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essa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP. (NAACP Baltimore photo)
Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP. (NAACP Baltimore photo)

NAACP 2017 National Convention coming to Baltimore, really

It’s official this time.

The NAACP National Convention in 2017 will be held in Baltimore, home to the organization’s national headquarters.

“We are indeed coming home to Baltimore in 2017. We intend to make the 108th Convention a showcase for the progress initiated by the NAACP,” Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, said in a news release. ”We will bring delegates, thought leaders and policy makers together in Charm City to insure that we continue to insure the civil and human rights of all people.”

In July, it appeared Baltimore had the 2016 convention and its associated economic impact, which is estimated to be between $6 million and $10 million, in hand. The local chapter sent out a press release announcing it had landed the convention for the first time since 2000.

“Needless to say, this is a big deal for Baltimore,” Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the city branch, said in a statement released to news media at that time. “Our city is the home of the National Headquarters and is rich in civil rights history. The entire city will roll out the red carpet to make the delegates feel at home and welcome. This will also be a great boost economically to the city.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office released a statement crowing about the city’s history and the impact the convention would have.

“We are honored that the NAACP has named Baltimore the host for their 2016 Annual Convention! Baltimore’s rich African American heritage and culture is celebrated and laced throughout the fabric of our city, and the NAACP’s own proud legacy is thriving in Baltimore City today,” Rawlings-Blake said.

But about a week later, the national chapter released a statement essentially saying: not so fast. In the statement it said Baltimore, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Austin, Texas, were all still in the running for the event.

Although Baltimore was the “initial selection” after making a pitch in Las Vegas to the Convention Time and Place Committee, conflicts over the date of the convention arose as the city began negotiating to officially be named convention host. Baltimore was offering the NAACP the weekend of July 4th, which was not compatible with when the NAACP likes to hold its conventions.

“Things can change really quick,” said Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore’s president and CEO.

But when it became came apparent that the dates could not be worked out for the 2016 convention NAACP representatives asked if the city wouldn’t mind looking at hosting in 2017. After trying hard for the past five years to lure the convention back, Noonan said the city responded “absolutely.”

So, after an embarrassing incident of jumping the gun, Baltimore gets the convention it thought it had, just a year later. Now the preparations begin to host a conference that is expected to draw around 8,000 to 9,000 people and the attendant economic impact those visitors will have

“This is a very prestigious convention,” Noonan said.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.