108th NAACP National Convention in Batlimore, MD (244573)
Credit: Facebook/NAACP

The NAACP focused on its plans to defend communities of color against legislative attempts to further diminish civil rights protections at its 108th National Convention in Baltimore this week.

Kicking off Monday at the Baltimore Convention Center, the five-day convention featured a series of seminars, committee meetings, workshops, exhibits and panel discussions.

The event began with a Federal Policy and Legislative Workshop, bringing together members of Congress to discuss key legislation and public policy issues facing the African-American community during the first session of the 115th Congress. Issues included voting rights, police, gun control, health care, labor and criminal justice reform.

“The slow dismantling of policies that support and undergird our nation’s civil rights laws and protection will neither be accepted nor tolerated by the NAACP,” said NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell. “We plan to utilize our alliances with elected officials, congressional champions and our over 2,200 membership units around the nation to fight back tooth and nail.”

Led by its Washington bureau, the NAACP also empowered audience participants and members as well as civil and human rights advocates from around the nation and world with updated congressional agendas.

Derrick Johnson, vice chairman of the board of directors, was named as interim president and CEO.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and we won’t waste any time getting to it,” Johnson said. “We are facing unprecedented threats to our democracy, and we will not be sidelined while our rights are being eroded every day. We remain steadfast and immovable, and stand ready on the front lines of the fight for justice.”

NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch President Geoffrey Eaton was among three honorees at the 49th NAACP Labor Luncheon Wednesday. Humanitarian and labor rights activist Danny Glover and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker were the keynote speakers.

Breaking with tradition, President Donald Trump declined an invitation to attend NAACP’s National Convention. Trump has been criticized for not speaking or meeting with the NAACP since his election.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that during these pressing and urgent times, the president has chosen to turn his back on the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, though I must admit, his refusal to attend our convention is not totally unexpected,” said Russell.

In response, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump declined the invitation. Referring to the NAACP as “that group,” she said a dialog would take place.

The organization launched its NAACP Forward campaign, a national listening tour as part of the organization’s strategic plan for the future, enhancing its vision, mission and commitment to the fight for civil rights amid political hostility, voter suppression, income inequality, mass incarceration, police brutality and anti-immigrant sentiment.

“Our impetus for today’s NAACP is to effectively reach our dedicated staff and members, community organizers, activists, faith and business leaders, social justice advocates and others, to address the issues and challenges that face African-Americans and our communities,” said Russell.