by Christopher Gray

Between January and May of 2007, a number of notable conventions and other meetings have been held in the field of blindness and visual impairment. In this message, I will share some highlights of these activities, and discuss possible future leadership development meetings to be held by ACB and its affiliates.

One of the more notable of such events occurred in March as the members of the Hawaii Association of the Blind celebrated their 40th anniversary. Attendance at Hawaii conventions is always excellent, but this year can only be described as outstanding. So too was the convention program. While at the convention, I had a lengthy conversation with HAB President Warren Toyama about new leadership he has brought to the affiliate and his desire to bring still more new and capable people into HAB. To highlight these efforts and encourage others to do likewise, Toyama has pledged seed money of $3,000 for a western regional leadership conference. I strongly urge other affiliates to consider similar programs to assist in both discovering and nurturing new leadership throughout ACB.

Another particularly noteworthy conference occurred May 6-10 in Nairobi, Kenya. This was a continent-wide conference of the Africa Blind Union. This conference was broadcast worldwide through the facilities of ACB Radio. All proceedings were carried on our newest channel: ACB Radio World. Many young, bright, dedicated leaders throughout Africa came together to discuss topics ranging from education to human rights. It was both moving and enlightening to hear these discussions and to witness such leadership emerging out of so much chaos, violence and impoverishment. ACB is very pleased to have assisted in making the proceedings of this historic conference available to the world. We also acknowledge the work of the Hilton-Perkins Foundation in making this event possible. Chrissie Cochrane of ACB Radio did an outstanding job of hosting and acting as the sole radio anchor for all of the proceedings and did a wonderful job under some trying circumstances.

Just a few short weeks before the Africa conference, the World Blind Union Executive Board and the North American-Caribbean Regional Board held consecutive meetings in Toronto, Canada. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, its executive director Jim Sanders, its board of directors and CNIB staff acted as outstanding hosts for all attendees. It was a true learning experience to witness the worldwide team of leaders discuss and manage the affairs of the WBU and to begin to better understand their roles, perspectives and contributions to blind people worldwide.

In the next several months, let us devote ourselves in ACB to developing the leaders who can participate on the affiliate, national and international levels in moving forward our mission as an organization to improve the lives of all blind people. A number of us will be working specifically on the western regional leadership conference, and rest assured you will be reading more about that in the pages of "The Braille Forum" in forthcoming issues. Let me encourage you also to consider joining us in the west and beginning to plan and hold additional regional conferences throughout the United States. Great leadership is available, but we must train and mobilize it in order to increase our effectiveness.

Finally, I look forward to seeing many of you at ACB's upcoming convention in Minneapolis, Minn. This is proving to be a far larger convention than we had originally anticipated. I hope you can come and join the fun. If you cannot, please don't forget to tune in to ACB Radio Mainstream and join us live or via repeat broadcast 24 hours per day the whole of convention week, June 30 through July 6. It will be lots of fun!

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