Since 1619, when the first slaves were brought to Jamestown, VA; African Americans have played a role in shaping our nation.
Lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse want to study and document the past 400 years in what they are calling the Quadrennial Challenge: Justice and Equality for All.
The two year study would delve into the depths of African American history and provide insight into their accomplishments and tribulations.
“Information that we will obtain over this two year study will help direct us to improve the status of all Ohioans,” said State Senator Vernon Sykes.
Sykes joined other black leaders in the George Washington Williams room at the Statehouse Tuesday.
The room itself is a tribute to the first African American legislator and those that followed in his footsteps.
The room has been decorated this way relatively recently.
“There was no evidence of African Americans anywhere in the state capitol building, a building that used the labor of slaves,” said State Senator Charleta Tavares.
Tavares says African Americans need to know the history of their people. She also says, that history needs to be written fairly and accurately.
“When you’re not valued as a people throughout the 400 years then you’re left out of the history; and so people write the history as they choose to tell the story,” said Tavares. “We have to ensure that our story is accurate and that it is a story that’s clear about accomplishments and achievements as well as the challenges that are still before us.”
Some of those challenges are well known, and further exploration of them may bring deeper understanding and empathy from those who currently are not well versed in the finer details of them.
“When having conversations with some of my colleagues you can see that there’s just no understanding or connection of how we’ve gotten to this point,” said State Representative Stephanie Howse.
On several occasions, recently, Howse has brought up the demographics of lawmakers constituency as a way to show their understanding of how a piece of legislation affects the black community may not be fully realized due to small populations of the minority in their areas.
The resounding chorus from all of the lawmakers involved in Tuesday’s announcement was one of care for all Ohioans, not just those in black communities, and promote this bill as a way to identify areas of concern that affect all citizens.
“We can’t be as strong as a State if all of our people are not being lifted up; if all of our people are not moving forward,” said Tavares.
The bill does call for the use of some taxpayer dollars, it is unclear exactly how much it will cost and as it is early in the process that amount could change as the legislation is worked on.
The bill will have to be reintroduced in the next general assembly once it starts in a few weeks, and lawmakers Tuesday said they are prepared to do just that.