NAN Convention kicks off in nation's capitol
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/11/2013, 4:21 p.m.
With all of the issues in the news affecting the Black community, most notably the Trayvon Martin case, the Rev. Al Sharpton's 14th annual National Action Network (NAN) National Convention, which started on Tuesday, is sure to foster discussions about solutions.
While the convention has historically been held in New York City, this year's gathering will take place in Washington, D.C., at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
On Tuesday, press conferences were held discussing the Martin case. The first was given by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who discussed the federal government's involvement.
"Many of you are greatly--and rightly--concerned about the recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a young man whose future has been lost to the ages," Holder said. "If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action, and at every step, the facts and law will guide us forward."
On the heels of the somewhat bizarre announcement that George Zimmerman's legal representatives are withdrawing from the case, Sharpton pledged his commitment to the case.
"Trayvon Martin committed no crime, and he had every legal right to be where he was," he said. "This case is representation to us of something that happens far too often in our communities."
Sharpton also denounced any acts of violence in reaction to the Martin case, noting that his parents have kept their composure and should be an example to others.
"Trayvon Martin's name must not be tarnished by those who are either for or against with any reckless behavior, even verbally," he said "It is imperative that we make it clear that this family has denounced anything other than nonviolent and peaceful protest."
"For the last 44 days, it has been a nightmare--and this is coming from a mother's perspective. I have been up and down as if I were on a roller coaster," Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said. "But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that justice will be served."
The four-day convention, taking place through Saturday, is bringing out a who's who of politics, civil rights, education, business, the church and corporate America. The event honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and will consist of a series of plenary sessions, panels and special events.
There will also be a special tribute event in honor of the late Black journalist Gil Noble, who passed away last week, hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd.
Featured plenary speakers and special guests include Harvard University professor Dr. Charles Ogletree, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The convention will close with a televised symposium taking place at Howard University entitled "Measuring the Movement: Black Leadership's 12-Month Action Plan," featuring Black leaders of constituencies across the country. For the third year, leaders will assess where we are and what they and their respective organizations pledge to do over a 12-month timeframe to further critical issues impacting people of color including, but not limited to, education reform, unemployment and health care.
The week after the convention, NAN will host its 14th annual Keepers of the Dream Awards on Wednesday, April 18 in New York City at Cipriani on Wall Street. The awards, given each year in April to mark the anniversary of King's death, honor those who have continued to advocate for the principles for which he gave his life.
This year's honorees include Denzel and Pauletta Washington; Karla Ballard, chief of strategic development, media and national partnerships at One Economy; Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup and the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner; and Doug Morris, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. There will be special remarks by Bill Cosby.