National Action Network’s 13th Annual Convention Begins

Unemployment, immigration and wealth disparity are key topics of discussion.

Posted: 04/06/2011 06:22 PM EDT
Filed Under Barack Obama

Al Sharpton

Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network kicked off its 13th annual national convention in New York City Wednesday to a capacity audience eager to hear speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and, of course, the president himself. Obama's NAN appearance helped to usher in the civil rights organization's 20th anniversary and also signaled the beginning of the president's grassroots re-election campaign.

And though many were excited for President Obama’s speech, Sharpton quickly informed the crowd at the “Politics 2011–2012: What are the Issues?” panel that the four-day conference was about “action, not speeches.”

“This is a working convention,” Sharpton said. “This is why it’s called the National Action Network, not the National Pontificating Network or National Procrastination Network. We have real problems, real pain, and we really need to deal with that in our community. We have no time for showboating.”

Immigration, wealth disparity, and worker’s rights were some of the recurring themes in the 90-minute-long panel as participants including former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. answered the question, “What are the most important issues that must be addressed for voters of color in the upcoming election?”

New York Times columnist Charles Blow said he wanted to see politicians deal with the issue of financial security for the working and middle classes. Meanwhile, Roberto Ramirez, the founding partner MirMam Group, made an impassioned plea for an end to wealth disparity and urged a unified front from Blacks and Latinos on immigration, calling immigration reform “a moral issue.”

As the panel concluded, Sharpton announced that NAN would begin touring cities to continue the dialogue that had been started.

(Photo: Mike Brown /Landov)