Eric Holder and a cadre of heavy-hitting Obama Administration officials will kick off the annual National Action Network’s (NAN) national convention next week in Washington, D.C. Most of the panel discussions will focus on issues that voters, especially African-Americans, will have in mind when they step into ballot box come November.
The four-day convention, beginning Wednesday, April 11 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, is free and open to the public.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, President and Founder of NAN, has been particularly active this year in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. The convention’s “Criminal Justice” session, featuring President Barack Obama’s former professor at Harvard Law School Dr. Charles J. Ogletree, will likely focus on Martin and other issues of injustice facing African-Americans. Alfred C. Liggins III, Chief Executive Officer of Radio One, will be featured in the “Media: Race & Politics” session along with Washington Post staff writers Jonathan Capehart and Nia-Malika Henderson, and other leading media professionals. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Radio One is the parent company of NewsOne.]
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will lead back-to-back plenary sessions. With African-Americans ranking highest among the unemployed and those experiencing healthcare disparities, both sessions will give attendees the opportunity to hear from Obama’s top advisors. Six current cabinet members in total will participate in the convention.
While the Rev. Sharpton has enjoyed a close relationship with the President and his administration — Obama having kicked off his re-election campaign at last year’s NAN convention — Sharpton says that this year’s gathering isn’t meant to be a cozy get-together where Obama’s team can address convention attendees unchallenged.
“Otherwise, we’re just having a soundbite forum,” Sharpton said. “We determined when we started making the movement three years ago to stop the soundbites where everyone sits on the stage, give their best lines, and nothing happens. Our people need accountability and concrete progress.
“We do not need just… people with soundbites,” Sharpton continued, adding that if speakers were coming to simply spout platitudes, that “they ought to be in the rap industry not in civil rights work.”