NAACP to stress voting and education at its annual convention
Two themes, the presidential election and black youth, concern Benjamin L. Hooks as he awaits the arrival of more than 16,000 people for the 79th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People this weekend. The convention's main theme is ``Vote! Be Heard.'' But there is also the theme ``Knowledge Is Power,'' in keeping with the NAACP's ongoing program for 1988, ``Back to School/Stay in School.'' The convention will gather at the Washington Sheraton Hotel.
``As black people, we cannot ignore politics and politicians, especially in an election year,'' says Mr. Hooks, the NAACP's executive director and chief executive officer. ``Of course, the NAACP is nonpartisan, but we want all our members to vote.''
Both major presidential candidates, Vice-President George Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, are to address the convention.
``We know that most black people supported Jesse Jackson in the primaries, but they can't afford to take a vacation from the polls in November because he was not nominated,'' Hooks says.
``So we advise, `Vote! Be heard!'''
Mr. Bush is scheduled to address the convention Tuesday morning and Mr. Dukakis on Wednesday morning.
Other politicians with key roles include Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts; Rep. William Gray III of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Budget Committee; and Rep. Floyd Flake of New York. All are Democrats.
Except for the Bush address, Tuesday will be Youth Day at the convention, with more than 1,500 young people from the NAACP's Youth Council, holding their own sessions. The Rev. Jesse Jackson will be their Youth Night speaker that evening. His speech will be open to the public.
``Although the civil rights movement, the school integration movement, and affirmative action campaigns were fought so that our youth would have greater opportunities for jobs and education than we had, we find many of our young people influenced by drug pushers and crime,'' Hooks says. ``We have the nation's largest black youth organization, and we plan to give them a special message at this convention: Stay in school!''
Highlight of youth activities will be a two-hour ``Speak Out'' session during which young people will discuss such problems as drugs, crime, teen parenthood, and education.
Not all youth activity will be doom and gloom, says John Davis, the NAACP's youth and college director. The association will be awarding 24 scholarships, named for Roy Wilkins, its former executive director, to young people across the nation.
``We can't forget that young blacks must also become involved in politics,'' says Mr. Davis. ``At the convention we plan to launch a national effort to register every young person, 18 and over, so they will be eligible vote for president in November.''
The convention will once more serve as host for the finals of ACT-SO, the associaiton's ``academic olympics,'' in the sciences, mathematics, music, writing, and talent.
Other activities will include an addresses by Mary Frances Berry of the US Commission on Civil Rights, at the youth luncheon, and Congressman Flake, at the youth Freedom Fund Awards Dinner. The young people will also hold an ``I Am Somebody'' workshop.
The NAACP convention (scheduled for July 10-14) will open Sunday night when Hooks gives the keynote address Sunday night.
``We still have to take care of unfinished business for traditional causes as well as in new areas,'' Hooks says. ``We want people to register and vote because state and local elections count, too. In Virginia a black man, Lt. Gov. Douglas Wilder, is expected to run for governor on the Democratic ticket.'' Mr. Wilder is also scheduled to address the convention.
``We still are concerned with the economic development of black enterprises,'' Hooks stresses. ``We see many examples of inferior treatment of blacks in the criminal-justice system. We have yet to see fair housing implemented. Early childhood education is a great need. And statistics say blacks need more health-care facilities.''
William Gibson, chairman of the NAACP board, will speak Monday night. The black family is still in crisis in many communities, Mr. Gibson says. ``When we help the black family, we touch bases with teen parenthood or babies having babies, quality health services, school dropouts, and neighborhood security. We have to do something about crime in black communities.''
The NAACP also is concerned with American foreign policy, its leaders say, especially in connection with apartheid in South Africa and self-determination of African, West Indian, and Latin American nations. Randall Robinson of TransAfrica, an American black-sponsored lobby effort in behalf of these nations, is scheduled to address that issue.
Labor is still a friend of the NAACP, says Hooks. Lane Kirkland, the president of the AFL-CIO, is scheduled to speak at a public session.