Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, talks about the organization's national convention coming to Baltimore in 2017. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)
The NAACP will hold its 2017 national convention in Baltimore, the nation's oldest civil rights organization announced Wednesday. The decision could mean an economic boost of as much as $10 million to the city two summers from now.
Officials with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said Baltimore's pitch to host the July meeting – an annual event for more than a century – was so strong they would have awarded it to the city for 2016 were it not for a potential conflict.
Baltimore is considered a front-runner for the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which also takes place in July.
"We had one of the best bid presentations I think I have ever witnessed from Baltimore and from Visit Baltimore," said Leon Russell, vice chairman of the NAACP's board of directors and the leader of its convention-site search committee. "There was just one major flaw – the proposed dates for 2016 [July 2-5] fall over the Fourth of July weekend, and for us, that was an insurmountable barrier."
The organization has not yet chosen the location for the 2016 event, though Russell said Cincinnati put in a strong bid and would likely be named if committee members are satisfied with the site visit they'll conduct over the next several days.
The announcement was made at a press conference at the NAACP's national headquarters on Mt. Hope Drive in Northwest Baltimore, where several dignitaries said Baltimore was not only ready to host an event of this size and import but also a city rich in civil rights history.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Tessa Hill-Aston, president of Baltimore's 2,000-member branch, were on the dais for the announcement.
Baltimore, which last hosted the event in the summer of 2000, has been home to such movement luminaries as Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Mitchell, Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Kweisi Mfume, said Cornell Brooks, NAACP president and CEO.
"It's undeniably a win-win for all of us," Brooks said. "We are both returning to and being inspired by the roots of this city."
Tom Noonan, CEO of Visit Baltimore, said industry metrics set the value of the convention to the city at $6 million to $10 million, depending on the state of the economy in 2017 and other factors.