Braille Monitor                                                             March 2007

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The Real Reason for the Reunion

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: Anil Lewis is president of the NFB of Georgia and a member of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. These days he is busy preparing for the 2007 NFB convention. This is what he says:

World of Coca-ColaAs I was growing up, the third Sunday in August was always a heartwarming, rejuvenating time of year for me because members of my extended family from around the country came together at my grandmotherís little house in Woodville, Georgia, for our family reunion. I always considered myself blessed to have cousins that were as close to me as brothers and sisters. Fortunately for me I have another extended family, and from June 30 through July 6, 2007, approximately 3,000 of my sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and a host of cousins will be attending the largest family reunion of blind people in the country. Most refer to this event as the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Members of my Federation family from across the country and several foreign countries will take cars, buses, trains, boats, and airplanes to come together in Atlanta, Georgia, to renew old friendships and form new ones for a week of fun and fellowship.

Whenever I have the time, I like to get out and visit my family, and this includes my Federation family. Visiting other affiliate events is fun and edifying. I have had the pleasure of serving as the national representative for many NFB state affiliate conventions. Our affiliates are all dedicated to improving the quality of life for all blind people, and all find a way to have fun while they do it. Like members of a family, each affiliate has a distinct personality. Some are more outgoing; others are more conservative; some interject a lot of humor; and some are strictly business. Regardless of the personality of the affiliate, I always feel welcome. However, there is no substitute for coming together as one big family.

The national convention is the time when members of our family of over 50,000 can come together for a week of camaraderie. As the host family the Georgia affiliate is working hard to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has an enjoyable time while here. We are making plans for parties, tours, and the hospitality room. We will have plenty of Whozit water bottles for family members thirsty for the Federation. For those left a little tired from our March for Independence, we will have plenty of Federation relaxation seat cushions.

This year Tour Day falls on Independence Day, Wednesday, July 4, and a host of activities around the city will be available for conventioneers who wish to stray from our convention hotel to experience a little more of Atlanta. The Marriott Marquis is only a few blocks from Centennial Park, which is sure to have an outstanding Independence Day celebration. Also the Georgia Aquarium and the new Coca-Cola Museum are in walking distance of the hotel. Conventioneers will be a short MARTA train ride away from Underground Atlanta or Lenox Square, which, in addition to a wonderful shopping experience, will provide an entertaining atmosphere on the holiday. The Georgia affiliate is arranging transportation for those who would like to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site or the Carter Center Library. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing we have been unable to secure guided tour commitments. We encourage you to contact the Georgia affiliate with tour suggestions or questions at (404) 371-1000 or email <[email protected]>, and we will try to accommodate you. Of course members of the NFB of Georgia will be available at the Georgia information table to provide information and recommendations during convention.

I personally plan to spend the evening of Tour Day at Agatha's Taste of Mystery, which is only two blocks away from the Marriott Marquis. Agatha's is a comedy murder mystery dinner theater with audience participation. This was a tremendous hit at our 2004 convention and this year will cost $55 per person. All shows are original comedy murder mysteries that take place in the dining room between the courses of the meal. There is no stage, and the actors move around the diners, so you can see and hear from all seats. Two professional actors carry the show. The rest is up to the audience. Participation is encouraged but not required. Agatha's serves a five-course meal of appetizer, soup, salad, choice of entrée, and dessert. Once guests are seated, the waiters list the entreés for you to make your selection. Wine is served with dinner, beginning with the soup course. The performance scheduled for July 4 is Rocky the Italian Scallionís Final Blow. There is space for only 169 family members, so make your reservations early by calling the Georgia affiliate at (404) 371-1000 before May 31, 2007.

The members of the Georgia affiliate are working around the clock to ensure that everyone has fun at convention. However, as we prepare to host the 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, we must not forget the real reason for the reunion. President Maurer has gone to great lengths to negotiate convention hotel rates that leave no excuse for you not to attend. In addition a full agenda of presentations covers an array of issues that are important to the nationís blind. Our national office staff will no doubt have a mix of training sessions on advocacy, self-determination, and strategies for collective action that will educate and empower. The convention presentations, seminars, and break-out sessions provide a real opportunity to educate ourselves and others about the true potential of the blind.

As the largest organization of blind people in the country, we have a responsibility to advocate for a better life for all blind people. We must take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to advocate effectively in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as in colleges and universities, to ensure that blind students obtain full access to their educational environment. We must not miss this chance to learn about our rights and responsibilities so that we can make better use of the services available from state vocational rehabilitation service programs to pursue rewarding careers. There is no better environment than an NFB convention to demonstrate to parents of blind children the true potential of blind people so that they can set expectations of excellence and achievement for their children. Most important, we must capitalize on this occasion to build on the mutual support and collective action of our organization to continue to change what it means to be blind.

During my familyís reunion I always feel better knowing that I am part of a bigger unit that is full of love and support for one another. I experience the same love and support at a National Federation of the Blind convention. Being part of such remarkable work that has a tremendous positive effect on the lives of all blind people is extremely motivating. That is the real reason for the reunion. I canít wait to see yíall in Atlanta.

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