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The 1619 Project: The Role of Slavery in America – and in New Jersey

New Jersey Institute of Social Justice

The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice recently presented a panel discussion at NJPAC on the role of slavery in America – and in New Jersey.

Investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine.

This year marks the 400th year of Black people being brought to Virginia as slaves. The 1619 Project takes a raw look at America’s relationship with slavery and the impact that remains in present day.  

Marley Dias
Credit Brit Harley WBGO
WBGO's Brit Harley and Marley Dias

Before the show, we caught up with Marley Dias — author of Marley Dias Gets it Done: And So Can You! and founder of the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign — to get the youth perspective of why dialogue about slavery is so important in today’s society.

"Kids my age are not able to see that there’s a connection to what happen with enslavement centuries ago," she says, adding that "there isn’t a way for the every day person to know that all the things that have happened in American history, especially surrounding people of color, and the way in which they built this country effects the way the country acts today."

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ presentation was followed by a panel of esteemed experts who focused the conversation on New Jersey, which advocates believe have some of the worst racial disparities in America. (You can view an archived livestream of the event at the NJISJ website.)

Credit New Jersey Institute of Social Justice
Panel of experts on the impact of slavery and racial inequity in New Jersey.

One of the experts on the panel was Ryan P. Haywood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where he made the connections between the impact of slavery and how it currently looks in New Jersey. 

New Jersey spends $300,000 to incarcerate each kid, each year. In New Jersey right now, a state of 9 million people, there are eight white kids in prison; the rest are black and Latino. We make very deep investments in incarcerating black kids and deep investments in ensuring that white kids flourish. That’s just the reality, that’s the math.

The panel was moderated by Marcia Brown of Rutgers University-Newark and included Haygood, Prof. Elise Boddie (The Inclusion Project at Rutgers Law School) Rev. Charles Boyer (Pastor and Founder of Salvation and Social Justice), Marley Dias (Teen activist and creator of #1000BlackGirlBooks); Richard Roper (Public Policy consultant); and Shané Harris (Prudential Financial/Prudential Foundation). 

Professor Elsie Boddie of the Inclusion Project at Rutgers Law School spoke to us after the show about the role of public universities, like Rutgers, in addressing persistent structural racism. "There’s a huge role to play for public universities in this moment," she says, "particularly given what is happening on the national stage."

Hannah-Jones says that Black people are not the problem, and there is an unlearning that must take place as we confront America’s past.