Dominion of New York


September 4, 2012

Confessions of a Serial Political Convention Attendee

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Written by: L. Joy Williams

2008 Convention. Photo by L. Joy Williams


y first Democratic National Convention was 2004 in Boston and I attended as a 25-year-old delegate and true believer of John Edwards (Don’t judge me. We didn’t know then). It was during that convention that I, like most Americans, would be inspired by the keynote address of a fairly unknown state senator from Illinois. Being present in that arena when Barack Obama uttered the words “audacity of hope” was electrifying and a moment in history that I will get to share with future generations. Who knew at that time that at my next convention, just 4 years later, I would witness Obama himself accepting the party nomination for President in Denver Colorado? Today, I’m in Charlotte for my third Democratic National Convention, hoping to see Obama reelected in November.

Party conventions are like any other large conference. There is official business and activities that educate or entertain the attendees. In the case of a political convention, the official business is nominating a candidate for President and Vice President and adopting a party platform. The convention is also where we the American people are introduced to the message that the nominees will use throughout the remainder of the campaign.

The official business — of nominating candidates, adopting a party platform and revealing the message of the campaign – could be handled in one or two days. The rest of the time attendees party and collect free campaign materials, that we call “chum.” There are endless amounts of it — bumper stickers, campaign buttons, lawn signs, t-shirts, etc. As a pack rat, I kept lots of the chum I collected at the last two conventions. I have dozens of t-shirts, posters, buttons, stuffed animals and even a box of Kraft cheese and macaroni designed specifically for the convention with a democratic donkey draped in red, white and blue.

In addition, I’ve kept all of my credential badges for each day and my ticket subs to the tons of parties I attended. At some of the parties, people who don’t have the official credentials necessary to attend the convention proceedings, watch them in area bars, restaurants and hotels. There are also parties hosted by organizations who want to increase awareness of their agenda. Finally, there are parties held, simply to have a good time.

The American public only sees what the networks air in primetime, which are carefully planned speakers chosen by the candidate’s campaign and the party. However there are a number of speakers, workshops, trainings and panel discussions that also occur. With thousands of diehard, registered Democrats in one area who are very committed and engaged, it would be a crime to send them home without arming them with new tools and resources to run Democratic campaigns effectively and discuss policies and a democratic agenda to push back at home. While most of the keynote speakers and parties occur at night, during the day these delegates and organizers are participating in trainings and discussions to help further the Democratic cause.

In Charlotte, this week, I look forward to meeting with Democrats and progressives from across the country and discussing how we will combat voter suppression and voter apathy to reelect President Obama. I also look forward to exchanging ideas about the Democratic platform. I’m also looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones and of course to the parties. J I hope that in 2016, Obama will be back at the convention playing the role of distinguished two-term President.

You can follow along with my convention activities by following me on twitter at @ljoywilliams and listen to my daily radio broadcast LIVE from Charlotte at

About the Author

L. Joy Williams
L. Joy Williams
L. Joy Williams is a political strategist, founder of LJW Community Strategies, and Co-Host and News Coordinator of the award winning radio show TWiB Radio. She has been featured on MSNBC’s Up with Chris, BET, Pacifica Radio in New York and Los Angeles, and is a frequent contributor on NY1’s Inside City Hall. She is founding Chairman of Higher Heights for America, 1st Vice-President of the Brooklyn NAACP, National Board Member of PAC+ and serves on her local community board as a resident of Bedford Stuyvesant.


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, left to right. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Azipaybarah