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Al Sharpton at the NAN ConventionThe National Action Network kicked off its 20th anniversary celebration today with an impassioned speech by president and founder Rev. Al Sharpton, who told a packed room of over 200 attendees that his convention isn’t about speeches.

“This is a working convention,” Sharpton said. “This is why it’s called the National Action Network; not the National Pontificating Network or National Procrastination Network. We have real problems, real pain, and we really need to deal with that in our community. We have no time for showboating.”

RELATED: Top Five Things To Watch For At Sharpton’s NAN Convention

The National Action Network, founded in 1991, is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the country, dedicated to the principles of non-violent direct action and civil disobedience.

“We have been fighting for a long time and will continue to do so,” Sharpton continued. “We will talk about the issues affecting our country and create a plan of action to bring these issues to the table right now.”

With the 2012 election season begun, the convention commenced with the panel “Politics 2011-2012: What are the Issues?” moderated by Sharpton and featuring panelists such as New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, former congressman and NYU professor Harold E. Ford Jr., and others.

Keep us bookmarked for continuous coverage of Sharpton’s 2011 NAN Convention!

RELATED: President Obama To Speak At Sharpton Convention Today

The panel focused on issues such as collective bargaining, immigration, and poverty rates. But the center of the attention was dedicated to  unemployment.

With Black unemployment currently at 15 percent and rising, the long lines at job fairs were what affected Lee A. Saunders, treasurer of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

“It’s pretty simple – the issues are jobs and the economy, jobs and the economy, and let me re-emphasize, jobs and the economy,” Saunders said.

Other panelists like MirRam Group founder Roberto Ramirez spoke about the lack of empathy for working people.

“We need to address the wealth disparities in this country,” said Ramirez. “If we can address the deficit and bailing out Wall Street, we can help our poor people in this country. We need to be just as prepared to help Blacks and Latinos whose houses are being foreclosed as those who don’t have a problem paying their mortgage. It is unbelievable that the only job extension in this country can be unemployment extension.”

While jobs were a central issue of the conference, the issue of immigration brought strong emotion from both Ramirez and George Gresham, president of 1199 SEIU.

Said Ramirez: “We are currently under an administration which has deported more individuals than our previous administration. Which is shocking. We can’t even pass something as simple as the Dream Act. Why? Because they’ve put a million requirements to be able to qualify to stay in this country.

“I’m surprised being left-handed isn’t one,” said Ramirez to laughter and clapping.

The rest of the day’s schedule includes panels focusing on guns and violence, plenary presentations by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and a speech by President Obama.

At the end of the first panel, Sharpton announced that he will be going on a city-to-city tour with details to emerge at the end of the convention.

Keep us bookmarked for continuous coverage of Sharpton’s 2011 NAN Convention!

RELATED: President Obama To Speak At Sharpton Convention Today

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