The National Black Political Convention opens today in Gary, Ind., with dual goals of informing African Americans about pressing issues in addition to developing a black agenda for both major political parties that will hold their respective conventions in July.
The convention, which will be held in the 6,000-seat Genesis Convention Center, is scheduled to open 8:30 a.m. today and end 5 p.m. Saturday. Some of the sessions will be held at the Majestic Star Casino and Hotel in Gary.
Gary was the site of the first black political convention in 1972.
The convention will focus on a number of topics, including educational justice, energy and the environment, civil rights and criminal justice, health, economic opportunity, women’s issues and veterans.
Attendees will discuss global warming, the aging black population, the high rate of homeless and mental illness among black war veterans and the need for a black agenda.
The issues will be presented to the Democratic and Republican platform committees before the parties’ conventions. Democrats will meet July 25-28 in Philadelphia. Republicans will meet July 18-21 in Cleveland. Businessman Donald Trump has secured the Republican nomination for president and Hillary Clinton has wrapped the Democratic nomination for president.
The Libertarian Party has nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as their presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as the party’s vice presidential candidate. The party, which held its convention May 27-30 in Orlando, Fla., is on the ballot in all 50 states.
“We want to have a voice in their party platforms,” said Linda Haithcox Taylor, executive director of the National Policy Alliance, which is sponsoring the convention and represents black federal, state and locally elected officials, is sponsoring the convention.
The 1972 National Black Political convention grew out of a call by the Congressional Black Caucus to develop a national black agenda, according to Prof. Steven F. Lawson’s book Running for Freedom: Civil Rights and Black Politics in America Since 1941.
Lawson is a history professor at Rutgers University.
More than 10,000 people attended the 1972 convention, which was held at a high school. The Genesis Convention Center opened in 1981.
Rev. Jesse Jackson of Chicago-based Operation PUSH, and Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, which is based in New York, are scheduled to speak although neither is listed on the conference’s agenda.