Bob Ross, president of the Prince George's County NAACP branch, answers the phone at the branch office in Largo. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Bob Ross, president of the Prince George's County NAACP branch, answers the phone at the branch office in Largo. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

The NAACP will host its 110th annual convention next week in Detroit, anticipating thousands of activists, community leaders and elected officials from across the country.

Hundreds of members of the civil rights organization’s Prince George’s County and D.C. branches plan to attend the convention, which runs from July 20-24 and will welcome eight 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls for a candidate forum.

The candidates who plan to attend the forum Wednesday, July 24 are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

This year’s convention theme: “When we fight, we win.”

“I’m excited about this year’s convention because there’s a presidential election next year with a lot of implications affecting our communities,” said Bob Ross, president of the NAACP’s Prince George’s branch. “Elizabeth Warren is making a case. She’s a true progressive and has the ability to bring people together. I like to hear from them all and see what happens.”

Other scheduled speakers include Jacqueline Patterson, who will speak Sunday, July 21 about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, former Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams, who will address at a luncheon Monday, July 22, and Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton, who plans to speak on a panel Monday.

A career fair is also scheduled for Tuesday, July 23.

The convention hasn’t been held in the Motor City since 2007. The Detroit branch represents the organization’s largest in the nation with about 20,000 members and in May hosted its Fight for Freedom Fund banquet that featured Harris as guest speaker.

During the convention, Ross said the branch will present Maryland legislation passed in this year’s General Assembly that extends the statue of limitations for a homeowner with foreclosed property to file civil action against a mortgage servicing company for “unfair, abusive or deceptive trade practices.”

The legislation, sponsored by state Dels. Charles Sydnor III of Baltimore City and Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-District 21) of College Park, goes into effect Oct. 1.

The county branch plans to send nearly two dozen youth to participate in the NAACPs popular ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) competition. Youth have won numerous awards in visual and performing arts, STEM and other academic activities.

Prince George’s County resident Qiana Johnson, co-founder of a nonprofit Life After Release organization, will attend the convention and participate on a panel to speak about criminal justice reform.

Johnson helps coordinate various programs for returning citizens and others learning the criminal justice system, such as arranging for them to attend court proceedings. The group also coordinated a “Mother’s Day Bailout” for incarcerated mothers to see and spend time with their children on Mother’s Day.

Johnson, who she served more than two years in state prison in Jessup, Maryland, has visited the state capital weekly during the 90-day General Assembly session to advocate for bills.

“I’m very excited, but it’s really nothing to prepare for,” she said about speaking on a national stage for the first time. “It’s my life. It’s what I do.”

Within the NAACP internal structure in terms of memberships, branch secretaries will learn database technology to ensure updated and accurate counts of all members. In addition, it will connect the branches with the national office.

Ross said the Prince George’s and D.C. branches are “blessed” because they have offices to hold meetings, coordinate programs and host voting empowerment sessions. Some branches must organize activities at local churches, schools and other locations.

Akosua Ali, president of the D.C. branch, said the national convention provides an opportunity to align with the organization’s efforts to eliminate race-based discrimination.

“NAACP DC Branch members attending the NAACP National Convention in Detroit, MI will advocate for criminal justice reform, efforts to combat Islamaphobia and more aggressive investigations of police shootings,” she said in a statement. “Due to the historic number of presidential candidates attending this national convention, DC members will also have an opportunity to hear proposed plans to protect affordable access to health care and criminal justice reform.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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