard and a right to a fresh start and a clean slate as they become adults. Like all of these things, this children’s rights, politics, grounds of child well being vision for us, and what we finally landed on is kind of five big buckets of policy that we’re going to work on. So we’re going to work number one and these are kind of concentric circles, right as the environment matters first. So we’ll work to build just and caring communities. Now, children can’t thrive as long as guns are the number one threat to their lives. Right, the communities have to be just. We have to have equitable contacts with these, with these child welfare and juvenile justice systems among young people, and they’ve got to be safe.

Then we talked about family stability and economic mobility. The young people get the launch from a safe and permanent home, whether that’s a home of kin or of adoption or a foster home. They need a permanent home to launch from and they need to be able to live lives that are better than their parents Like that’s that old idea of the American dream. So families to build in economic mobility is the second policy zone. The third is children’s health and healing. So, yes, this is about coverage, expansion of coverage and care for young people, but it’s also about nourishing meals and walkable community.


And then they’ve got to have access to education for civic life and work. I try to remind people, you know, public education did start to prepare people for the workforce it prepared, it started to prepare them to be citizens with the franchise, and so we got to reclaim the historic mission of public education to prepare young people to be citizens and recognize that they are increasingly citizens and workers in a world where they got to be competitive. And so this requires commitment to things like servant leadership, civics education which is being taken out of those same schools in the south from my home state of Texas that produces so many of the public school textbooks for the rest of the country that that fourth zone of work is around education for civic life and work. And then, finally, early learning and development. We recognize that what happens early lasts a lifetime and the young people need access to quality, equitable care and education. And that also means getting back to that politic right If young people have a right to attachment, their mama has a right to FMLA.

If young people have a right to attachment and we know that their development early is connected to attachment to mom, then making sure that there are extended family leave policies available in states and so partnering to make sure those policies are possible. So those big buckets of policies owns just in caring communities, family stability and economic mobility, children’s health and healing, education for civic life and work, and then, early learning and development will be the path that we will be pursuing, from a policy standpoint, over the course of the next six to seven years.

23:55 – Diana Limongi (Host)
And as you were mentioning all of those policies, I was like, oh snap, wick paid FMLA right Child time’s credit, like all of these things like. And I then I think back to oh, build back better.

You know, that could have gotten us like okay, so the evening of the of the dinner at CDF you spoke so passionately and you called us. You said we have to hold lawmakers and leaders accountable. So I want to talk a little bit about kind of that piece of the work, the CDF Action Council and that work which you know is about grassroots lobbying, advocating at that level, and you just mentioned it. So can you tell us a little bit about how CDF, how the Action Council, does that work of actually holding lawmakers, policy makers, accountable so that they’re centering children when well, we’re hope that’s the hope, right.

24:57 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, no, absolutely. So two things, I’ll say, no three. First part of the brilliance of Mrs Edelman was that we’ve always had kind of this C3 and C4 work happening at the same time for more than 50 years.

So this was a new concept. No idea, cdf Action Council established really upon our inception, and so we’ve always had this element of accountability. Sometimes we do it through public release of reports. We have an annual legislative report card which considers each lawmaker based upon their vote for children, their bill sponsored for children and their issues, bills co-sponsored for children and their actions against the interest of children, and so increasingly though that’s a difficult thing to do A number of organizations have run these report cards.

The challenge is you get these omnibus bills or people start aligning and legislating through the budget process rather than legislating on independent individual bills or omnibus bills around certain issues. So that’s a critical support that we continue to tweak and issue it annually in a nonpartisan way to grade legislators on how they are engaging young people’s issues. But the other, much more significant, which is more of a C3 activity, frankly, is organizing people in community and providing them with tools so that they can hold their lawmakers accountable and they can articulate their vision for what they want in election seasons. So, yes, we do direct legislative education around issues, but we also partner with people who say they want to do something significant for communities, and so we’re talking about this. We’ve got 15,000 children and families we engage every year. We’ve got hundreds of faith leaders that we engage and part of what we’re doing is equipping them in their communities to say, hey, this is how we have a tool called Child Watch. If you want to know what’s going on in the courts with young people, this is how you get access to the family courts. This is how you go and watch. This is how you follow up with a judge to see how they’re doing this thing. These are ways you can pull down your own reports that are publicly accessible. This is how you make sure you have space and show up in a school board meeting. So these are all tools that we’re seeking to do and we’re providing policy education in convenings to unique constituencies, because the real power and authority is with the constituencies.


Mary would always say children don’t have a voice unless you give them your voice. They don’t have a vote unless you give them your vote. So this is part of what we are doing is trying to equip communities to engage that accountability. So, yes, we’ll do the report cards and we continue to organize communities so that with great proximity to where the votes are, with great proximity to where the constituent work is. People are putting their children in front of their legislators. People are putting their children’s interest in front of their congresspeople. This is a critical work that we are helping to equip and train people for as well.

28:11 – Diana Limongi (Host)
All so powerful and especially at this moment, right now, where we are, I feel like all the time I’ve been saying like this is such a critical year I mean midterms, every single thing but it really is. It feels so existential, almost yeah.

28:30 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, I think we’ve seen in the last few years how quickly a thing can turn from a presidential election and the impact that can have on what we see as possible from a legislative standpoint or from an electoral standpoint a pandemic that we would have never deemed possible, a once in a century pandemic and health experience that we would have never seen coming and, in that context, seeing our whole world shift.

And so I do think we have a unique sensitivity now to what the collective and the common good can be, and we have a sense of the precarity of that reality, that things we would have never thought would have been taken away or rolled back, things that, you know, I’m 47 years old, things that have been in place my whole life, rights that have been in place my whole life have been rolled back over the course of the last few years.

And so, yes, it’s a critically important moment not just to protect and to defend, but it’s a critically important moment to frankly paint the picture of a new, broader, more vibrant world and begin to energize people around that hope-filled vision. If we can do that, frankly, this is the kind of energy that is required to overcome the challenges and retrenchment of the moment. It actually requires a vision that is bigger than these realities. I think it was Martin King who says you know, a darkness can’t cast out darkness. Only light can do that, and so part of our responsibility now is to turn on the light of a new vision, a broader, brighter, more vibrant world that we want for our children and young people, and to chase that with all the energy that we’ve got.

30:20 – Diana Limongi (Host)
And I love that. That’s where you’re going with this conversation, because that’s where we’re going. I wanna bring it back to where we started, which is joy. So, in addition to joy, you often speak about beloved community, which is the central tenant, I think, in the kind of activism that I have heard you speak. I went to town with all your sermons preparing for this, so and actually beloved community is actually something that’s been front and center from me personally, because at my children’s school a couple of years ago, we did a reimagining of like our mission statement and all of that, and beloved community is the center. So before our and I’m in New York City before our tagline was like rise and it was like respect, integrity, something. I don’t remember the rest, but now it’s love.

So it’s leader, open minds, I think, valuing voices and E. I can’t remember expanding some experience. I don’t remember. I don’t remember all of them.

This was not part of what I was gonna talk to you about, but it is love. So now we talk about beloved community. So, like, yesterday was Valentine’s Day at my kids’ school and there was, it was beloved community day. So we invited everyone to kind of, you know, wear something that showed love and you know. So I say all of that because beloved community is now literally at the center of you know, every piece of paper that comes home from my kids’ school and they recite something in the morning and it’s really, really powerful.

So I want to ask you about, as parents, how do we help create a beloved community, especially at a time when, like you said, you know we have to keep the light and we have to keep the joy and we have to keep kind of the hope, because I feel like there’s such an uptick to hate and despair and it’s palpable, like I know I’m in New York City and you know you can feel it people are like on edge. Yeah, sometimes you kind of have to take a step back and be like, okay, maybe that person’s having, you know, a bad, you know we’re all going through. Just give them, give people grace and love and come at it, but, but it’s hard. So I guess the question is how, as we, how can we as parents, help create that beloved community when we’re at a time when, when I think, hate and Despair and you know uprise, is it anti-semitism and T Muslim hate and T Asia? You know the hate that’s happening?

32:59 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, I think a couple of things. First, I love that for your school, love hearing about that. What are our values? So we’ve kind of defined our core values as CDF is Justice, equity, compassion, trust and love. So we we are strongly Aligned there and this idea of beloved community is really important. It’s an idealist concept. So Josiah Royce, kind of popular, kind of set it into our consciousness.

Martin King Popularized it on a public stage and it really is about the expression of justice and our public work. And this broader. This was one scholar by the name of Johnny Bernard Hill who treats King as a constructive theologians. It’s a guy trying to define beloved community and he talks about this multi ethnic, multi racial community of justice, of peace and justice, where love is the governing ethic.

Just love that, and I think one of the ways we do it is we have to create space for it. You talked about stepping back. I think part of what we’ve got to do as parents is to make sure that we’re creating space within the context of our homes and our neighborhoods for young people to be exposed to a few things. Number one, to peace, to be able to have a space when they can understand a Solace, if nothing else, where they can turn off and turn down the noise, get to know themselves, their families and one another Without the noise. A great gift to us as CDF. 30 years ago we acquired a space called Alex Haley farm. It’s the final home of Alex Haley and author, author of roots and other writings and popularized this.

Roots is a book about African-American history largely, but it’s it’s a subtitle is the saga of the American family, and so at the farm we get to kind of create a space where we come out of the noise of the rest of the world and we get to practice and exercise the behaviors that we want to see in the world, and young people need that.

So seeing our homes as a space of sanctuary for young people. Seeing our neighborhoods our blocks are cul-de-sacs our Apartment complexes. You know, for me it was like the space in the middle of the courtyard in our apartment complex, like that was my spot where I got to practice what I wanted, what my mom wanted me to see the rest of the world. And so I think, having that solace in that space, creating that for young people With a routine, with their regularity, where they actually just get to turn the stuff off and tune into themselves, to their family, into the neighborhood, it’s really critical for us. The other Is, after that kind of reflection and that space happens, we have to be able to expose young people to things that are different than them and it doesn’t take a long, you know it doesn’t take a long trip for that.

It could be down to the local museum. It could be in a different kind of neighborhood. You know I came from the kind of neighborhoods when we wanted to see really great Christmas lights we had to drive through other neighborhoods so I got to see the houses were a little bigger. On the other side of town I got to see I was one who was a bust into different kinds of schools, for Magnet and tag and talented gifted programs, and so I went to Bar Mitzvahs when I was 12, even though I grew up in a neighborhood where there were no Jewish people. So exposure to other kinds of cultures, ideas and socioeconomic expressions is really critical For young people because the navigation of difference is part of what beloved community is about and the last thing I’ll say.

It is the curation of Humility and care for others through service is really important for beloved community. I I pastored for ten years a multicultural church. Well, I said frankly, we were Interracial and we strive to be multicultural. We’re very clear that we were not from the same racial backgrounds. But to affirm different kind of cultures in one space is a really tough thing. And part of what I said is if you’re comfortable all the time, then you’re probably oppressing somebody in diverse space. You don’t get to have all you want all the time, because some of it is. You have the discomfort of learning somebody else’s comforts. So creating a space where young people can serve others interests so they practice the humility of Circumstriving their own. So I think solace, think exposure and I think service are three ways that parents can help to curate within their children an orientation to live beloved community.

37:42 – Diana Limongi (Host)
I Love all those things.

37:47 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)

37:48 – Diana Limongi (Host)
I want, I do I. I Wanted to tell you exactly what our tagline is, because I felt so silly for not knowing it. It’s love, so it’s leadership, open hearts and minds, voice and engagement. Yes yeah.

I will tell my principal that I had conversation with you and that I gave her a shout out because she she was very intentional about the way you know. She also had listening sessions with staff, with students, with Parents who came in on Saturdays to kind of talk about what we wanted to see in our community. So it was really, really powerful.

38:23 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Yeah, that’s great, that’s great.

38:27 – Diana Limongi (Host)
And everything you were saying. I love when you were. When you were saying you know, I went to Bar Mitzvah’s just yesterday, my daughter. She said something and she said Avia had a but Mitzvah and I said yes, she did. And I’m like she’s seven years old God bless her Like the fact that she knows, because I don’t think I knew what a but or Bar Mitzvah was when I was seven years old.

38:50 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
Right, yeah, yeah, I mean, these are things that you have.

38:54 – Diana Limongi (Host)
It’s just, you know, different people celebrate different things and I get to go to all the parties and learn about the different things because different communities celebrate and I want to learn about all of it.

39:05 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
That’s right, absolutely.

39:07 – Diana Limongi (Host)
And it’s that kind of learning and exchange.

39:10 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
That’ll help us to open our hearts and our minds to different things, and young people in the world are so much flatter, so getting that exposure within the getting the exposure to difference within the context of the loving relationship with parents at home, where you can process these things, is part of how we get beyond the hate too. It’s part of the challenge externally is you get exposed to difference in a way that it feels like a challenge when you are, when you’re getting it in the context of politics and you have nothing, you don’t have a place to put it in the context of a relationship. So I’ve always got a face. When I was just telling you that story, I went back to playing basketball at Daniel Cohen’s house, right, I was playing basketball in redheaded, wreckle faced kid that had a crazy jump shot, who I went to school with from fourth to sixth grade His was the first by Ms Favre, right.

So when I talk about things, when I did interfaith work or whatever right, I hear people talk about war and in difficult areas I put it in the context of my relationship with Daniel and I don’t think about it. It just goes there. And so that exposure for young people, or a lifetime, because they have humanity, they have to put in the context of a conversation about difference and it gets less charged there because there’s something that gets warmed when I think about dang, so I can’t have a charged conversation about what people are bringing me around some of these issues Cause dang it Right, so sorry.

40:42 – Diana Limongi (Host)
It’s so powerful because that you were in fourth grade, yeah.

40:46 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)

40:47 – Diana Limongi (Host)
Thank you so much for joining me. This has been such a delightful conversation and I, the same way I start the podcast of the question of parenting and politics, I always end the podcast with the question about hope. So I always ask my guests what keeps you hopeful?


41:02 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
My children keep me hopeful and beyond. Maybe that’s kind of hokey parents podcast, really that a lot, but they keep me hopeful. And the young people on these campuses across the country we do a lot of kind of student organizing work and I was at Howie University this Sunday with a group of young people. I got a chance to preach in their chapel and have conversations with them after, and their move their capacity to understand and analyze is so wicked Like this is just wicked smart and their empathy and their desire to make it through, their questions about how to handle hard times and how to move forward are absolutely inspirational. I don’t think I was thinking at that level, I wasn’t processing in that way, and so I’ve got hope for what they’re going to build and I think we’re going to have if we’re willing to kind of give them the tools and give them the keys and give them the support.

41:58 – Diana Limongi (Host)
So that gives me hope as well, and that is why you are doing the great work of centering the well-being of children. So you are definitely leading the way, and you’re right. My almost 13 year old will say things. Sometimes I’m like what?

42:14 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
even in my six year olds.

42:16 – Diana Limongi (Host)
I used the wrong pronoun the other day and I was like, oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Yes.

42:24 – Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson (Guest)
No, they’re just absolutely amazing, and I’m grateful that you’re creating spaces like this so we can continue to share and connect. This is really important, and it’s important for parents to hear that they’re not alone in this stuff, and all of our kids ask us questions that are too hard for us to answer in a moment, and there’s things that we can do when we connect these stories together. So thanks.

42:46 – Diana Limongi (Host)
Thank you, dr Wilson, for joining me. I encourage everyone listening to check out Dr Wilson’s powerful sermons and speeches on YouTube and to follow the great work of the Children’s Defense Fund. They are online at childrensdefenseorg and they’re also on social media, so make sure to look them up. And thank you everyone for tuning into this episode of Parenting and Politics. Be sure to subscribe, leave a review, recommend the podcast to your friends, follow us on Instagram at Parenting and Politics, and you can also email your comments and ideas for guests at info at parentingandpoliticspodcastcom. Until next time, don’t forget hope is our superpower. Bye, everyone.