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Diversity at The Conventions in Boston

The NABJ and the Boule held their conventions in Boston for the first time in their history

Melvin B. Miller | 8/4/2014, 2:42 p.m.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Boule held their conventions in Boston for the first time.
The Boston Globe and the Boston Association of Black Journalists hosted a welcoming party for the members of the National Association of Black Journalists attending their national conference in Boston. Music, mixing,mingling, networking and partying was the order of the evening that brought together some 700 people at Fenway Park enjoying New England’s own lobster rolls. Photo credit: © DON WEST Photo by Don West

The City of Boston has recently achieved a great milestone. For the first time in history the city has hosted back-to-back conventions of major black organizations. For decades after the racial controversy over school desegregation, many blacks have shunned meeting in Boston. Now there seems to be recognition that attitudes in Boston have mellowed and there is greater acceptance of racial diversity.

From July 18-24, Sigma Pi Phi, the nation’s oldest black fraternity, met in its annual convention in Boston. From July 30-August 3, the National Association of Black Journalists held its convention and career fair in Boston. Both organizations are substantial in size and of great importance.

photo

Don West

Archon JAMES COFIELD (l) is joined by incoming Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, JAMES COLE (2nd l) and outgoing Grand Sire Archon JAMES E. PAYNE (r) at an evening Supper Club featuring flutist, SHERRY WINSTON(m). The conference was the 52nd Grand Boule celebrating the organization’s comittments and plans for the future, held at the Sheraton Hotel & Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Sigma Pi Phi, called The Boule, was organized in 1904 as an organization for black college graduates. Today the requirement for membership is not only a college degree but also a record of professional achievement. There are about 5,000 members in 130 chapters.

The National Association of Black Journalists is of more recent vintage. The NABJ was founded I 1975 in Washington DC. Its membership includes journalists, media students, and those involved in the communications industry. An important aspect of its annual convention is a career fair to provide employment opportunities for members. An estimated 2,000 members registered for the Boston Convention and there were 184 exhibitors.

Conventions pour millions of dollars into the city’s coffers, so successful events can be viewed from that perspective. However, there also is another important perspective. Many of the historical roots of this nation are in the Greater Boston area. For blacks, it is of special significance that Boston was a major center for the Abolitionist Movement. It is appropriate then, for Boston to maintain an ambience that is welcoming to all.

While Boston has made considerable progress in transforming racial attitudes in the city, according to sources, some members of black organizations refused to participate in their Boston conventions because of a concern that they would have to encounter bigotry and racial hostility. There is still much work to be done.