72nd annual NAACP State Convention and Civil Rights Training Conference

(l-r) State Rep. Johnnie Turner, Monroe Woods, Vice President (West TN) of the TN State Conference NAACP, State Rep. (Dist 54) Candidate for Senate (Dist 19) Brenda Gilmore, Gloria J. Sweet-Love, President TN State Conference NAACP and State Rep. Rev. Dr. Harold M Love. (photo: D. Culp)

The 72nd annual NAACP State Convention and Civil Right Training Conference will be etched in the memories of many for years to come. The memorable weekend was kicked off with a press conference; followed by a day of a criminal record expungement clinic; a job fair; health screenings; a religious affairs/membership luncheon; and completed with the resounding vocals of Prophetess Rev. Vernita Lewis. Nashville Branch NAACP President Ludye Wallace delivered greetings.

The health and faith aspects of the overall conference kick off were overseen by Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church, Herman St., pastor, Rev. Charles White, Jr.; with Rev. James Turner II, New Hope Baptist Church, Nashville, and Rev. Aaron Marble, pastor Jefferson St. MB Church. They oversaw the general socialization and empowerment carried on throughout the day and well into the convention weekend.

The opening plenary session and delegate welcome reception took place on Sept. 20-22. The host venue was the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.

The conference received noted written support from Nashville’s Mayor David Briley; Gov. Bill Halsam; David A. Johnson, president, NAACP Tennessee, Youth & College Division; Rev. Dr. Harold M. Love, Jr.; candidates seeking elected offices in Nashville; other elected officials; and other officials from across the mid-state. The conference program was well thought out, effectively planned and put together with unmatched clarity. There were components for both adults and youth.

This year’s slogan proved to be more than catchy. It made practical, understandable sense with each word: ‘Don’t Agonize, Mobilize! (and) Vote!’

There were key, unforgettable purposes behind the history-making event, including all facilitators, speakers and honorees stressing the importance of being or becoming registered voters via the Elections Commission. Becoming or renewing memberships in the NAACP civil rights organization was also emphasized.

“Both are equally important and we cannot expect to fight a productive fight without being qualified, registered members of each,” said Gloria Sweet-Love, State Conference president. Additional affirmations followed throughout the conference by Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings, New Covenant Christian Church of Christ; Marilyn Crawford-Brown, vice president; Sheryl Allen, president; Sweet-Love; and Derrick Johnson, NAACP president/CEO.

The conference in itself was moving and motivating, to say the least. The parents of slain Jocques Clemmons were also here. He was the 31-year-old African American male, shot by a police officer in 2017. His mother, Sheila Clemmons Lee, and his stepfather, Mark T. Lee, raised him. Also, Mrs. Vickie Hembrick, the mother of another police-slain youth, Daniel Hembrick, was escorted by Joy Kimbrough, attorney. Each family was more than well received and consoled with an outpouring of love and prayers form the crowd.
There was a steady stream of powerful words (some leading to valuable slogans), including: ‘train, organize, inform, lead, pursue, move, motivate, equip, advocate, pursue and empower.’

James ‘Curb’ Curbeam, Southern Region organizing coordinator, Nashville, was announced as the Labor and Human Rights Breakfast Speaker for the conference. He was humbly and graciously elevated to president of his division. Joining him was longtime colleague and Teamsters advocate, Carlos Patton.“Leadership is not about the next election, it is about the next generation,” said Curb.

The breakfast invocation was delivered by Tom Savage, Cookville Branch NAACP, United Auto Workers. Musical greats ‘Men on a Mission’ along with Lady Songbird Earlene Gaines Tucker provided musical selections. State Democratic Woman gave the ‘occasion’

The president of Local 667, Memphis, Tenn., delivered a riveting, thought provoking speech, followed by closing remarks from Mrs. Sweet-Love and Recording Secretary Local Trustee (Nashville) TNBC. State Rep. Dist. 54 and Senate candidate for Dist. 19 Brenda Gilmore gave a hearty welcome.

The women strut their stuff in the ‘Hat’s on Parade’ before the speaker; Valoria Armstrong of Chattanooga, Tenn., was introduced. ‘Select honorees’ were granted ‘ridges of honor’ by the presiding officer. Honorees included: Rep. Brenda Gilmore, Madelyn Scales, Beverly Staten, and Glodine Davis (posthumously).

After that workshop completed, the conference segued into another powerful forum: ‘Why the Working Man’s Vote is More Powerful than Ever!’ Karra B. Turrentine, CEO Turrency Political, moderated it.

The conference continued on with an Advocacy Luncheon, which included speaker Ria Thompson-Washington, senior national coordinator-Voting Rights Project of Washington, D.C.; a ‘Freedom Awards Banquet’ with toastmistress Yolanda Beech, 92-Q radio host, Nashville. Sweet-Love presented awards and Gilmore was the moderator. The topic was ‘Conversation with the Next Governor.’ Invited guests included: gubernatorial candidates, Karl Dean, Democratic nominee for governor and former Nashville mayor; and Bill Lee, the Republican nominee for governor.

In the end, as in the beginning, the message remained loud and clear: “I am justice, I am power, I am ready, I am progressive, I am an advocate and I stand out: ‘I am NAACP – Don’t Agonize, Mobilize!’

Interested parties seeking to become a card-carrying member of the oldest civil rights group in the nation, no matter what your religious, ethnic, financial, orientation or any other potential barrier—dismiss them all and join today. Civil rights and fair justice belong to us all: each and every one of us. For more information, see www.tnnaacp.org; email tnnaacp3@bellsouth.net or call 731-660-5580.