By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Assignment Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Assemblyman Antwan McClellan has introduced a bill that proposes the creation of the New Jersey Black Cultural Heritage Commission, which aims to promote and raise awareness for Black culture in the state.
McClellan’s proposed bill would also require the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism to create the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail. The trail would help both local residents and tourists from out-of-state learn about Black culture in New Jersey and feature a number of Black heritage locations.
“There is more to our history than slavery,” McClellan (R-Cape May) said in a press release. “The history of Black culture in New Jersey is a lush and vibrant one. By establishing the Black Culture Heritage Commission, people will have the opportunity to learn, first-hand, about the role the Black community played in the history of New Jersey.”
According to the bill, a Black heritage location would qualify as a place where “items of political, military, artistic, cultural, or social history have been preserved due to their cultural heritage value to the State.” These locations can include, but aren’t limited to locations pertinent to Black educators, journalists, scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists, or humanitarians “who have contributed to the development or advancement of [New Jersey], the United States, or Black communities throughout the world.”
Another part of this bill would be a website that goes along with both the Black Cultural Heritage Commission and the Black Heritage Trail.
“For nearly 400 years, the lives of African people and their descendants have been a part of New Jersey’s history. Black history, heritage, and culture has long been hidden in the shadows even though so many Black lives have left an indelible mark on New Jersey industry, culture, and arts,” the bill reads. “This bill establishes a heritage trail and a cultural heritage commission that will connect the stories of New Jersey’s African heritage by documenting and making visible many of the heritage sites that testify to this rich history.”
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