It’s Time for National Action: Information for Action
The extraordinary number of press representation at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s Annual Convention was enough to cause one to pause. One would think their presence would produce more stories and information. Instead, the number of stories about the content of the various panels was minimal. The amount of shock value stories: those that focus on using the race card and blasting the GOP were those that hit mainstream media. The highlights from these articles dealt with Sharpton as an FBI informant.
A day before the conference began, an old news story about Sharpton’s involve-ment with the FBI surfaced. The story put a negative spotlight on Shartpon’s credibility as some stories suggested that he was a drug dealer and his involvement with the FBI was to get a reduced sentence or to avoid any criminal charges as a result.
Old photos of Al Sharpton hit the news-stands and television stations. The bloated man with the press and curl hair style and ghetto dresser, portrayed as a villain, had resurfaced. This image is very distant from the slender, tailored suit, salt and pepper gentlemen that is gracing the hall of the White House and other high profile venues on a regular basis.
The news media cannot be faulted. It is their job to bring the information to the pub-lic in a way that will invite them to read. It is our chosen profession and there is a lot of respect there as a result. However, it was opportunity lost.
Say what you want about Al Sharpton, love him or hate him, the reality is that he brings folks out, he brings folks together. The truth is that many see him as a leader in
the cause of civil rights. He has a national following within the Black communities at a time when there is a lack of leadership and unity. At a time when a post racial America is favorably recognized and honored by its election of a Black President while the disparities between the races in terms of opportuni-ties and in-come are wider than ever. For a country whose de-mographics are increas-ingly brown-ing, there is significance in one that can begin a positive dia-log to that community.
During this important time in America, the NAN convention brought to the people a chance to connect with their leaders, their officials and also gave individuals an opportunity to hear from them on matters most related to their issues. Most importantly, this convention was free. That meant those who ordinarily would not have access to the caliber of leaders and lectures brought forth by the conven-tion, now had a voice. Unwittingly, it min-gled the 99% with the 1%. The convention was held at the Sheraton NY Hotel on 53rd and Seventh Avenue. Rooms are valued at $200 a night. Break-fast for two cost $75. A floor beneath the convention was a corporate convention filled with white faces and dark suits and ties. The day the President was set to ar-rive, hotel guests were angry and in-convenienced by the security checks and miles of brown faces invading the venue, in-stead of excited that the Presi-dent was set to arrive. This was definitely a time when two separate motivations collid-ed.
Day one saw the new Mayor Bill deBlasio, fresh off his first 100 days in of-fice, speak to the importance of the conven-tion and the need to stand in support of Al Sharpton.
Attorney General Eric Holder ad-dressed the conference one day after pushing back at a Senate committee hearing at which he was told he had little regard for being in contempt.
There were panels which welcomed all sorts of high profile guests: council mem-bers, influentials and community activist to name a fiew. The primary goal stated by Al Sharpton, “to come away with an agenda”. This was to be an action convention!
This highlight of the convention was the keynote speech by the Commander-In-Chief, President Barack Obama. This, again, was a free event. The media focus on his speech were the pieces which attacked the GOPs attempt to suppress voting rights, totally avoiding the entire voting rights is-sue. There was more coverage of date night with the First Lady, than there was the con-tent of his speech and actions that can be taken to secure voting rights for all Ameri-cans.
While this is a lost opportunity for mainstream media, it is great opportunity for community newspapers, including our own news organization, Communities of Color. It showed the value of adding credible com-munity news to ones mainstream news con-sumption. It highlighted how important it is for the communities these news organiza-tions serve to support these news outlets so they can continue to bring in-depth reporting and information which is vital to understand-ing the world and motivating communities to act in that world.
The National Action Network was the springboard. Individuals, now have to take up the mantle.
Published April 2013 Edition