Since it was established in 2002, the New Jersey Amistad Commission has played an essential role in supporting educators to fulfill the Amistad mandate into our schools. Through the commission’s resources, conferences, workshops and summer institutes, educators throughout the state have gone back to their districts ready to place African Americans at the center of American history.
While much has been done, there is so much more to do. That is the conclusion of the NJEA Amistad Stakeholder Group, which offers its recommendations in a 38-page report titled “An Intentional, Authentic, and Inclusive Learning Experience.” The NJEA Amistad Stakeholder Group is a coalition of education stakeholders representing educators, parents, school and district administrators, education advocates and the New Jersey Department of Education.
Marie Blistan thanked the members NJEA Amistad Stakeholder Group for their advocacy to move the Amistad mandate forward.
“Thank you to our NJEA Stakeholder Group members for the work we have done so far regarding the implementation of the Amistad Curriculum!” Blistan said. “We will be working together on the next steps with our recommendations over this next school year.”
The report can be downloaded at njea.org/amistad-report.
By Brenda Brathwaite, chair, NJEA Amistad Stakeholder Group
Sengbe Pieh, also known as Joseph Cinqué, said those exact words during his district trial testimony in New Haven, Connecticut to set himself and other African captives free, after their mutiny aboard the Spanish schooner La Amistad in 1839. The July 2 revolt occurred 181 years ago. It became one of the most celebrated uprisings against the trans-Atlantic slave trade, because of its symbolic nature in securing the freedom of abducted Africans within the institutionalized system of slavery in the United States.
The story of the Amistad Revolt has been well documented and conveyed through primary sources, including court proceedings. There are also biographies, books, and even a movie adaptation of the revolt. However, the extensive availability of information about the revolt becomes meaningless if we do not seek to educate ourselves about how the Black experience began in the United States.
Our racial and social justice work requires that we familiarize ourselves with historical occurrences that have produced systems of inequities and limited opportunities for people of color. The intent of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Amistad Curriculum is to acknowledge the contributions of Africans and African Americans to the history of the United States. Whether choosing to review the Amistad Curriculum, delving into the Amistad Revolt, or beginning with a different facet of experiences of people of color, I invite you to begin this journey.