Thousands of Black journalists, public relations professionals and students from across the country are in New Orleans this week for the 37th annual National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention and Career Fair. Vice President Joe Biden and the family of Trayvon Martin are scheduled to appear at the five-day convention.

This year’s convention will emphasize changes in the media industry and how journalists can best position themselves in the digital age and beyond with the theme “#NABJ12: New Platforms. New Directions. New Orleans.” The gathering will feature major plenary discussions on the 2012 presidential election and the Supreme Court challenge to the federal health care law, as well as workshops and professional development sessions.

“I think there are still a lot of misconceptions about what goes on in New Orleans, and this is a chance to clear that up. It is one of our goals, as NABJ, to get out the true story,” said Nicondra Norwood, president of the New Orleans chapter of NABJ and meteorologist at WVUE-TV, New Orleans’ Fox affiliate. “And of course, New Orleans knows how to put on a good time.”

The convention kicked off in the Crescent City on Wednesday with Biden speaking to NABJ members at the opening ceremony and reception. On Thursday, a panel discussion hosted by the Huffington Post will feature Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin, along with their attorney, Benjamin Crump, and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Huffington Post senior reporter Trymaine Lee will also be on the panel to discuss his role in bringing the story to the mainstream media.

Celebrity guests are also scheduled to attend the convention, including Vanessa Williams, Rockmond Dunbar, Viola Davis, Spike Lee and Anthony Anderson. Jeff Bradshaw and Masha Ambrosius are slated to give musical performances at the event.

NABJ members will also participate in a day of service. The organization has partnered with the St. Bernard Project for a home makeover for several families in New Orleans who were displaced after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There will also be a block party for high school students that will include a book drive, entertainment and celebrity appearances.

“NABJ has not been in the Crescent City since 1983, and there is a lot that has changed,” said NABJ President Gregory Lee. “New Orleans is a great city in terms of its culture, its food and its passion for life. One of the things I am proud of is starting a new tradition of community service where we are taking a day to give back to a community that really needs our services.”