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Children's Defense Fund New Orleans, LA

The pain of Hurricane Katrina, our nation's most devastating natural and human disaster, is still fresh in all of our minds as we continue to witness the struggles of those affected by the tragedy. Though the storm hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, as we all know there is much work to be done to heal the emotional and physical damage caused by the storm.

The Children's Defense Fund responded to the Gulf States most vulnerable children by opening a store-front Freedom School in the 9th Ward in the summer of 2006 to provide invaluable services to children and families affected by the hurricane. The CDF Freedom School operates a full day curriculum and after school services for over 100 children. With a staff of 17 interns, a Project Director, Site Coordinator, Art Therapist and Mental Health Therapist, this program truly makes a difference in the lives of the children who have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Malaak & Marian Wright Edelman
Malaak Compton-Rock and Marian Wright Edelman on a CDF mission to visit residents in a FEMA trailer park in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, LA.

On May 8, 2006 the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) and its founder and president Marian Wright Edelman, led a delegation of prominent women from the entertainment industry to New Orleans to view the devastation first hand. Along with Malaak Compton-Rock, the delegation also included Holly Robinson-Peete, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Katie McGrath, Jurnee Smollet, Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon, Kelly Meyer, Ruthann Huvane, Cicely Tyson, Shannon Rotenberg, Michelle Kydd and many others. After a day of touring the lower 9th Ward, a hospital set up in a Lord & Taylor department store, a FEMA trailer park, and taking part in the opening of the store-front Freedom School, this coalition of women knew that it would "take a village" to help the community rise again. Within this group, most of the women have aided CDF and its mission in many important ways.

Adhering to the "call to action" and feeling an overwhelming since of responsibility, friends Malaak Compton-Rock, Holly Robinson Peete and LaTanya Richardson Jackson quickly mobilized a group of high profile African-American women to donate significant and necessary funds to keep the Freedom School open for this special population of children and families. Along with Kathyrn Chenault, Juanita Jordan, Yvette Lee Bowser, Tonya Lewis Lee, Carol Sutton Lewis, Deleon Sheffield, Erica Reid, Patricia Smith, and Pauletta Washington, the women's efforts led to the continuation of the program and serves as an inspiration to encourage other people to give in similar ways. Additionally, in partnership with Essence Magazine and the Essence Music Festival, Malaak and Chris Rock were honored to host an event at the home of Susan Taylor in June, 2007 to announce Essence's support of CDF's Freedom Schools.

In spring 2008, Malaak Compton-Rock traveled to The Alex Haley Farm in Tennessee to speak about child abuse awareness at the Ella Baker Training Conference, an annual program that is committed to identifying, training, linking and nurturing a cadre of young leaders committed to service and advocacy on behalf of children. In June 2008, Malaak supported CDF at The Essence Festival in New Orleans by taking part in media interviews to promote the Freedom School programs in the Gulf States and nationwide.

For over ten years, CDF has run the Freedom Schools program providing opportunities for quality education, parent engagement, and leadership development for children, young adults, and families in communities where otherwise there would likely be none. In partnership with local churches, schools, institutions of higher learning, and community organizations, CDF Freedom Schools connect the complex needs of children and families to the rich resources of the community. There are currently 56 Freedom School sites in 48 U.S. cities. Please visit to learn more about the Freedom School initiatives.

Founded in 1973, CDF's Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information on The Children's Defense Fund, please visit

Having recently joined CDF's Board of Directors, Malaak Compton-Rock looks forward to her continuing partnership with CDF on behalf of the Freedom School program and all of CDF's initiatives to uplift the lives of children.

35th Annual Gala - Children's Defense Fund

On October 6, 2008, Malaak will take part in a star-studded evening to celebrate 35 years of accomplishments and a future dedicated to our nation's children at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. To purchase tickets and to support the ongoing efforts of the Children's Defense Fund, please click here.

View a video of civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman talking about the needs of poor children in the country and the election from CNN.

The Children

View a video of civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman talking about the needs of poor children in the country from CNN.

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