The First SLACNA (as told by Gena M)
SLACNA is and continues to be a dream realized by a few addicts and me coming home from a road trip to Minnesota in April of 2002. We were traveling back from Minnesota where Daryl H. our opening speaker and I were asked to share at a home group anniversary celebration. We rode up in a van-- myself, Daryl H. John B., Roy Jean T., and Shearman H. and on the way home I brought up the idea. This is a little-known fact, but in 1997-1998, I had approached several processors about hosting a St. Louis Area Convention. They were adamantly opposed to it because of the contention between African Americans and Whites in our Area. They were very committed to the theme of “Unity as a Must” for the survival of our fellowship and Area. There were also concerns about support for SLACNA as well as the possible adverse effects to our Regional Convention – SMRCNA. They were fearful that if African Americans started a convention, which it would further divide the Area more among the already strong racial under toning taking place.
I disagreed with their assessment and was quite ticked off but knew that I needed them to be behind the idea because their ideas and opinions went a long way in this Area. I disagreed because I felt that a convention was not about black or white but about hosting an event that would save people from the horrors of addiction. Wasn’t that a principle of our Fellowship? I also felt that a convention was needed and that it could happen. Besides, other urban cores had Area conventions, why couldn’t we do it too. So I waited patiently, keeping the idea stuck in my head for several years and saw my opportunity to broach the conversation again. So on the way home from Minnesota...you know how you do after you been to a convention or speaker jam...laughing, talking stuff, and fellowshipping, I brought it up, and everyone in the car thought it was a great idea. I thought to myself; timing is everything. So we decided to create a focus group and explore the possibility of having an Area convention. About a month later, I called for our first meeting at my home. Prior to the meeting, I had begun to think about fundraising, getting the motion passed, and other considerations, such as By-Laws (we used Minnesota and Chicago by-laws to create ours) and having the necessary start-up funds to
support the event because I knew that we would not get the financial support from the Area, in fact, I knew that it would be a fight even to get a SLACNA sub-committee approved by the Area for the reasons, I mentioned earlier.
The people present were Daryl H., James V., Shearman H., Marlowe T., Luther W., Shelly W., and Relaina B., I think. I am sure I forgot someone, so if I am, please forgive me. So during that meeting, we discussed a name. I believe Marlowe T. was the first to say the acronym—SLACNA. I remember at that point we were so excited because not only did we have a steering committee but we had a name----it was so cool. It made it real for us. After that, we quickly organized our strategy regarding a motion to the Area to be a sub-committee-- The home group “We came to Believe” presented the proposal in late December of 2002. It was in December ASC meeting that I submitted my resume to be the first chair of SLACNA, and Relaina B. was our first Treasurer. Both of us were, voted into those positions at the January ASC meeting in 2003. Sometime February of 2003 we held our first SLACNA sub-committee meeting at the Peterson Auditorium on the 4th Saturday of the month. We made flyers and gave everyone an opportunity to show up and submit a resume for the other positions. Every there got an opportunity to vote. We left no one out. It was that meeting where we accepted and voted on the different positions.
During our first meeting, we also talked about ways and means---to get money to support this convention. I had an experience in hosting conferences, did a bit of due diligence, and throughout a figure of $10,000 as a goal to reach. We all knew that we had to raise some serious cash and I already had it in my head that Daryl H. should be the fundraising chair. Why because he had so many little Henny’s —I mean sponsees, that were new to the process and hung on his every word that all he had to do is ask them and they would be all over the fundraising aspect of our journey. I convinced him that all he had to do was to have a party every month, sell some chicken, hot dogs, and cold drinks, stand there, push on his stomach, watch, and collect the money. He went for it y’all In March 2003, was our first fundraising event and we made nearly $1000.00, and within 18 months, the Area raised over $10,000. To me, that was amazing and spoke to the enthusiasm and excitement that addicts in St. Louis had for the convention. Everybody helped…and I mean everybody. We had people that went all over to announce the meetings. Our other concern was that we all had been to enough conventions to know that what sells is a strong line-up of great speakers and they needed to be out of town because it would yield a lot of people from out of town. Therefore, we could draw people and sell those hotel rooms. That was of particular interest to me not only for the success of the convention but me personally because the Area nor SLACNA had a designation that allowed them to be a group as defined by law. Therefore, I was on the hook for about $12,000. So needless to say, I was thinking and planning. So, therefore, we needed someone who knew a lot of people in the country to do our programming. We wanted everyone to come, and they did. We had nearly 2000 people at our first convention. Addicts in our Area hated on us big-time, saying that it was going to fail. We faced lots of challenges, but through it all we keep saying---It’s going down.