The National Action Network held their 17th annual conference last week at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in Manhattan. The conference began with a ribbon cutting ceremony with the group's founder and president, Reverend Al Sharpton and New York City Mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio. The families of Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin were all in attendance at this year's conference.
Controversial conservative and possible presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson opened up the conference by speaking about social responsibility. The retired neurosurgeon who will make an announcement on May 4 as to whether he will actually run in 2016, spoke candidly about his upbringing in a single parent household and the need for social responsibility in the United States: “I am concerned about the welfare of our nation,” he said. “And I’m concerned about the next generations that come after us. That is much more important than my reputation to be honest with you.”
NAN hosted their annual Keepers of the Dream Awards on Thursday, April 9. The awards are given each year in April to mark the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s death and to honor those who have continued to advocate for the principles for which Dr. King gave his life. This year NAN honored award-winning film producer and director Lee Daniels, actor Anthony Anderson, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, television anchor and producer Soledad O’Brien, motivational speaker and host of Iyanla: Fix My Life, Iyanla Vanzant, and cast members from the highly-rated new show Empire.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Arne Duncan and Julian Castro–members of President Obama’s cabinet were also in attendance and gave remarks during the gala.
Friday's events included a media panel that discussed how race has been covered the media. EBONY.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux, MSNBC National Correspondent Joy Reid, Sunshine Sachs’ Ken Sunshine and ESSENCE’s Vanessa DeLuca headlined the panel. “The stories of Trayvon and Renisha McBride are examples of how social media led to outcomes that were not going to happen,” Lemieux said while on the panel.
While the convention was going on in New York, a video surfaced showing North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager fatally shooting an unarmed Walter L. Scott, 18, in his back after a scuffle following a traffic stop. Officer Slager was charged with murder. On Friday, the New York Daily News reported that a source in Scott’s family indicated that they didn’t want Reverend Sharpton to attend the funeral. The newspaper ran the story with a front page headline that read Back Off Sharpton.
Sharpton refuted those claims and was tardy in moderating the media panel after conducting a conference call with the Associated Press and Scott’s family. “You ought to know what you signed up for,” said Sharpton.
“This is not a joy ride. You go after them, they’ll go after you.”
Reverend Sharpton preached a sermon at WORD Ministries Christian Center in Summerville, South Carolina on Sunday.
The last event during the National Action Network Conference was Sharpton Entertainment's #Fashion4Justice, a fashion and talent showcase organized by Ashley Sharpton, Reverend Sharpton's youngest daughter. The show featured rising models and designers who donned threads designed by Nene L.A. Shiro, LSR Clothing and more. Hosted by R&B Diva, Monifa, actor Chaz Shepherd and DJ’ed by DJ Suss One, the show also featured a Huddle Peace Cypher that was hosted by Smack DVD’s Norbes and featured local artist.
Usually billed as "Flaunting Our Expression," this year's event was rebranded as "Fashion For Justice." Folks in the Sharpton camp deemed it necessary to rename it due to the national crisis of police brutality and murder of unarmed young men of color across the country. “For a civil rights convention and where we are in this movement, I feel like everyone should be taking a stand,” said Ashley Sharpton.
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit www.ScoopB.com.