The South Carolina NAACP's annual convention, which starts today in Augusta, is expected to be marked by political discussion inside and the presence of protesters outside.
The theme of the four-day convention is "The Race is On" to coincide with the Nov. 2 elections and to refer to the "race to eliminate or try to eradicate discrimination and inequality in school systems and to get rid of disparities in health care," said the Rev. David Walker, the president of the Aiken NAACP chapter.
The featured speaker during today's program is retired Bishop John Hurst Adams, the founder of the Congress of National Black Churches. The bishop will speak during the 11:30 a.m. Faith Community Summit Luncheon.
Opening day also will include workshops on environmental justice, health disparities in the black community and voting empowerment.
"We want to educate the people on the candidates and the issues, " the Rev. Walker said. "And we want to educate and motivate them to get out in the polls."
The Rev. Walker said the hope is to hold a Friday forum for South Carolina U.S. Senate candidates Inez Tenenbaum and Jim DeMint, but it has not been finalized.
What appears certain is the presence of protesters carrying Confederate flags. They object to Augusta Mayor Bob Young's decision to remove a Confederate flag from the riverwalk, steps away from the convention site at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta. Woody Highsmith, a local member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he's protesting out of principle.
"That flag has been flying for years and no one's had a problem with it," he said. "We consider riverwalk one large monument, and the Confederate flag is an integral part of that monument."
NAACP leaders said they will try to ignore the protests.
"We're about peace totally," said Eldwin Griffin, the president of the Edgefield chapter. "If you're gonna have a flag up, have a flag up for everyone, not one that represents 300 years of slavery."
Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
11:30 a.m.: 4th Annual Faith Community Summit Luncheon
6:30 p.m.: Gospel extravaganza and public meeting at New Zion Baptist Church at 32371 Deans Bridge Road
Noon: Membership awards luncheon
7:30 p.m.: Military affairs dinner
11 a.m.: Criminal justice forum on sentencing disparities
2:45 p.m.: Leadership panel on the future of affirmative action policies
9:30 a.m.: Conference worship service
For more information, go to www.scnaacp.org.