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NAACP convention planned for Boston will be held online instead

Boston NAACP branch president Tanisha Sullivan spoke at a December 2019 news conference held to announce that Boston was selected to host the NAACP's 111th national convention.
Boston NAACP branch president Tanisha Sullivan spoke at a December 2019 news conference held to announce that Boston was selected to host the NAACP's 111th national convention.Steven Senne/Associated Press/File 2019

The NAACP National Convention, scheduled to be held in Boston in July, has been recast as a virtual event, Tanisha M. Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the organization, said Monday.

The annual meeting of the nation’s largest civil rights organization has been planned as a showcase that Boston could be an attractive and welcoming destination for thousands of Black activists. But those plans unraveled in the face of a pandemic that has disrupted travel and turned the city’s major convention center into a health care facility.

While the event was postponed several weeks ago, local NAACP leaders had held out hope that the planned convention would be held in Boston eventually.

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But for this year’s gathering, the NAACP will hold its sessions online. Sullivan stressed that her chapter will still have a major role to play. The group is completing a report on the state of Black Boston, and it plans to continue with some events planned for the week of the convention ― if they are permitted under public health guidelines.

“While the national convention will be virtual to allow for participation across the country, locally we are working on a plan that will allow for a hybrid, if the CDC, state, and city public health data allows,” Sullivan said. “ This would include service days and forums. We will continue to work with the national office, the city, and state and do what’s best for our members and partners.”

Sullivan said the estimated economic impact of the convention has been $11 million. That’s not counting dollars the group had hoped to push for in the form of increased contracting by the city and state with minority-owned businesses, among other initiatives.

But Sullivan stressed that the convention has been reconceived, not canceled. She said the national NAACP has been conducting regular issues forums online, drawing as many as 20,000 participants.

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“The reality is that we are still having a convention — it’s just going to be virtual,” Sullivan said. “And we are likely to have more people participating in the virtual convention than we would have had at the physical convention.”

Regardless of format, Sullivan said the local chapter and the NAACP as a whole will continue to push city and state leaders to address issues of racial inequity that she said have been amplified by the coronavirus crisis.

“The convention is still happening,” she said. “The work still goes on.”


Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at adrian.walker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.