The NAACP family will return home to Charm City for its 108th Annual National Convention July 22- 26, 2017, the organization announced Oct. 29. The NAACP’s national headquarters is located in Northwest Baltimore. The city last hosted the convention in 2000.
“We are indeed coming Home to Baltimore in 2017,” said Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, in a statement. “We intend to make the 108th Convention a showcase for the progress initiated by the NAACP. We will tackle the tough issues and work to insure that our membership leaves the city prepared to advocate for educational, economic, healthcare, criminal justice and voting rights equality across the nation. We look forward to providing further evidence that courage has not skipped this generation.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the city is honored to open its doors for an event such as this. Conventions of this size not only present potentially significant economic gains but also make the city more attractive to other event planners.
“Events like this showcase Baltimore as a world-class convention and tourist destination,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “Baltimore’s rich African-American heritage and culture are closely intertwined with the NAACP’s proud legacy, and we are delighted to bring the NAACP Convention back home.”
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a candidate for governor in the Nov. 4 election, praised the city’s efforts to land the convention.
“I was proud to be part of the many voices who encouraged the NAACP to bring the convention home to Baltimore, and I believe that their choice is proof that Baltimore is open for business and is a great place to visit, work, live, or raise a family,” Brown said in a statement.
Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP, said the mayor has been a major asset in their bid to bring the convention to Baltimore and that Rawlings-Blake is a “good sales agent” for the city.
“The mayor has rolled out the carpet to help me with this,” Hill-Aston told the AFRO. “She sent the video [used in the pitch presentation]. Gave me all kinds of support. Came to every meeting. She’s been behind us 100 percent.”
Bringing the NAACP convention “back home,” Hill-Aston said, has been one of the chief items on the bucket list of things she wanted to achieve while serving as president of the local NAACP branch.
‘I’ve been worrying the Visit Baltimore (tourism agency) staff and the director for almost four-and-a-half years,” she said.
Baltimore initially made a bid for 2016, but that plan was stymied by scheduling conflicts with Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
“We went back to the drawing board two weeks ago,” Hill-Aston said. “Visit Baltimore put a good package together [and the] presentation in Las Vegas was so good, they decided to let us have 2017.”
The local leader said now that the convention site is secured, her next goal is ensuring that minority businesses benefit from the economic opportunities presented by the event and that local residents are involved. A Visit Baltimore spokesperson said the anticipated economic impact from the NAACP convention is between $6 and $10 million.
“I want more than just the members and delegates, I want all the residents of Baltimore to come down to the convention,” Hill-Aston said. “I [also] want to make sure minority businesses have a piece in it. I’ve always been about economic development for minority businesses.”
Dorothy Boulware, AFRO Editor, contributed to this article.