Remembering former Bread board member Marie Bledsoe Frasure

Brett Jordan/Unsplash

By Carlos Navarro

This spring, I decided to try to reconnect with some Bread members whom I had served with on Bread for the World’s board over the years. Since Bread’s Advocacy Summit this year was going to be virtual, and 2022 seemed like a long time off, I wanted to try to connect with a small group of folks.

Marie Bledsoe Frasure was on my list. She and I were close decades ago, when we were both Bread for the World activists in Kansas City. In looking her up for this call, I learned that she had just passed away on May 22 of this year. It was a big shock.

Marie and I belonged to a group of volunteers who came together in the 1980s to share ideas and strategies and encourage each other on how best to promote Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters campaigns.

Marie was a very strategic person. At our meetings, she often encouraged us to write letters to the editor about Bread issues to expand our voice. At Bread’s Lobby Days, after visiting her representative’s office from the Third Congressional District in Kansas and her two senators, she would make sure to drop by the offices of other representatives from the Kansas City area with packages of information. She knew that other Bread members from Kansas and Missouri were unable to travel to Washington, D.C., so she was acting on their behalf.

I left Kansas City for Albuquerque in the early 1990s and took that tactic with me. I didn’t get to see Marie as frequently then, but I caught up with her in Washington, D.C., at Bread for the World national gatherings. We also overlapped on the Bread for the World board for a handful of years—she was on Bread’s board from 1990-1996, then again from 1998 to 2003.

One of Marie’s best qualities was her ability to network. She related in a very personal and direct manner with board members, staff, and other activists around the country. She made powerful connections that she used to help address hunger.

For example, Marie was instrumental in getting Lazarus: The Musical off the ground. Lazarus is a musical, written by Joel Underwood, based on the New Testament parable in Luke 16 about a poor man at a rich man’s gate. It highlights how extreme wealth and poverty run against each other and challenges audiences through plot twists that illustrate new perspectives on hunger. Marie set up five performances of Lazarus in Kansas City and Washington, D.C.

The message of Lazarus is the reason Marie became involved with Bread for the World. She believed that caring for our neighbors required us to address the systemic inequalities that create hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

Marie was one of a small group of faith-based activists that Bread sent to the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 to be a part of the ONE Campaign delegation.

“The trip is a statement to the world that we are all lifting up our voices in unity to shout the message that the time is now for action,” Marie said. “There is strength in our many voices—at one table with the same message. It is no longer them and us. It’s just us, together, inclusive of the world’s most vulnerable children, youth, and their families.”

Professionally, Marie was the founder and architect behind Mt. Carmel Community Outreach Programs—for 35 years, she was the driving force. She was nominated as a Presidential Point of Light and received a commendation from President George H. W. Bush. Marie was recruited by U.S. Sen. Bob Dole—another Bread board member—to serve as an advocate for people struggling with hunger and poverty on the Congressional Advisory Committee on Welfare Simplification and Coordination Committee.

She was one of 11 people selected from across the United States to serve on the committee, which made recommendations about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and other issues that have been part of Bread’s policy change agenda for decades.

Marie will be remembered for her work as an anti-hunger and social justice (including racial justice) activist. I think it is appropriate that Bread members, those who are newer and those of us who have been around a long time, recognize her passing and her legacy. For me personally, I will also remember her as a good friend.

Carlos Navarro is a Bread for the World member and activist since 1983 and a past board member (1995-2000) and (2011-2016).

Related Resources