Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD-07) supported by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD-03) introduced Black culture preserving legislation on Sep. 22. (Courtesy Photo/Rep. Mfume’s Office)

By Tashi McQueen, AFRO Political Writer,
Report For America Corps Member
tmcqueen@afro.com

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD-07) introduced new legislation to further in-depth representation and conservation of Black history and culture on Sep. 22.

This legislation proposed a National Council on African American History and Culture to educate, preserve and celebrate Black history and culture. The council would advise the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent federal agency, on how they can best amplify the work of “Black creators,” strengthen teaching and learning in schools and provide critical resources dedicated to preserving Black history. 

The NEH provides grants, “original scholarship,” learning opportunities and “access to cultural and educational resources.”

“The National Council of African-American History and Culture Act of 2022 grew out of a 2021 discussion with the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture,” said Rep. Mfume (D-MD-07) to the AFRO.“I had an idea to create a council to enlarge the effort.”

The council would be expected to create and recommend national policies to the Chairperson to ensure Black Americans’ contributions to America are recognized. They would monitor museums and organizations devoted to Black history and culture preservation and determine what national policy is needed to support efforts further.

“This initiative became even more imperative due to efforts around ‘critical race theory,’” said Rep. Mfume (D-MD-07). “Part of the ‘critical race theory’ curriculum is African-American and Native American history – Republicans are against this.”

He believed he must buffer this bill’s attempts to reduce accurate history and culture efforts. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD-03) joined Mfume’s initiative by introducing accompanying legislation in the Senate on the same day as Mfume.

“I applaud the congressman for leading on this issue,” said Sen. Cardin (D-MD-03). “I am proud to lead the initiative in the Senate.”

The legislation proposed that the President and Senate will select council members.  They will consider equal representation when seeking nominations. Expressly individuals with disabilities, women and minorities. 

Cardin said there is a lack of accountability in NEH. Black Americans have shaped the U.S. and their contributions have not been portrayed appropriately throughout history.

“This commission would give Black professors, artists, and students a real seat at the table,” said Rep. Mfume (D-MD-07). “Help to advance this nation one step closer to recognizing the tremendous value of Black history and culture.”

The bill proposes creating a council of 12 members who ideally have expertise or evidence of work within the subject matter.

Six council members would hold the position for five years and the other six for three years. Members would serve as part-timers with pay for travel expenses included. The bill proposed the council meet at least twice a year.

According to the legislation, council members would also be responsible for gathering “timely and authoritative information concerning historical developments and cultural trends in African-American history and culture.” They will evaluate several programs and activities from the NEH to identify how much they are successfully contributing to Black humanity conservation.

The proposed council, if passed, would operate for ten years.

“We will work closely making plans to ensure we get the support we need to get this done,” said Sen. Cardin (D-MD-03).

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