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Scenes From The National Action Network Annual Convention: National Black Anthem, 'We Have a Race Problem & No One Wants to Talk About It

"Paul Ryan better know, if he’s going to make it into heaven, he’s got to have at least one poor person as a reference on his résumé..."

The National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991, began its annual convention last Wednesday with an address from Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Each April, this convention provides an important opportunity -- not only to observe the anniversary of Dr. King’s tragic death, and to reflect upon the lessons of his extraordinary life -- but also to consider where we are, as a nation; to examine our values and priorities; to take stock of our progress; and to take responsibility for the work that remains before us,” Holder said.

He continued:

Only when it is dark enough, Dr. King said, can you see the stars. Well today once again, it is dark enough.

[I’m] optimistic about the path that we are on…many obstacles lay before us, and there are dark skies overhead, but if history is any guide and I believe that it is, positive change is frequently the consequence of unfavorable, not favorable circumstance, progress is often the product of darkness, not the light.

The Attorney General wasn’t the only official from the Obama administration to attend the conference. Other major speakers included Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis (as covered by The Blaze), Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to name just a few.

Among the topics discussed during the four-day convention were economic disparity, D.C. statehood, social justice/injustice, “How the church can be utilized to re-elect President Obama,” and the Trayvon Martin shooting.

The following video, taken last Wednesday and produced by Jeremy Segal, is a collection of responses from conference attendees who were interviewed on the subject of “Justice for Trayvon”:

“If fifteen of these young men in this building walked out on the street and stood by the White House for 20 minutes -- just stood there -- somebody would call the cops just because of their color and that’s the problem. We have a race problem and no one wants to talk about it but that’s the real deal here,” one attendee said.

“I think if there were a verdict of innocent,” one attendee, a lawyer, said in reference to George Zimmerman, “I think it would say something about the justice system in the state of Florida and the state of Florida has some problems for a whole lot of different reasons but I couldn’t really speculate on that until really all of the evidence has been presented in the trial.”

“Justice for me,” another attendee said, “would be would be served with a conviction. He [Zimmerman] has made awful choices and he made awful choices on that day. Should he be punished for it? He most certainly should.”

Another attendee said: “I will say that I can’t answer that fully unless I hear the evidence in the case. Without the trial having happened, how I would feel at that the verdict would be premature.”

The next day, the conference started with the singing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” more commonly known as “The National Black Anthem”:

Here are the lyrics (via denverpost.com):

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,

Till earth and heaven ring.

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise,

High as the list'ning skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chast'ning rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat,

Have not our weary feet,

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,

Till now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who has by Thy might,

Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,

Shadowed beneath thy hand,

May we forever stand,

True to our God,

True to our native land.

The National Anthem was not sung.

Later that day, while participating in a panel discussion on "The Church: Becoming Spiritually Fed & Feeding the Hungry," the Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III had this to say:

…when you talking about what’s going down with [Rep. Paul] Ryan’s budget, it’s because for 40 years the right-wing has successfully marketed the poor people as political piñatas. They make them negative. And so, as the political piñatas, it’s okay to beat up on poor folk.

But why don’t we take that back? Because…Paul Ryan better know, if he’s going to make it into heaven, he’s got to have at least one poor person as a reference on his résumé…

Watch Rev. Haynes III discussion (via YouTube):

More videos of the event can be seen here.

This story has been updated.

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