Emphasis on voting, health issues and education dominate state NAACP convention held in Marshall Sept. 26
The NAACP Missouri State Conference held its annual convention at Martin Community Center on Friday, Sept. 26, and Saturday, Sept. 27, with the themes of power, justice, freedom and voting.
"I think it was the best ever," said NAACP Mar-Saline Unit President Clyde Williams, specifying the location, environment and workshops as main reasons for this comment.
Workshop topics included criminal justice, health disparity and civic engagement, with presenters coming from the Department of Justice, FBI and the Office of Minority Health.
"One of our most successful (health disparity) workshops was on sickle-cell anemia. It was amazing to me at that time how many people are impacted by sickle-cell, and the pain that these folks experience daily," Williams said.
In the civic engagement workshop, one of the main activities was the registering of voters.
"We have registered more voters this season than we ever have before," said Williams.
"When you have someone in their 80s come up and register for the first time, saying 'I want to have my voice heard,' it brings tears to one's eye," he added.
Twenty-two colleges and universities from all around Missouri worked to recruit high school students on Friday.
A Soul Food Dinner and Gospel Extravaganza was held Friday evening in the First United Methodist Church New Life Center. The Extravaganza included local singer Bathsheba Love and professional-level musical artists such as violinist Sam Murrell.
During the convention, attendees had the opportunity to hear from the Rev. Everett Hannon, the Rev. Gill Ford, who is also the NAACP regional director, Donald McNeal and Marshall Mayor Connie Latimer.
Ford's speech touched on a book by Mac Anderson titled "You Can't Send a Duck to Eagle School."
Anderson has written, "You can't teach someone to smile, you can't teach someone to serve, you can't teach personality. What you can do, however, is hire people who have those qualities and we can … teach them our culture."
During McNeal's speech, he made a point of the "champion position," which is holding one's arms in a "Y" with your fists tight while spreading your feet to just beyond shoulder width.
Williams said that by the end, state Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, Mayor Latimer and Daniel Tamm, the delegate from Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign, all stood in that position.
"Doctor McNeal, he rocked the house. It was the most inspiring speech I have ever heard him deliver," said Williams, calling it "bone-chilling inspiration."
After Ron Monnig, vice president of Saline County Democratic Club, invited those involved with Obama's campaign to attend the convention, the NAACP contacted McCain's campaign to invite their representatives, as the NAACP is a non-partisan organization.
"For whatever reason," Williams said, "(McCain's campaign was) not able to send anyone."
Though delegates from the presidential campaigns were welcome, Williams said they were not to be allowed to address attendees in any official manner.
Williams clarified that, despite their non-partisan status and refusal to endorse candidates, the NAACP does take a stance on referendums and issues.
Asked prior to the completion of the Martin Community Center if Marshall could hold the convention, Williams worried that the center might not be ready in time, and specifically, that the parking lot would not be paved before the convention, though the Center was completed and asphalt laid before the convention came to town.
Because the convention was held same the weekend as the Missouri State Corn Husking Competition, hotel space was another big concern of Williams'.
"I did not want to send anyone to Sedalia or to Columbia" for their rooms, he said, and he did not have to -- enough space was found in Marshall's hotels.
"Those obstacles came and went, and we had a super convention," Williams said.
"You keep moving," said Williams. "Something's going on all the time. It is a full two days. You more or less have to get in shape to come to one of these things, because you're going to be filled with so much information."
"Everyone left feeling good," he added.
Contact Geoff Rands at firstname.lastname@example.org