Last March, I talked to Meleika Gardner about her work authoring an amendment to a bill mandating that Illinois schools teach Black history starting before enslavement.
Gardner's amendment to HB4954, which passed out of committee 14-7 in February 2020, was slated to go to a vote by the full House of Representatives in mid-March. It stalled when Covid-19 brought the country, and the state, to a screeching halt.
Ironically, support for the amended bill, sponsored by State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, (D, 8th), gained momentum in the meantime, as the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on Black Americans and the police murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks catapulted racial justice to the top of many Americans' minds.
And last Monday, Governor Pritzker signed the Black Caucus-backed education plan that includes Gardner's amendment.
Read Genevieve Bookwalter's March 16 Evanston Review report on the bill's passage.
I talked to Meleika about her work back in March, and about her drive to teach students about Black American history before slave ships brought Africans to American shores.
“I believe it will enrich lives, save lives, help close the academic opportunity gap, and help to resolve race relations,” Gardner told me then. “It's important that all children of all cultural backgrounds are taught the correct information. To date, the only part that's taught is Black people starting out in shackles and chains."