NAACP conference covers issues including elections, education

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Dexter Talbert of Palestine, Texas, always thought he would see an African American nominated for the highest elected office in the country.

But the 50-year-old said he didn’t expect it, or a woman running for vice president, to happen so soon.

“This is major for me,” he said Saturday regarding Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s bid for vice president. “It’s happening all in one time.”

A member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Talbert was among the 100 NAACP members who attended the organization’s two-day state conference at the Mabry Inn, according to Clovis NAACP Chapter President Selmus Price.

The conference’s theme is on voting, according to New Mexico NAACP president Sam Bone.

Experts also conducted workshops on issues including legal redress, social security and health.

The youth conference held at Clovis Community College drew in about 40 students from Las Cruces, Hobbs and Clovis, according to NAACP Regional Youth Field Director Alethea Bonello.

Among the issues discussed during the youth workshops included community advocacy, education and voter empowerment.

“They were excited about this presidential election,” Bonello said. “It’s historical to be able to see that an African American man is running for the highest elected office in the country. It gives them hope about what they can do in this world.”

Clovis Youth NAACP President Janeesha Pleasant said a workshop on addressing gang activity among youth interested her. The workshop came up with ideas including after school programs and communicating with city commissioners to reduce gang activity.

A senior at Clovis High School, Pleasant said she did not think race should be an issue in the presidential election.

“If you have the knowledge and the resources to govern, it shouldn’t matter what color you are,” she said.

Talbert said the important issue in this election is the economy, particularly maintaining and growing jobs in the country.

“I believe the newly elected president will have a challenge on his hands,” he said.

A non-partisan organization, the NAACP does not endorse candidates, according to NAACP General Council Victor Goode, who was the keynote speaker during the conference’s memorial banquet.

“The NAACP will have a full plate regardless of the winner of this election,” he said. “Issues of equal opportunity, to quality education, fair housing, equal access to credit, voting rights and a whole slew of other issues remain for the NAACP and for the nation.”