ATLANTIC CITY – The theme will be “It’s Power”. And the setting will be Atlantic City in July.
National leaders of the NAACP were at the resort Thursday inside the historic Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall to outline details for the 113th National Convention to be held July 14-20 in Atlantic City, the first national convention in person from the Civil Rights Organization since 2019.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson vowed the convention would tackle the toughest issues facing black America and not fall into the traps of infighting, clichés or ‘us vs. us’ distractions .
“The issue on the table now is the issue of fairness,” Johnson said. “Anything that takes us away from the issue is a distraction, and we should be caught up in false arguments around critical race theory that many of us never heard of even a year ago. “
He dismissed any notion that the historic NAACP would compete with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The movements are intergenerational,” he said. “We don’t have time for an us versus us proposition. The power is all of us standing together. Social justice is not a competition. The construction of race and racism is about power. Who is included and who is not.
Organizers said President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were both invited to speak. Confirmed speakers will include South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn, who will receive an award, and Ray Curry, president of the United Automobile Workers union, will be the keynote speaker.
Local leaders have worked for three years to bring the national convention to Atlantic City, which last hosted the organization in 1955, and was the famous setting for the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
The history of those two previous conventions in Atlantic City was in the air Thursday: 1964, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party protested the lack of black representation in the state delegation. It was in the same Boardwalk Hall that Fannie Lou Hamer told the credentials committee, “I’m sick of being sick and tired.
And in 1955, when the NAACP held its national convention at Atlantic City High School, former NAACP president Hazel Dukes, 90, recalled at Thursday’s press conference that the FBI was on site when a sea of white rats were released onto the ground during the annual awards dinner.
“The FBI came because this white supremacist group, we think they turned these white rats [loose] at our annual dinner party,” Dukes said. “During dinner, people started seeing white rats running around. Someone had to know because the FBI was there during our convention. “
“We’re going to hunt rats from Washington DC and other places,” Leon Russell, chairman of the NAACP’s national board of directors, said at the press conference.
At a difficult time in the country’s history, leaders of the historic civil rights organization said the convention would bring people together to seek solutions to black America’s most pressing issues: voting and reproductive rights , student debt, police reform and environmental justice.
The purpose of the convention is to determine priorities for the NAACP’s political agenda for 2022-2023, officials said.
For Atlantic City, the reunion represents a hopefully welcome moment in the spotlight and a triumph for local NAACP leaders who have been pushing to host the national convention for years. The casinos have reserved blocks of rooms for delegates, although the convention is held during the height of the summer season.
Officials say 8,000 to 11,000 people are expected to attend, representing 7,000 room nights and approximately $10 million in economic impact.
“I’m going to tell you this as mayor,” said Mayor Marty Small Sr. “One thing Atlantic City knows how to do is party. You’re going to be pleasantly surprised. future NAACP conventions.
Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, who serves as local chapter president of the NAACP, thanked the national leaders for trying their luck in Atlantic City.
“Thank you all for believing in Atlantic City,” Shabazz said, looking a little surprised to see three years of work come to fruition with an array of national civil rights leaders all gathered at Boardwalk Hall. He joked that Mayor Small should vouch for him when he tells the story the next time they go to their local hairdresser.
“We are so happy to have you here,” he said. “Atlantic City will show up and show up. I guarantee you, I guarantee you, I guarantee you.
Governor Murphy, a former national board member of the NAACP, said the state stands ready to highlight efforts “every day to create a state that embodies racial, social and economic justice.
“Our state’s role in the historic struggle for equality is one that is dear to our hearts and also deserves to be honored,” he said.
To that end, Atlantic City historian Ralph Hunter Sr., founder of the city’s African American Museum, said four special exhibits will be featured at the convention. Shabazz said a brochure about black-owned businesses in Atlantic City would be created to encourage people to spend money there. And he said that 300 young people from Atlantic City would be recruited to participate in the Convention.
Veronica Norris, of the NAACP Philadelphia Chapter. said a contingent of young people from Philadelphia would compete in the convention’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific (ACT-SO) Olympics.
Atlantic City’s last major national political hosting functions in 1964, when the Democratic National Convention was held at Boardwalk Hall, cast an unwanted light on a decaying resort town, but history was made when Fanny Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Delegation protested the credentials committee for more black representation.
The broadcast of the hearing – complete with sobbing members of the credentials committee – was cut short by an unrelated bulletin from Chairman Lyndon Johnson, who feared the controversy would upend his desire for party unity and cost him votes with white Southern Democrats.
READ MORE: Mississippi Freedom delegate Emma Sanders recalls the turbulent years of 1964 in Atlantic City
Dukes noted, of Hamer, that “before white feminists took over, she was front page news.”
The NAACP convention will begin Thursday, July 14 and run through Sunday, July 20. In addition to political workshops and appearances by prominent national leaders, there will be award ceremonies, a youth cooking contest, social events in Atlantic City and the “NAACP Experience.” exposure.
Dukes and the other leaders urged people to attend the convention, which is open to the public. “Come out and tell the world to look at this old ship of Zion,” Dukes said. “The relay is in our hands. See what legacy we will leave. That’s what we do in this space and in this city. Use this power. We can show America that we are going nowhere. We are not going to fall into the trap. We will have our fair share. »