NEW YORK — When Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network convene their 15th annual convention April 3-6, they will be joined by an array of political and entertainment leaders, including members of the Barack Obama administration.
Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are expected to represent the administration during the four-day confab, which will be held at New York’s Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Others scheduled to attend the four-day confab include actress Rosie Perez, director Spike Lee, Jazz at Lincoln Center director and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Bishop T. D. Jakes, National Urban League president Marc Morial, NAACP President Ben Jealous, basketball legend Magic Johnson and Martin Luther King III.
“Ours is the first national gathering of civil and human rights activists to include top members of the administration and religious leaders since President Obama’s re-election,” Sharpton told theGrio. “There are two voting rights cases before the Supreme court and we need an action plan for voting rights, gun violence and to combat the imminent attacks on our civil rights in this country.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering challenges to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, as well as part of the Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage. And Congress is debating potential gun control legislation, with the president and victims’ advocacy groups pushing for action in the wake of the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 26 children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as the killing of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old who was shot to death near her Chicago school, days after performing with her high school marching band at Obama’s inaugural. Hadiya Pendleton, along with the family of Trayvon Martin, are also expected to attend the convention.
The convention, which is expected to attract members of Congress, along with several administration officials, will feature the 15th Annual Keepers of the Dream Awards, which each year are given to mark the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. This year’s award will be held on April 4th, the date of King’s assassination in 1968.
In a recent poll commissioned by BET founder Bob Johnson, 24 percent of African-Americans chose Sharpton as the leader who most speaks for them.