To all of Preservation NJ’s friends and colleagues,
I am deeply disturbed by the brutal murder of George Floyd. In the weeks following his death, I have thought deeply about how I personally can make a difference in my community. I know many other New Jersey residents have taken this time to do the same. In addition, in my role as Executive Director, I have thought deeply about how Preservation New Jersey can contribute to education and healing in our own corner of the world – the preservation community. From these thoughts, I’d like to share a few resources and then share a commitment from within.
Preservation New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places List, published annually since 1995, has regularly highlighted the need to preserve places that speak directly to the diversity of black experience and history in our home state. It highlights many preservation successes, as well as failures. When there has been success, several sites have been turned into museums and cultural centers where people can learn and draw on the strength of yesterday to fight the battles for justice for today, far too many of which must still be won. When there has been failure, it can reflect a failure of our communities to acknowledge and respect the black lives that tread there. Over the past two weeks we have created a new resource to locate “10 Most” sites with direct links to New Jersey’s black history, and we have updated the contact information for these sites. For those that would like to learn more and reach out to contribute to the preservation of these New Jersey stories, the link to this resource is here.
In the time since George Floyd’s death, I have also kept a running list of articles written by black individuals in the preservation field and several others that speak to a variety of issues to be addressed in the profession, successes and challenges, and calls for change in the future. I recommend reading them. Even if as individuals we don’t agree on every perspective, as people concerned with the preservation of historic sites, and the stories they tell, we can agree that an accurate telling of historic events is best achieved through a variety of viewpoints. Read here.
Finally, we have also taken this time to turn the light on ourselves as an organization. I am committed to bringing more Black voices into our organization’s programming, onto our committees, into our membership and our board. We know that we have work to do. This work was beginning, and now will be accelerated. I won’t shy away from doing the work I personally need to do within our own organization and in our preservation community to form a more diverse, as well as inclusive, space. I hope our members will feel inspired by our honesty, see the need, and be emboldened to do the same.
Hoping for the safety of all your loved ones in these challenging times – and looking forward to when we can all gather in community again.
Preservation New Jersey