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Delegates gather to vote on policy platforms at the NAACP's 114th annual convention

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The 114th annual NAACP National Convention is underway in Boston. Now, each year, delegates from the nation's largest and most widely recognized civil rights organization gather to vote on policy platforms and also attend talks by political leaders and artists, among others. For more on this year's convention, I'm joined by Paris Alston from member station GBH. The theme of this year's conference is Thriving Together. So what can attendees expect?

PARIS ALSTON, BYLINE: Well, A, right now, as the morning begins, the convention hall is pretty empty and quiet. But soon it will be abuzz with nearly 10,000 people who are expected to be here. And for the delegates in attendance, it'll be a time to strategize on an agenda about response to the most pressing issues affecting race and civil rights today. That includes affirmative action, women's reproductive rights and safeguarding education in light of things that are happening in places like Florida. Now, for the public, this is the first time the convention will feature The Hub, a free, interactive experience celebrating Black culture and entertainment. Here's Joclynne Bynoe, the events services manager for the convention, talking about that.

JOCLYNNE BYNOE: It's going to be an immersive experience for people to experience things from arts, entertainment, sports, health and wellness, all of that and much more.

ALSTON: And that includes an interactive site that will be staged like the NAACP Image Awards, where attendees will be able to take photos as if they were accepting an award themselves.

MARTÍNEZ: That's pretty cool. All right. So who are some of the more notable attendees at this year's convention?

ALSTON: So it's business and pleasure here, A. Of course, you have politicians like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congress members Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Justin Jones of Tennessee, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, all of whom are listed as key speakers. But there's also going to be some celebrity sightings, such as rapper Meek Mill - I mean, you know, shoutout, "Dreams And Nightmares" - and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who are both set to be in conversation with professor and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

MARTÍNEZ: I saw there's a big emphasis on the next generation of civil rights leaders at the convention. How are they being spotlighted?

ALSTON: So every year, the convention holds its ACT-SO competition. Now, that stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics. And it brings youth from all over the country to showcase their talent in everything from culinary arts to drawing and dance. I spoke with one participant, 18-year-old Dallas Wilkins of Newark, N.J., who's competing in drawing and painting but also thinking about how to channel his activism through that. And as a rising senior, he said he was disappointed when he heard about the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action.

DALLAS WILKINS: It's already hard for us to be equal in this society, especially when people look at us for our skin color and not really as people. So when a door closes, it just saddens me 'cause then it makes it harder for the next person.

ALSTON: Other students I spoke with highlighted climate change and justice and policing as pressing issues among their peers.

MARTÍNEZ: Earlier, I mentioned how the convention's in Boston, and Boston does not always have the best reputation when it comes to race. So is that being discussed there?

ALSTON: Oh, yes. You know it. So context here - the convention was last held in Boston in 1982, which was right in the aftermath of the forced desegregation bussing crisis of the 1970s. Now, a lot has changed here since then, with the city having elected its first woman and person of color as mayor and also having unveiled the Embrace monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King earlier this year. And many are hoping with that this is a chance for the city to sort of reintroduce itself. Now, they also are saying that Boston has a rich history in the civil rights movement, and they're really hoping that attendees will be able to immerse themselves in that while they're here.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Paris Alston from member station GBH in Boston. Paris, thanks.

ALSTON: Thank you, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLANGE SONG, "I DECIDED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Paris Alston
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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