Leon Russell
Leon Russell, chairman of the NAACP National Board (Courtesy photo)

As the new administration in the White House continues to cause many to be uneasy, there remains an obvious need for America’s oldest and largest national civil rights organization.

Beginning Saturday, July 22, the NAACP will host its 108th annual convention in Baltimore and organizers said the five-day conference will allow for the setting of policies, programs and plans of action for the coming year, while there will also be a move to address challenges like the current economic climate and the uncertainty and political unrest the nation has seen.

“This year’s convention takes place at a pivotal time for our country, and for our association,” said Leon W. Russell, the chairman of the NAACP national board of directors, said in a statement. “These are changing times, and today, we find ourselves in a new period of turmoil as a nation. We are facing a budget that threatens to gut critical funding for education, a rollback in health care reform that will take affordable care away from 23 million Americans, all while we witness unprecedented efforts to suppress the votes of black and brown people, young people and progressives who would work to see this nation become more inclusive and just.”

The convention will afford those from NAACP branches around the country to meet and share ideas and strategies, said Aba Blankson, the organization’s vice president of communications and digital media.

“The NAACP and the convention are critical at this time,” Blankson said.

While many events during the conference typically aren’t for public consumption, Blankson said this year’s convention will feature several events for everyone to attend.

For instance, beginning Saturday, the NAACP Experience will feature an author pavilion where authors will discuss their works and make them available.

The “Experience” will also include exhibits, a retail expo and health pavilion where health screenings and massages will be available for those in attendance.

“We will also have a diversity career fair on Tuesday and companies like Amazon and Johns Hopkins will be there,” Blankson said.

T-Mobile, Waste Management, the Human Rights Campaign and the U.S. Postal Service have also signed on as exhibitors for the career fair and attendees will be able to engage with corporate leaders and make quality connections that could help build a solid network of professionals who value diversity.

Professional opportunities will be available in the fields of technology, finance, education, insurance, sales, government, nonprofit, retail, food service, health and more, organizers said.

There will also be free activities offered inside the Health Pavilion as organizations will be onsite to provide HIV testing, blood pressure, and glucose screenings at no cost.

Visitors of the pavilion can also receive complimentary massages from licensed therapists along with tips on how to improve their health and wellness.

Various youth events are also scheduled, including a number of workshops.

Further, a public mass meeting will take place on Sunday, July 23 with Russell serving as keynote speaker.

The location of the convention rotates each year and organizers look at cities based on national issues and what the NAACP seeks to accomplish, Blankson said.

“We have 6,000 to 8,000 people coming and we want to go to different places — East Coast, Midwest, we go all over,” she said.

The convention’s theme, “Steadfast and Immovable,” reflects that the NAACP remains poised and committed to seizing the future, according to organizers.

Branch delegates and staff, local youth activists and organizers, legislators, business leaders and celebrities are all again expected to come together to engage, network, share strategies, successes and key learnings with the purpose of driving the NAACP’s agenda forward.

“Our theme for 2017 reminds us that, as an organization, our intent is to fulfill the vision and mission of our founders, and we will leave Baltimore united and committed to making our nation a better place for all,” Derrick Johnson, the vice president of the Board of Directors, said in a release.

The convention will feature a robust series of seminars, committee meetings, workshops, exhibits and panel discussions, augmented with inspiring keynote addresses from key NAACP leadership, civil rights and faith leaders, media, youth and political influencers.

“Fellowshipping is good,” Blankson said. “It provides the opportunity to hear the issues that everyone is facing.”

For more information, including a detailed schedule of events, visit www.naacpconvention.org.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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