In the wake of the George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict on Saturday and music great Stevie Wonder’s announcement that he will not play in Florida until the “Stand Your Ground” law is abolished, many journalists of color are asking the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) to cancel their convention there in two weeks.
Some NABJ members took to social media to encourage the professional organization to nix plans on their convention, which is scheduled for July 31 through Aug. 4 in Orlando.
NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. told Richard Prince’s Journal-isms column on Monday that pulling the plug on the convention this close would be impractical and costly and fail to take advantage of a “unique opportunity” for black journalists.
“If NABJ decided to pull out of the convention in Orlando, it would cost the association over $1 million when you consider the hotel would revert back to the original terms of the contract signed in December 2006,” Lee told Journal-isms via email. “This would include the 4399 room nights we reserved at least at the $220 rate plus at least half of the food and beverage guarantees NABJ signed in the agreement. It would be impractical for NABJ to move out of the state with the other commitments we have to stage an event with our sponsors and more importantly the expenses already incurred by the membership to attend the convention.
“I have heard from many members of their conflict because of what happened in the Zimmerman trial. Be we and other black professional organizations” that have conventions in Florida this summer “have the unique opportunity to have our voices heard on this issue. Our organization will engage our membership and the community into the many facets of this story. We would encourage our members to be engaged and take what they have learned during these discussions back to the newsrooms and make a difference there. We will engage with many national leaders to break down the entire case.”
Lee also sent a message to members of the NABJ that read: “NABJ’s convention team anticipated a verdict would be reached before the convention. The team had already extended an invitation to the [Trayvon] Martin family to participate in a panel. The team also extended an invitation to journalists covering the trial as well as political commentators and community leaders. We also plan to extend an invitation to the Zimmerman family as well. We as black journalists have a role here; we must examine this story and the ramifications of the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death, as well as the ramifications of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, from all sides. . . .”
Last year’s NABJ convention in New Orleans attracted 2,586 registrants. Their 2010 convention in San Diego had about 1,670 registrants.
According to Journal-isms, radio member of NABJ said: “I know it’s too late for #NABJ to cancel their Orlando convention, but I urge everyone going to spend as little as possible.”