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NAN convention brings out best and brightest

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/3/2014, 9:36 a.m.
President Barack Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio are among the big names attending the ...
Rev. Al Sharpton speaks at the National Action Network's memorial for Nelson Mandela Photo by Bill Moore

President Barack Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio are among the big names attending the Rev. Al Sharpton’s 16th annual National Action Network (NAN) national convention at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel from April 9-12.

The 2014 national convention will address issues of civil rights and social justice, including gun control reform, education, health and wellness and economic justice. On the heels of the fight to abolish “Stand Your Ground” laws in several states, the convention is also serving as a brainstorming session to find ways to get state legislatures to change the law.

“At our national convention, will we lay out a state map and we will have a national strategy on making legislative change,” Sharpton said in a recent interview about the convention. “This is not about a movement but a movement until we can repeal those laws.”

Throughout each day, a number of panels and breakout sessions are scheduled to take place. Sessions include mass incarceration, the Black church, immigration and the role of social media. The McDonald’s showcase of the stars and the NAN annual fashion show are also on the schedule.

Many of the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academics are attending the convention to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address additional key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration, which will be key in this midterm election year.

One notable session at the convention will be the “Black Men’s Panel,” which will discuss Obama’s signing of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative and the role of mentoring young Black men.

“Through the panel, we plan to address specific actions that organizations and individuals can focus on to ensure that our young men are being properly guided,” said Janaye Ingram, executive director of NAN. “When we are able to uplift our men and restore their confidence in a society where they have at times been castigated and pushed aside, we will be able to restore strength to our community and promise to future generations.”

Throughout the convention, NAN is hosting the Community Resource Center. The center will house resources ranging from health screenings to education and social service materials. The NAN Community Resource Center will work to provide convention attendees with accurate information that people can immediately use.

The annual Keepers of the Dream Awards will take place on April 9, which commemorates the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Women’s Power Breakfast will be held on April 10. The event provides an opportunity for attendees to address issues that are of particular importance to women. Past participants have included White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Marian Wright Edelman.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is being honored on April 10 at the Bayard Rustin Labor Luncheon. On April 11, the Dr. Williams A. Jones Memorial Breakfast will be held, bringing 250 ministers from across the country. The breakfast is named in memory of the late Rev. Dr. William Augustus Jones Jr., former pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn. As part of the breakfast program, NAN honors individuals for their contribution to social justice.

The convention will convene its annual leadership forum, “Measuring the Movement: 50 Years After President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.” The forum will be hosted by Sharpton on April 12. Panelists include Lorraine C. Miller of the NAACP, Sherrilyn Ifill from the NAACP LDF, Marc Morial from the National Urban League and Melanie Campbell from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and there will also be a special youth panel.

The convention is free and open to the public; however, some events require tickets. For more information, go to www.nationalactionnetwork.net or call 212-690-3070.