Pursuing Justice for Children and the Poor Now

Marian Wright Edelman: President, Children’s Defense Fund – Posted: 03/ 2/2012 4:44 pm


I begin each year with a women’s spiritual retreat at CDF-Haley Farm’s leadership development center in prayer, silence, and song seeking God’s guidance for the year ahead. Our very thoughtful retreat leader, Shannon Daley-Harris, never fails to inspire and challenge us with her Bible study and stories — and this year was no exception. She reminded us of God’s non-negotiable demand through the prophets of Israel to pursue justice for the poor and to defend the orphan and widow at a time when the word poor barely enters our political leaders’ mouths and public discourse. She also reminded us that pursue is a word demanding effort and eagerness and not just respecting or following justice. Shannon then shared the story of Victor Perez, in the news in October 2010, to illustrate what pursuing justice means.

Victor is a construction worker by trade but was unemployed for three years. He picked grapes to try to make ends meet for his family. On a fall day he was at his home in Fresno, California, talking with his cousin about a recent Amber Alert. The Amber Alert was named for Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old child who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996, and corresponds to the color of highway warning signs that are activated in Amber Alerts. This Amber Alert was for an eight-year-old girl who had been abducted in their area. As they were standing there talking, he spotted a vehicle that looked like the one in the Amber Alert.

So Victor leapt into his truck and took off in pursuit although he was nervous that the man driving the vehicle might have a weapon. Each time Victor pulled up to try to cut off the vehicle, the man protested “I don’t have no time,” and sped up to try to get away.

Victor later said, “The second time I reached him, the way he acted — yes, I was, for a split second I was nervous until I saw the little girl and all fear was out the window after that, I didn’t have no fear. I wasn’t thinking of me no more. I was just thinking we need to get that little girl to safety.” He added, “I wasn’t going to give up… I couldn’t give up.” So Victor kept pursuing him.

The abductor was pushing the little girl down as he drove, trying to hide her. Victor said, “He kept getting away. He kept going round my truck. The last time I completely said, ‘Either he crashes into me or he stops.’” Finally, on his fourth attempt, Victor forced the vehicle to stop and the abductor shoved the child out. She was saved because Victor hadn’t hesitated in his pursuit. Victor was, Shannon said, aptly named. Afterward, he humbly said, “I just felt like I was doing my part… I just felt like everybody should step up in their own communities