Via: defendernetwork.com

From March 31 – April 2 the NAACP’s Region VI will hold its 2011 Civil Rights Advocacy Training Institute (CRATI). The event will take place at Houston’s Crown Plaza Hotel Northwest Brookhollow (12801 Northwest Fwy, 77040). The theme for this year’s conference is “Civil Rights Under Siege: Planning for a Better Future.”

Advocacy volunteers from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico will be in attendance as the NAACP offers participants intense training opportunities that will focus on the organization’s five strategic initiatives: health, civic engagement, education, economic empowerment and criminal justice.

“Historically, the NAACP Texas has had a number of great victories lately, including integrating the Texas Rangers and defending the Voting Rights Act,” said Gary Bledsoe, President of NAACP Texas. “In the future I would like to see the NAACP have the latitude to change its fundamental thrust. Surely, we would be concerned about internal ills in the community, but also effectively address issues from a lobby perspective for interests of concern in the African American community.”

CRATI seeks to equip the NAACP’s next generation of leaders via the event’s activities with the skills necessary to continue advancing the iconic organization’s legacy.

Speakers at the event will include Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP President & CEO; Roslyn Brock, NAACP Board Chair; Congressman Al Green; Dr. Joe Leonard, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Civil Rights Department; Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney; David Lopez, General Counsel, EEOC Washington; and Mr. Hillary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington, Senior VP Advocacy & Policy.

CRATI will feature a Public Health Summit, Gospel Revival, Town Hall Hearing on Police Misconduct, and a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the NAACP’s Youth & College Division. In addition, there will be a Major Taylor Bike Ride on the last day of the event—a 10-mile ride led by regional state presidents and Senator Rodney Ellis.

But the bulk of the training will take place in CRATI’s workshops which will focus on New Energy, Legal Redress, Economic Development, Redistricting, HIV/AIDS and Branch Administration. There will also be special sessions for youth and college-aged attendees.

During 2010 the NAACP Texas rallied members and members of the general citizenry around opposing the then proposed changes to the state’s public school social studies curriculum and textbooks—changes that were viewed as greatly diminishing the presence in classroom discussions of the historical local and national contributions of Blacks, Latinos and women.

Bledsoe and other NAACP officers view the 2011 CRATI as providing participants with specific tools that can make them more effective at advocating for such issues with legislators and others decision makers.

Lauren Timmons, a 20 year old mother and aspiring college student, was inspired by the NAACP’s efforts regarding the Texas Textbook battle, and hopes to attend this year’s CRATI.

“I have always chosen to stay on the sidelines and let others get involved in political issues,” said Timmons. “But seeing how people my age and younger were so active trying to get people to understand the importance of our state textbook changes inspired me to want to get more active.”

Timmons who has friends that are members of the NAACP is looking forward to CRATI’s lineup of activities.

“I can’t wait for the workshops. I want to see how I can make a difference,” said Timmons.

“We have 18 national NAACP staff members coming to attend along with members from five states,” said Carolyn Scantlebury, a member of the NAACP Texas executive committee. “So it’s going to be a powerful event.”

CRATI is blending its conference with the National NAACP Health, Membership and Stakeholder Relationship Department’s “Let it Rise” 10-City Tour. That initiative has three components: Faith Leaders Roundtable Discussion; Revival; and Health Summit & Membership Drive.

“In the next 100 years I would like to see the NAACP be effective at reaching out to both political parties, and take the issues of race out of the political debate. Issues of humanity need to be made part of the humanitarian process. Right now, that’s not there. We talk about hate crimes and denigrating people, denying rights of citizenship because of their color or background, those things should just be understood as children of God as part of the human race. I’m really saddened by what I see in reference to the hostility against President Obama, fueled by racial hostility, and it shows us just how much further we have to go,” said Bledsoe.

For more information about CRATI visit http://www.texasnaacp.org or call 512-322-9547.

Aswad Walker

DEFENDER