Courtesy / Bexar County
Bexar County granted the NAACP San Antonio chapter $50,000 Tuesday to offset hosting costs for its 2018 National Convention in San Antonio.
Cities that host the National Convention must raise $200,000 to cover infrastructure and general preparation costs for the large-scale event, said Oliver Hill, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's San Antonio chapter. The funds, allotted from the County's contingency, put the local organization at the halfway mark in its fundraising efforts.
The group also is reaching out to the City of San Antonio and local businesses for donations to help reach its goal. More businesses have shown greater interest in contributing now that plans are solidified, Hill said.
"We have a lot more calls coming in now," he said, "so we think it's going to work out very well for us."
San Antonio was officially chosen to host the seven-day convention earlier this month, after national NAACP officials came to the city for a site visit.
The convention, which will be held in July 2018 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, is expected to draw more than 10,000 attendees and generate up to $10 million in economic impact, according to Visit San Antonio, the city’s nonprofit tourism body.
It will be the first time San Antonio – a city with just a 7% black population – has hosted the event.
The political gathering, now in its 109th year, involves workshops for all ages and a lineup of distinguished speakers who discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to the nation's black community and its advancement.
The 2018 list of speakers has not yet been released, but past speakers have included former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
"We're going to be able to hear from luminaries [from] around the country," said Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4), Bexar County’s first black commissioner.
Hosting the convention is a historic moment for San Antonio, Calvert said, since it coincides with the local NAACP chapter's 100th anniversary and the city's Tricentennial, which will see an extensive calendar of cultural and historic events throughout 2018.
Calvert voiced concerns about San Antonio losing hosting privileges if the Texas Legislature passes Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's Senate Bill 6, filed Jan. 5, which would restrict transgender people from using the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity.
The NAACP moved the 2018 national convention to San Antonio after pulling it from Charlotte, N.C., where a similar bathroom law passed. NAACP officials have said that the bill passing in Texas could make them reconsider San Antonio too.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff lauded the endeavor as well as San Antonio's annual Martin Luther King Jr. March, which takes place on the Eastside each year. San Antonio's black population may only account for about 7% of the total population, but the city's MLK March is consistently one of the largest in the country.
An estimated 300,000 participated in this year's event, which took place Monday, Jan. 16.
"... To be able to get this major convention to San Antonio," Wolff said to NAACP officials, "I was very pleasantly surprised and happy you pulled it off."
The local NAACP chapter is working hard to get everything in order for the national convention, Hill said. Come July 2018, he added, many people will get to experience San Antonio's uniqueness and spirit of inclusion.
"I love this city [and its] diversity and different cultures where people can learn a lot from each other," Hill said. "I think when people come and visit us and haven’t been here before, they’re going to fall in love with the city."