The 84th annual NAACP national convention was held for the first time in Bethlehem from Oct. 18-21 at the Sands Casino. The event gives members from multiple chapters across the state the opportunity to convene and discuss social justice issues. (Mudassir Kadri/B&W Staff)

NAACP’s 84th annual state-wide convention held in Bethlehem for first time

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NAACP members from chapters across the state gathered for the organization’s 84th annual convention, held in Bethlehem for the first time, from Oct. 18-21.

Approximately 400 to 500 participants attended the Pennsylvania convention at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem.

Gary Horton, the president of the NAACP branch in Erie, Pennsylvania, said voting was one of the hot topics of discussion. Attendees participated in workshops and listened to panels and speakers focused on youth involvement, labor and social justice.

With midterm elections approaching on Nov. 6, the theme of the convention was “Defeat hate – vote.”

“Given the current political atmosphere, elections are critical to change,” said Sam J. Byrd Jr., a member of the Meadville, Pennsylvania chapter.

Byrd said it’s important to vote so representatives in office reflect citizens’ common interests and goals.

The NAACP provided resources to guide the discussion of voting. Byrd said he now has a lot of information to share with others who didn’t attend the convention, and he can guide discussion regarding voting issues, procedures and hierarchy.

Robert Jackson, a Bethlehem resident, said the convention is a chance for members to meet each year and bring back new ideas to their own chapters.

The NAACP’s mission is to fight discrimination, support marginalized groups and unite people from all groups regardless of color, background or sexuality. Horton said the convention instilled a greater sense of importance in the values of its mission.

Attendees also discussed ways to get more young people involved in the NAACP.

Byrd said many of the people in the room at the Freedom Fund Gala might not be involved 10 to 15 years from now, so younger people need to step up. He said students from local colleges and universities would be great additions to the NAACP because young people have fresh ideas. The organization’s personnel has changed over the years, but still needs more youth members.

Many attendees agreed the convention left them feeling excited to return to their home chapters and Horton said he felt “double-energized” to continue work on the NAACP’s goals.

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