By Barney Blakeney
The South Carolina State NAACP Conference of Branches March 28-31 will hold its Southeast Region-5 Convention and Civil Rights Advocacy Institute in Columbia. Some 500 participants are expected to attend the organization’s first regional convention held in the state since economic sanctions were imposed in 1999.
S.C. NAACP State Conference President Brenda C. Murphy said the first official NAACP nationally sponsored event to be held in the state since the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the State House grounds in 2015 is important because it signals a new era. The sanctions imposed some 20 years ago because of the flag’s position of sovereignty prevented the NAACP and many other groups and organizations from coming to the state for various activities. Unfortunately it took the tragic loss of nine lives in the Mother Emanuel AME Church massacre to remove the flag, but its removal heralds a renewed vitality, Murphy said.
More than 300 grassroots community activists, organizers and partner advocacy organizations from across the seven states in the Southeast Region – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee – will participate in the four-day gathering at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
While the full agenda still is being finalized, NAACP National President and CEO Derrick Johnson will join the conventioneers in various activities that will include networking and training in preparation for the 2020 elections, reapportionment and redistricting, Murphy said. Ongoing efforts to address such issues as education reform also will be on the agenda, she said.
She welcomes the opportunity to hold the convention in Columbia saying Mayor Steve Benjamin has been successful in attracting economic opportunity to the city. The NAACP convention is another that will offer opportunities to the cities Black business community, she said.
“The sanctions had some impact, especially with respect to the NAACP since we couldn’t hold any of our functions here. Though this is the national NAACP’s first function, we’ve seen other economic activity – such as basketball games – in the past year. Hopefully our community will realize some benefit,” Murphy said.