The 1619 Project is the brainchild of New York Times writer and McArthur Genuis Fellow NiKole Hannah Jones.

The issue starts with the following words:

On August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia.

It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.

The authors challenge us to consider 1619 as the birth year of this nation which would “require us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.” They offer the Special Issue for those who need some persuading.

And there are lots of those people as I attempted to read the comments on the Official Facebook 1619 Project page. I had to stop after about 10 comments of people spewing hate towards the project suggesting that it’s divisive to bring up this darkest part of our American history.

Newt Gingrich tweeted:
“The NY Times 1619 Project should make its slogan “All the Propaganda we want to brainwash you with. It is a repudiation of the original NY Times motto.” Lots of “Get over it!” Comments over and over again.

Yet I am encouraged by the many conversations the writing has sparked in my circles, particularly in my racially diverse racial healing circles of which there are quite a few.

Recently I facilitated a dialogue among 25-30 people who came out to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Park (co sponsored by the Apex Museum) to consider what racial healing might look like. When Michael “Moon” Thompson, former offensive lineman for the Falcons told his story of bias that landed his beautiful black body in a prison for 4 years for driving while black, he shared deeply the pain he experienced living in an abusive household and, to this day, still wanting people to understand big Black men need hugs, too. And a brother in the audiene stood up, came to the front of the room and gave Michael a hug. In that witnessing moment, healing was happening before our very eyes.

We invite you to join the movement of uplifting our history and making our racial healing as a nation a priority. This is where equity begins. With a deep understanding of how we got where we are today, you can find your way of making a difference. Whether it’s teaching children under your care to love their skin, noses and hair or it’s disrupting the entrenched bias in police departments across this nation that leads to innocent Black people dying, being profiled and serving undeserved time behind bars.

Oluremi Sano’s Facebook post sums up its importance well:
The 1619 Project, by NY Times, is one of the most important moves by a major media outlet in a very long time. I am 50 years old, a student of culture and history, and have never [in my lifetime and all my years of education] seen any major media outlet be brave enough to tell the full truth about the history of this country & how we arrived at our today [policies, prison systems, postures toward “others/immigrants”]. These articles need to be read by every adult of every ethnicity. Because our children will collectively inherit the mindset and the social atmosphere we leave them. Understanding and acknowledging the truth at its root is extremely important for the forward progress of this nation.

I would like to close with a moment of silence, a pouring of libations, a holding in the light or a prayer for our sister Angela. She was the first African on that fateful ship that landed in the most ironically named place I’ve heard of – Point Comfort – that was sold into slavery. The story is told that she was from Angola hence was named Angela. To you, Angela we say Ase. And we commit to continuing the fight for our freedom and liberation that started on that day on the coast of Virginia in 1619.

400 years later, we are still here. And we will thrive!

—– Dr. Folami