About 35,000 “fired up” Americans are expected to converge on Charlotte, N.C. the Democratic National Convention, Sept. 3-6 as the party seeks to hold on to the White House and regain control of Congress.

The massive undertaking, which happens every four years during a presidential election year, is not merely to officially nominate President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominees for president and vice president, but to energize party faithful to make a final push toward winning the presidency in November.

“There is a tremendous excitement being generated, not only by the people at the convention but by the people who tune in that we are re-nominating Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, a delegate from Maryland. He added, “Not only will it be exciting to African Americans , but to other people, because it shows what we’ve become as a nation.”

But in addition to demonstrating the racial progress that Obama represents, the convention will seek to show how his administration has helped and will help the nation moving forward.

“It gives us an opportunity to show the clear distinction between the path the Republicans want to take the country in and the direction we (Democrats) want to take,” Cummings said.

To that end, speakers in day two and three of the convention will include First Lady Michelle Obama, who can speak to the administration’s work on behalf of women, including their protection of reproductive rights and wage parity; former President Bill Clinton, whose endorsement was critical in 2008 and will be critical this year given his continuing popularity among a swathe of Americans; former Republican governor of Florida Charlie Crist; and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be the DNC’s first Latino keynote speaker.

Not unexpectedly, speakers will also bash Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and the GOP at large. Cummings said he expects speakers will highlight, particularly, Republican-led efforts to “block voting” via voter ID laws, restrictions in voting times and other election changes that opponents say have been especially deleterious to poor, African-American and other minority voters.

“It’s going to make people want to vote even more,” Cummings said, and further predicted, “I think the turnout (at the polls) will be bigger than 2008, and a lot of that (impetus) will come out of the convention.”

To ensure those messages are conveyed, organizers said the convention will be “the most open and accessible in history,” and will make changes in format and venue to allow thousands more Americans to participate. The four-day event begins with CarolinaFest, a family-friendly festival in Uptown Charlotte that celebrates the Carolinas and Virginia and will be open to the public.

On Sept. 6 the convention will move from the Time Warner Cable Arena to the Bank of America Stadium, where thousands—armed with their “community credentials”—can witness Obama’s nomination acceptance speech. Throughout the convention, the public can also keep up the proceedings via a robust social media component.

The fluidity of the format was supported by a change in funding, organizers stated.
“For the first time ever, the Democratic National Convention is not accepting cash from corporations, lobbyists or PACS. That means that U.S residents– rather than special interests – have a stronger voice in the convention process,” organizers stated. The $36.65 million needed was raised through a variety of “grassroot strategies” including solicitations via social media and the online sale of convention merchandise.

In addition to increasing accessibility to the public, the convention has also increased the number of delegates from about 4,000 to 6,000, who were chosen with an eye toward diversity, including racial and ethnic background, gender and sexual orientation.

“Whenever you see an audience at a DNC convention it looks like the United Nations because you have people from various ethnic groups, age groups and genders,” Cummings said. He later added, “We’ve bent over backwards to make sure minorities are appropriately and proportionally represented.”

Among those minority delegates are married couple Donald L. Williams, the first African-American judge in his hometown El Paso, Texas, and Ruth Ybarra Williams, a retired Mexican-American schoolteacher. The pair, who served as convention delegates and campaign volunteers since 2008, said they are proud to represent their community and to support President Obama.

“ representing our people here. Our community. The middle class,” Mrs. Williams said in their profile on the convention website. “We want to push forward; even with everything President Obama has done, there’s more to do still.”

Mr. Williams, a veteran of the civil rights movement in Texas, agreed.

“We’re all in. Whatever happens, I want us to be there. I want to make sure if there’s a vote, we’re there. In many ways, this election is more important than the last one. The last election was about history. This one is about the future.”

For more information:  www.demconvention.com.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO