NAACP convention opens with increased sense of urgency

Officials opened the 110th National NAACP Convention on Saturday, July 20, 2019, in Detroit by declaring a fight to eliminate racism, boost voter participation, increase economic empowerment among African Americans, and prove its relevancy in the nation’s highly charged racial climate.

The convention, expected to draw at least 10,000 people and add $11 million to the local economy, returned to Detroit for the first time since 2007, when it attempted to bury the n-word. Coming days after President Donald Trump told four freshmen U.S. Congresswomen to go back where they came from and while children are being caged on the southern border, officials said this year’s convention began with a renewed sense of urgency.

Referring to Trump’s remarks, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said a “xenophobic and racist climate [is] germinating from the White House,” and challenged anyone doubting the relevancy of the organization in the 21st century.

“If there was ever a need for the NAACP, it is now,” said the native Detroiter.

NAACP Chair Leon W. Russell also stressed the critical need for the organization to stand on its founding principles.

“The NAACP is the seed from which we will take our fight to the United States of America to end racism, to make sure justice flows like water, to ensure that all people are treated equally and fairly,”

Russell said. “We are the NAACP and when we fight, we win.”

Vice Chair Karen Boykin-Towns said she believes people living in some communities are feeling “a bit despondent” because of all the pressures they currently are experiencing in this nation.

“It’s time for us to get organized, get energized, because we must fight,” she said. “Our societies, our communities are depending on the fight we need to wage.”

Boykins-Towns also issued a warning for political candidates who traditionally have depended on the Black vote: Don’t take it for granted anymore.

“It’s not about how you make us feel, it’s about the policies you are waging which will impact our communities,” she said. “We cannot be beholden to anybody.”

Officials didn’t mince words, and one sent a message directly to Trump.

“Mr. President, we ain’t going nowhere,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP chapter, the nation’s largest with 20,000 members. “We are as American as apple pie.”

A key objective to prepare for the 2020 election, he said, is to “change direction.”

Tiffany Dena Loftin, director of the organization’s Youth and College Division, emphasized the need for the organization to engage millennials and Generation Z, who she said will lead the NAACP into its future. She highlighted her work to close the divide between younger and older members.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan welcomed the convention and promised to continue working with the historic organization to tackle economic issues plaguing city residents, such as auto insurance so expensive it remains out of reach for about half of Detroiters.

The convention for the nation’s foremost civil rights organization runs through Wednesday, July 24, 2019, and will address other critical issues such as healthcare, access to quality education, criminal justice and the 2020 agenda. Convention attendees will have the opportunity to discuss these issues with top 2020 presidential contenders during Wednesday’s Presidential Candidates Forum.

Saturday’s proceedings began with a ribbon cutting for the exhibition hall, which featured dozens of vendors including Walmart and Nissan, whose display included an Altima and a racetrack for miniature cars.

Television and radio personality Loni Love, a co-host on the syndicated daytime talk show The Real, helped moderate the festivities and interviewed newsmakers, including star choreographer Anthony Burrell, on the NAACP’s Experience stage. The Detroit native said she was humbled to be a guest of honor at this year’s convention.

Loni Love talks to choreographer Anthony Burrell

“I grew up on the NAACP. I’m a member of the NAACP and I’m an Image Award winner,” Love said. “Whatever my platform is, whether it’s television, radio or even stand-up, I try to instill inspiration and hope.

“The NAACP believes in the same thing I do, which is equality for all people.”

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