ATLANTIC CITY — On Thursday, large crowds of delegates will begin arriving for the NAACP’s 113th Annual National Convention, a week-long event that will highlight rich pieces of the city’s black history while drawing thousands of visitors to the station this summer.
Yolanda Melville, vice president of the NAACP Atlantic City chapter, said bringing the national convention back here is the culmination of four years of hard work lobbying, organizing and preparing.
“We’re all thrilled the convention is back in Atlantic City and can’t wait for it all to start on Thursday,” Melville said.
Melville, a local attorney, was instrumental in initiating the proposal – she met with NAACP National Committee Chairman Michael T. Turner at a Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., and first floated the idea that this self-described “small town” was big enough for the national stage. Melville told Turner to keep Atlantic City in mind as a possible destination for the convention. Once they both spoke, Melville pitched the idea to Atlantic City NAACP Chapter President Kaleem Shabazz and other NAACP members. After everyone agreed, they decided to win the auction.
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Atlantic City is no stranger to the NAACP convention. The resort town hosted the 46th annual convention in June 1955. The five-day event was held at Atlantic City High School.
This time around, the convention will have a big presence in the city as the Tropicana Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Atlantic City Convention Center will host a regular parade of conferences, luncheons and events.
Larry Sieg, president and CEO of Meet AC, Atlantic City’s convention and visitor bureau, expects about 8,000 people to attend and the convention will bring more than $9 million to the local economy.
At recent NAACP conventions, notable political figures have attended and given speeches, such as the President and Vice President, as well as prominent civil rights activists such as the Reverend Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump. This year’s convention falls in a midterm election year, and because of that, Melville said, “anybody who’s anybody” could show up.
Melville was unsure if President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris would make an appearance. They both attended the last convention in person in 2019 in Detroit.
As this year’s conference is the first to be held in person in three years, a large and enthusiastic attendance is expected.
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“Atlantic City is going to be hot, but in a good way,” Turner said in a recent chat with Shabazz and Melville posted on the city’s NAACP YouTube channel. “With the pandemic, people have been stuck at home and haven’t been able to get out as much. For the past two years, people have been eager to get out and engage with others, so I think delegates and members of the general public are going to be excited for it.”
The original room blocks reserved for delegates have already been taken, Shabazz said, so organizers had to work with area hotels to secure additional rooms.
The convention organizers are also working closely with the city and police to ensure there will be adequate security.
“We have coordinated law enforcement presence as well as private security. Delegates can be assured that security will be at the highest level for everyone,” Shabazz said.
The city’s acting police officer in charge, James Sarkos, said several law enforcement agencies will be in the city to help with security.
“The security effort will be a co-response between local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies,” Sarkos said.
Another aspect of the convention is to show young black people what the NAACP has to offer. Maryam Sarhan, who is the Community Organizer for the Atlantic City NAACP Chapter, has been working to bring local youth to the convention and hopes the event will have a big impact on them.
“When they see black men and women from across the country presenting their initiatives to delegates and attendees, I hope they can look up to these people as role models and perhaps aspire to be like them in the future.” , said Sarhan. .
The importance of themes
Since its inception, each NAACP convention has had a specific theme.
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This year’s theme is #ThisisPower. The various events throughout the convention will address issues related to voting and reproductive rights, student debt and police reform. The NAACP will also use the convention as a time to outline its policy agenda for the remainder of this year and into 2023.
The last two conventions, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were themed #WeAreDoneDying and #FightingForward, and events at both highlighted racial justice.
Here is an overview of some previous themes:
- The last in-person convention was in 2019 in Detroit, and the theme was “When We Fight, We Win.” Police brutality, voter suppression and mental health were issues highlighted.
- In 2016, a crucial election year, the convention was held in Cincinnati. The theme was “Our Lives Matter, Our Votes Matter”, as the convention highlighted the killings of black men and black police officers.
- The 105th convention in 2014 was held in Las Vegas and focused on voting. The theme was “All for justice and equality”.
- In 2013, the convention was held in Orlando, Florida under the theme “We will not be moved”. The theme is derived from the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the death in 2013 based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The law allows people to use lethal force when they believe it is necessary to defend themselves.
A rich history
The first convention was held on May 31, 1909, at Cooper Union College in New York after NAACP founder William English Walling observed a series of riots and lynchings in Springfield, Illinois.
After seeing the violence, he called for a meeting with activists across the country to discuss and find ways to lessen the violence.
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In attendance were civil rights activists WEB DuBois and Ida B. Wells-Barnett as well as more than 300 black and white activists. In addition to proposing ways to mitigate violence against African Americans, another goal of that first meeting was to secure the rights set forth in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
After that first meeting, the group decided to call itself the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They would make these meetings an annual event, and with this the NAACP annual convention was born with the purpose of celebrating the accomplishments of African Americans, setting goals for the future, and resolving ongoing issues within the community.
Wells-Barnett was the first guest speaker at one of these conventions. Over the years, prominent American personalities have been invited to speak.
Regardless of the party, the current president is always invited by the organization to give a speech. The first president to speak at an NAACP convention was Harry Truman in 1947, and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he urged the federal government to put more emphasis on securing civil rights for African Americans. .
This year, Washington could have a big presence as Biden and Harris have been invited to attend, as well as US senses Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, both DN.J. Governor Phil Murphy was invited to attend along with Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr.
If you are going to
The 113th NAACP convention will take place July 14-21 at the Atlantic City Convention Center and other area venues. The general public is invited to attend the various workshops and events throughout the week. You don’t need to be a member of the NAACP, but you do need to register. To do this, go to naacp2022-observer-nm.streampoint.com.
For more information, visit naacp.org/convention/schedule.