By Antonio Ray Harvey
SAN FRANCISCO — The NAACP California Hawaii State Conference held its 36th annual convention Oct. 27-29 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront Hotel.
The convention featured a series of workshops and discussions organized to promote solutions for some of the most pressing issues impacting Black communities in California and Hawaii. The focus was on a range of topics, including next-generation leadership, environmental justice, housing, veteran’s affairs, labor, education and more.
“This is when we bring our branches to get them trained up and ready to go back into their communities ready to fight for what we’re fighting,” said NAACP Cal-Hi President Rick Callender. “What we are fighting, we’re fighting for criminal justice, environmental justice, equity in education, equity in the legislation and trying to move the NAACP’s agenda forward.”
This year’s event was themed “This Is How We Thrive.” Around 500 NAACP Cal-Hi leaders, delegates, elected officials, activists, organizers, faith leaders and entertainers from across the state and Hawaii participated in the festivities.
Keynote speakers at this year’s convention included Hazel N. Dukes (Spingarn Medalist, NAACP Board of Directors, NAACP New York President), Eleni Kounalakis (California lieutenant governor), Rob Bonta (California attorney general), Shevann Steuben (NAACP Texas Youth & College Division President, NAACP Houston, Young Adult Committee Chair, NAACP Board of Directors), Oakland City Councilwoman Treva Reid (District 7) and Los Angeles-based attorney Kamilah Moore (chair of the California Reparations Task Force).
Moore reminded the attendees at the Women In the NAACP Labor Luncheon Oct. 28 that the NAACP has been a beacon of light ensuring Black Americans are granted their constitutional rights.
Since Feb. 12, 1909, the NAACP has advocated, agitated and litigated for civil rights. Its legacy is built on a foundation of grassroots activism by the biggest civil rights pioneers of the 20th century and is sustained by 21st century activists.
“We are resiliently surviving the afterlife of chattel slavery,” Callender said during the luncheon. “In fact, as African Americans, we have been confronting these lingering badges and incidents of slavery without any significant government aid or private actions. We’ve been doing it on our own and the NAACP is a testament of that.”
Several influential leaders — U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, D-Alameda; Exodie C. Roe III of the federal General Services Administration; and NAACP Senior Vice President of Communications Trovon C. Williams — also spoke at the convention.
NAACP Cal-Hi’s Youth and College Division hosted multiple workshops, including a “Stop the Hate Mock Trial,” and another titled “Youth Focused Dinner, Juvenile Justice Workshop, and Health Forum.”
On Oct. 27, NAACP Cal-Hi presented an exclusive preview of “The Space Race,” a National Geographic documentary that weaves together stories of Black astronauts seeking to break the bonds of social injustice in their quest to reach for the stars.
On the evening of Oct. 28, Callender joined Dukes for a fireside chat at the President’s Awards Dinner. a special “Hats Off Award” ceremony was held Oct. 27 honoring Alice Huffman, president emeritus of the NAACP Cal-HI State Conference.
Moving forward, the Hats Off Award will be incorporated into the convention to recognize individuals from California and Hawaii who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to social justice and equity.
Huffman was first elected president of the Cal-Hi NAACP in 1999 and served eight terms.
She expressed her gratitude for having an award named after her and said she was proud to be around appreciative people at the convention who understood the work she performed for the Cal-Hi NAACP.
“It’s an honor to see all of you, feel your love, feel your understanding and appreciation,” Huffman said. “Let me tell you, it wasn’t always easy, but it was great. I hope that I never let you down. I don’t think that I ever have. I don’t know what else to say to you all but thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Antonio Ray Harvey is a reporter for California Black Media.