Atlantic City Teens Find ‘Family’ Atmosphere at NAACP Convention

Feature photo of Atlantic City NAACP Youth Council and advisers courtesy of Atlantic City NAACP Facebook

BY CLYDE HUGHES | AC JosepH Media

ATLANTIC CITY — Atlantic City branch NAACP President Kaleem Shabazz was determined to get as many youths as possible locally to attend last week’s NAACP national convention, believing that such an event would be a springboard into the future for many young people.

The NAACP convention attracted thousands of youth from around the country to talk about civil rights and other important issues involving diversity, equity, and social justice. The convention proved to be an inspiration for many of the youth attending, lauding it for its inclusive feel.

“It felt more like a family than a regular convention if that makes any sense,” Kariana Mora-Lloyd, 17, a senior at Ocean City High School, told Front Runner New Jersey. “You felt very welcomed here. Even the performances were so heartfelt and emotional. I really felt it.”

Jamiah Bailey, 17, a senior at Atlantic City High School, said she learned about the convention after attending a program at Stockton University.

“I feel like it would have been wrong for me not to attend,” Bailey said. “I live in Atlantic City, and I’ve never been to an NAACP event, so it was exciting to come here and to meet new people.”

“It was certainly a learning experience. I would say that most of the people I interacted with weren’t that stereotypical version of [Black youth] so it was nice. It was kind of a culture shock, but a nice culture shock.”

Aniyah Parker, an incoming sophomore at Egg Harbor Township High School, said the convention was a positive learning experience for her.

“The convention was a way for me to branch out and learn new things about my community and the possibilities out there. I definitely found a lot of the workshops interesting. They focused a lot on us as a people and what we can do in the community. I love learning more about that.”

Mora-Lloyd said her father was once part of the Atlantic City NAACP branch and that motivated her attendance.

“I’m very passionate about creating change in the society that I live in,” Mora-Lloyd said. “Attending the convention was the perfect opportunity for me. Once I got the contact information from my advisor, I wanted to see if I could join the youth council.”

John Carr, an incoming freshman at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology, said his connection with the NAACP goes back longer, thanks to his grandfather.

“I would like to thank my grandfather most of all because he introduced me to the NAACP at a young age,” Carr said. “I started attending the meetings when I was in second grade. That’s one of the big reasons why I wanted to attend this convention. These types of conventions are very important for youth. It helps our minds develop and we learn more things with adult and guest speakers.

“I want to thank them for sharing the intelligence that they have and what they are doing. I would like to thank all the people who came across the country just to come to a convention like this. When I heard about people all across the country coming to Atlantic City for this convention, I wanted to take part.”

Ocean City High School senior Keely Calloway said she learned about the NAACP and attending the convention from Atlantic City NAACP officer Maryam Sarhan. She said after meeting at a League of Women’s Voters event, they stayed and touch and thought attending the convention would be “a fantastic opportunity.”

“It’s definitely been a learning experience, especially coming from a predominantly white area and being the one that stands out all the time, but I really like being here. It’s been a new experience for me.”

Tanijah Smith, a graduate of Pleasantville High School who will be attending Rutgers University in the fall, said she was inspired by seeing and meeting youth from around the country.

“The best part of the convention was seeing all of the youth coming together and being on the same spiritual level,” Smith said. “We all want change. We all want to see a difference in our communities. Everyone was dressed up and representing their schools. It was such a positive environment, and that’s what we all need.”

Smith said she shared many of her convention experiences online.

“I’ve been posting on social media, and everyone wanted to know what we are involved in, what we’re doing and it looks so dope,” Smith said. “We really need to get involved because this is very serious. My friends and I are all over 18 and we’re able to vote and our vote counts. I want to get that out there and apply what I’ve taken from the NAACP convention.”

Sarhan said the youth attendance was driven by Shabazz. She said she was grateful to be part of the effort to make the connection between local youth and the national convention. Along with Shabazz, Sarhan praised Atlantic City Youth Council chair Linda Steele, who has worked with the NAACP and young people for more than 30 years.

“Without her, this would not have been possible,” she said. “We made it a priority to involve the youth. As a team, we were able to successfully register 70 students, ranging from 12 to 24. The youth got to experience the convention in real time and witness a historic moment for their community. This is an experience you can’t learn in the classroom.”

She said the excitement they experienced to see the NAACP national convention happen in their own community was something that cannot be replicated.

“The excitement I saw in their faces and the enthusiasm they had for watching the vice president [Kamala Harris] speaking during the plenary session I think will be an inspiration for generations to come in the Atlantic City community and beyond.”

“Without mentorship and empowering our youth, we have no future,” she said. “I am proud our chapter has put this at the forefront of our efforts.”

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