State lawmakers in Ohio are asking for tax dollars to be directed toward documenting 400 years of Black history in the state.
Deemed the “Quadrennial Challenge: Justice and Equality for All,” the legislative Black Caucus introduced a bill Dec. 11 hoping to do a deep dive into Black Ohioan history, giving a glimpse into the successes and trials of local Black people. It is not yet known how many tax dollars will be required to fund the study, which a committee will be established to conduct.
“Information that we will obtain over this two-year study will help direct us to improve the status of all Ohioans,” state Senator Vernon Sykes says during a conference in the George Washington Williams room at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The location of the announcement of the bill, which seeks to establish a committee in recognition of the 400th anniversary of Black people in Ohio and the U.S., was no accident. The room is a memorial to the state’s first Black legislator and those who came after him.
“There was no evidence of African Americans anywhere in the state capitol building, a building that used the labor of slaves,” says State Senator Charleta Tavares, remarking on the prior lack of representation of Black legislators. However, the statehouse website noted prison laborers built the foundation and ground floors of the building before skilled workers who objected to it spurred changes in hiring practices for the remainder of the building’s construction.
Along with examining centuries of Black history, the bill can also serve as a way to educate the uninformed.
“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,” state Representative Stephanie Howse says.
Despite the focus on history, Ohio’s future with the Black community will also be reviewed as lawmakers hope to examine the troubles presently facing the community to discover solutions for everyone.
“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,” Tavares says.
In order for the bill to get off the ground, legislators will need to reintroduce the bill during the next general assembly, which begins in January. The caucus is prepared to do so at that time.