Thousands of NAACP members and delegates filled the Queen City Friday night in anticipation of the civil rights organization’s annual convention, which begins Saturday morning.
This year, some attendees said, the stakes are higher than ever. The Dallas attack and the officer-involved shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling earlier this month have raised complex questions about the way police relate to black communities.
“These tragic, unfortunate events that took place, they just kind of reinforce and give you more determination work on solving the problem,” said local NAACP chapter president Robert Richardson.
From Saturday to Wednesday, more than 5,000 attendees will hear from political leaders and discuss issues affecting African-Americans around the country.
This year’s theme is, “Our Lives Matter; Our Votes Count,” and NAACP leaders hope the convention will energize black voters to make their voices heard in November.
“It’s not just an election year,” said Los Angeles chapter president Minnie Hadley-Hempstead. “It’s a special kind of election year. We don’t want our country to be divided; we want our country to remain stable."
Of particular concern to the NAACP this year is making sure young people feel motivated and empowered to become politically involved.
Favour Orji, an 18-year-old who came from Seattle to attend the convention, said she was excited to “be surrounded by individuals that are black and African-Americans and people of color that are striving toward greatness.”
“I’m just looking forward to hearing about the different topics they’ll be covering,” Orji said.
For many, it’s a conversation that’s long overdue.