The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a kickoff for its annual convention at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture on Feb 3. Attendees at the news conference included NAACP Baltimore President Tessa Ashton-Hill, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and former NAACP National President Benjamin Jealous.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was one of several guest speakers during the NAACP announcement of its plans to hold its convention in Baltimore in July. (Courtesy photo)

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was one of several guest speakers during the NAACP announcement of its plans to hold its convention in Baltimore in July. (Courtesy photo)

Joan M. Pratt, Baltimore City Comptroller and Bernard C. “Jack” Young, President of the City Council and the Rev. Kevin A. Slayton, Sr., of New Waverly UMC were in attendance. Slayton opened the proceeding with an invocation.

The NAACP has so far announced 12 speakers including Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP President and CEO Cornell WIlliam Brooks and General Counsel Bradford Berry. Topics will cover the NAACP’s Continuing Legal Education program (CLE) and the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural Technology and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) and Youth and College outreach.

The NAACP, founded and still headquartered in Baltimore, will hold its annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center from July 22 through July 26. The convention ratifies annual policy and plan actions for the coming year. This year’s convention will be the 108th since the NAACP’s founding in 1909.

The NAACP has not released a complete schedule of events and speakers as of yet, but the slate runs from July 19 through to July 26.

Jealous described the evolution of the NAACP as a history inseparable from Baltimore.

“You literally cannot explain the power of the NAACP without talking about Baltimore,” Jealous told the AFRO. “Baltimore is the home of our greatest lobbyist in the history of the NAACP: Clarence Mitchell. It’s the home to the greatest lawyer in the history of the NAACP: Thurgood Marshall. It’s also home to one of a very small number of Black newspapers that really helped build the NAACP. Of course, the AFRO and the Murphy Family.”

As the NAACP prepares to determine its future, Jealous pointed out how it directly determines the future of Baltimore, a city that saw an uprising following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015 and in 2016 experienced a record number of homicides.

“The current issues facing Baltimore also speak to the present importance of the NAACP,” Jealous said. “Whether it’s the consent decree signed by our new mayor to undo patterns of mistreatment that developed under past mayors. Whether it’s the spirit of the protests at BWI these past weekends, people have said many times in history that we’ve never needed the NAACP more than we’ve needed it right now. Whether it’s issues in our schools or in our streets or continued discrimination in corporate suites throughout Baltimore, we’ve never needed the NAACP more than we need it right now. And President Trump reminds us of that every day.”