Recently, I had the honor of speaking on a topic that intrigued and inspired me. The topic was about how African Americans in Atlantic City’s early history created a strong, affluent and successful community in spite of pervasive racism and negative stereotypes. My talk was among many activities supporting The African American Heritage Museum of Southern NJ’s exhibit “The Northside: The Way We Were.”
Atlantic City’s Northside residents are often featured in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, but the story goes well beyond the seedy. During the years of segregation, this community bred doctors, lawyers, successful male and female business owners, politicians, high-ranking civil servants, restauranteurs, and more.
Ralph Hunter, the founder and president of the museum is among those who believe segregation worked in the Northside’s favor. The money they made outside their community was spent inside their community, allowing for a thriving, self-sustaining economy. Even with their success, there was no way to escape the color of their skin and the potentially crippling awareness of the resulting limitations. Yet, they were able to push past the stereotypes and become world-renowned entrepreneurs, entertainers and firsts in many local arenas. They didn’t let the grand-design LIES – Labels, Illusions, Excuses & Stories – intended to exert power and dominance over them kill their dreams and their spirit.
Instead, they adopted Self-ishness as a strategy. Early Atlantic City’s people of African descent transcended the stereotypes of grand-design LIES, and you too can benefit from their legacy of Self-ishness by calling on these guiding principles.
- Be Self-Referential: Be the only one who defines who you are, and the purpose and calling you pursue.
- Be Self-Centered: Look within for clarity, stability and personal power. No self-criticizing about missed opportunities, mistakes or shortcomings. Learn and move on.
- Be Self-Assured: Be confident in your abilities, always poised, composed and dignified. Move with unshakable belief in yourself.
- Be Self-Respecting: Know your worth. Hold yourself in high esteem. Align your beliefs and behavior with who you are and your sense of purpose.
- Be Self-Authorized: Give yourself permission to pursue your goals and dreams. Be self-empowered.
- Be Self-Disciplined: Exert the willpower necessary to stay on the path toward your goals. Focus only on what you want.
- Be Self-Serving: Use your gifts and your energy to serve your inspired desires, dreams, purpose and calling.
AAHMSNJ’s exhibit “The North Side: The Way We Were” closes on June 1st. I highly recommend you and your family visit if you’re in AC area. You’ll see the faces of a great generation who paved the way for many successes in today’s African American community. The AAHMSNJ museum is located at the Noyes Arts Garage in Atlantic City — right off the AC Expressway in the parking garage for the Atlantic City Outlets.