In preparation for a speaking engagement at the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey in Atlantic City, NJ, I had the pleasure of a private tour of the current exhibit. It’s called, “The North Side: The Way We Were.” Ralph Hunter, the founder and curator of the museum – and a true Spirit of Purpose – has created a destination for all who are hungry for positive portrayals of the African American experience. This and all of his museum’s exhibits tell the stories of a creative, ambitious and resilient community.
“The North Side” exhibit showcases scores of photos and memorabilia from early Atlantic City. It was a time when the African American community flourished – even under the watchful eye of Boardwalk Empire’s real Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. The business community was segregated, but strong and it instilled the people of the area with the kind of pride and confidence that breeds success.
There were plenty of reasons for AC’s black residents of that time to run and hide. In other parts of America, there were lynchings, cross burnings, riots with fire hoses and false accusations being levied against people of color. But in AC, they found the will to build and to become purveyors of the American Dream.
The people in “The North Side” exhibit were every day people. Police men and women, doctors, club owners, restauranteurs. They were celebrities in Atlantic City because they ignored the negative drumbeats and followed their authentic path to their dreams. Drowning out the “You can’ts” and the “We don’ts” with the internal drive that said “I can and I will.” Ignoring the fate that comes with the labels they were marked with. Debunking the illusions of being worth less. Not falling prey to excuses that would have been easier to accept rather than fight the good fight. Questioning the stories in the air from the naysayers from inside and outside their own circles. Labels. Illusions. Excuses. Stories. LIES.
Why is the message of this exhibit important – not just for African Americans – but for everyone? Because oppression knows no bounds. The same LIES that are at the root of racism are at the root of sexism, weightism, classism, sexual-orientationism. The list goes on and on. These same LIES stand in the way of self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-determination and self-esteem.
The stories of the people, the every day people of Atlantic City’s North Side are filled with inspiration and truth. They are proof that we are all born with great potential, regardless of the circumstances we’re born into.
I invite you to come and meet the people of the North Side. Hear the stories of the way they were from Ralph Hunter, a man who in his late 60’s still found it in him to pursue his unique passion of sharing local and national African American history with children and adults for the betterment of all.
For my part, I’ll dig deep into their stories to share the lessons for today. Lessons learned from past generations that will propel each and every one of us into our own unique and promising future. I hope you’ll join us.
Pushing Past Stereotypes: Then & Now
- Go Back in Time with Ralph Hunter
- Lessons From the North Side
- Book Signing (LIES That Limit: Uncover The Truth of Who You Really Are)
- Wine & Cheese Reception
When: Saturday, April 12th | 3 – 6 PM
Where: African American Heritage Museum at the Noyes Arts Garage
2200 Fairmount Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ
Admission: FREE (Donations to AAHMSNJ are encouraged.)