OKLAHOMA CITY - 2019 marks 400 years since the first slaves arrived in America from Africa. There is a new push to educate the public, with the federal government planning to help local organizations with their efforts. 

The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act was supported by legislators on both sides of the aisle to recognize the impact that history has had on the country’s culture.

The walls of the Oklahoma Black Museum are covered with art and information on the past.

“We’re small, but a little something is better than a whole lot of nothing,” says museum founder Rosetta Funches.

Funches has run the museum for the past decade and is using next year to raise even more awareness about the contributions of African-Americans in Oklahoma. She hopes to get precious grant funding from the 400 Commission.

“What is it about us that shouldn’t be known?” she challenges. “God made everybody, and it’s going to help us out in many ways if they’re serious about it.”

The 15-member commission, including two Oklahomans, met for the first time two weeks ago. Members tell News On 6 they are most likely to sanction and support anniversary events already in the works due to their late start.

The Oklahoma Black Museum is currently working on a commemorative mural project to revitalize historically black Northeast 23rd Street.

“It’s a wonderful thoroughfare,” Funches says, “and the way it looks, it’s probably one of the worst streets in Oklahoma.”

Funches says just as important is the project to establish a Jazz Legacy Museum, songs she says came from the bellies of slave ships.

“With all this persecution they start singing to the Lord, and that’s how Gospel came out,” says Funches, “and then after that they started moaning and groaning the Blues about living circumstances, and then they rejoiced with Jazz.”

Commission members tell me their strategic plan to identify funding measures should be complete within the next couple of weeks, and they hope to start awarding grants early next year.

To stay up to date on the Commission’s progress, click here.