Gov. Phil Murphy joined NJEA President Marie Blistan, New Jersey Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont Repollet, members of the Amistad Stakeholder Group and other educational leaders and advocates at the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City to highlight the work to integrate New Jersey’s Amistad Curriculum more deeply into New Jersey’s public schools and to announce an exciting new opportunity for New Jersey educators.
The annoucement followed a rousing keynote address by scholar and civil rights advocate Dr. Cornel West. After praising West for his challenging remarks, Blistan said, “we all know that the work of racial justice is hard, but it’s far too important to let that stop us. We need to take challenges like what Dr. West presented us with today and turn that into real action for real justice for our students, our state and ourselves.”
Blistan pointed to the work of the Amistad Stakeholder Group.
“Though the law establishing the Amistad Commission has been in place for 17 years, and much work has been done by educators to bring the Amistad Curriculum into our schools, we believe there is more that can be done,” Blistan said. “This group of advocates is committed to elevating the importance of that curriculum. We are working to ensure that it is taught—and emphasized—in every public school in New Jersey.”
Amistad Stakeholder Group chair Brenda Brathwaite, an Atlantic City teacher, shared the groups statement of purpose: “…to ensure that students receive an intentional, authentic, and inclusive learning experience, which will develop students’ academic strengths and cultural sensibilities about the inclusive nature of history, and acknowledge the contributions of Africans and African Americans to U.S. History through New Jersey’s Amistad Curriculum.”
“With that as our core principle, we have begun to develop a set of recommendations that we will be sharing with the Amistad Commission,” Brathwaite said.
Ed Richardson, NJEA’s outgoing executive director, announced the creation of the Amistad Journey, a program designed to allow educators to travel to some of the historic sites of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Richardson credited NJEA Executive Committee member Jacqui Greadington with suggesting the journey, which is modeled on a similar program run by the New Jersey Holocaust Commission that helps educators visit historic Holocaust sites.
“The Amistad Journey will include opportunities for educators to visit sites in Africa,” Richardson said. “But the history of slavery in America did not begin and end in Africa. In fact, after ending the practice of forcibly bringing people to America, the enslavement of African Americans continued here for 150 years. And so the Amistad Journey will also include experiences for educators in the United States.”
Repollet shared some of his own experiences traveling to those sites with students and how powerful and valuable that experience was.
“The department is committed to better ensuring that every school and district has the resources needed to honor the promise of the Amistad Commission to embed African American history in their curricula,” Repollet said.
Murphy, who came to the NJEA Convention to participate in the Amistad announcement, praised all the groups that had worked to elevate the Amistad Curriculum and create the Amistad Journey.
“The contributions of our African American community to our state, and to our identity as New Jerseyans, are immeasurable,” Murphy said. “I applaud the Amistad Stakeholder Group and their efforts to create the Amistad Journey to ensure that our students learn about the history of African Americans and their fight for social justice.”
In addition to NJEA and the New Jersey Department of Education, other groups participating on the Amistad Stakeholder Group include:
• N.J. Association of School Administrators
• N.J. Association of School Business Officials
• N.J. Principals and Supervisors Association
• N.J. Parents and Teachers Association
• N.J. School Boards Association
• N.J. Amistad Commission
Information will be forthcoming for educators interested in participating in the Amistad Journey