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Cherry Hill, NJ –The New Jersey chapter of the NAACP will host its largest convention at Crowne Plaza Hotel on Route 70 this weekend, with an eye on what event organizers call an all-out assault on civil rights as the mid-term elections approach.

The three-day convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People begins Friday and will pay tribute to black and Latino women in government.

Keynote speakers include state Attorney General Paula Dow; Al Sharpton, the minister, radio talk show host and one-time presidential candidate; and Lawrence Hamm, an activist who helped organize the Million Man March on Washington, D.C.

All 15 black and Latino women serving in the state Assembly or Senate will be recognized, in keeping with this year’s convention theme: “Celebrating Women in the NAACP: Past, Present and Future.”

And a nod will be given to first ladies at prominent New Jersey churches. too.

“The number of national figures on one weekend, in one place is unprecedented,” said Phil Warner, coordinator for the state NAACP’s southern region covering Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

“We’ve never had anything of this size. I’m glad it’s in my region and I’m hoping everyone will be just as glad.”

But mid-term elections will be on the minds of participants as pundits predict trouble for the country’s first black president.

“They (special interest groups) are mounting a large and sustained attack on the (Barack) Obama administration,” Warner said. “They are funding a lot of the polls that are pointing to people’s dissatisfaction.

“Folks need to wake up and they need to understand what’s going. Their civil rights are under assault.”

To that end, the convention will host workshops on housing, education, voter registration and economic empowerment.

National NAACP President Benjamin Jealous is scheduled to appear Friday. James E. Harris, president of the New Jersey Southern Conference of the NAACP, said he expects Jealous to address three key issues in New Jersey — school choice, voter apathy among minorities in Camden, and the prevalence of young blacks and Latinos going to jail rather than college.

“Mr. Jealous considers New Jersey to be a very important state as far as civil rights conditions are concerned,” Harris said. “We have some real challenges in New Jersey. We have some of the poorest cities in the country, like Camden, Newark and Irvington, coexisting with some of the wealthiest.”

For example, Harris said the NAACP objects to school choice because tax dollars are transferred from public schools to private and parochial schools that have no state oversight or accountability.

“We believe all children should have access to the highest quality of education in the public school system and the public has to be accountable for the money.”

Saturday’s events include a health fair and symposium and performances by Smokie Norful, a Grammy-winning gospel singer, and Chris Clark, billed as “King of Christian Comedy. An awards dinner will honor some of the state’s most famous natives.

The convention wraps Sunday up with a gospel service led by Prophetess Marcia Morrison.

-The Belle Report

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