How many of our social, civic and religious organizations originated in somebody’s living room? If not all of them, many of them began with a group of women sitting over cups of tea, and after discussing husbands, children and the latest neighborhood trivia, their conversations turned to more pressing matters. They may have come together for a social occasion, but in their hearts was a sincere concern for the moral, spiritual, economic and educational welfare of the black community.
The Other Atlantic City has always had its share of such groups, many transforming into branches of national organizations, like the NAACP and the Urban League. I’ve seen listings of at least 50 from past decades, not bad for our little town. 101 Women Plus began in 1982, during the political campaign of Mr. James L. Usry. Mrs. Dorothy Dorrington called a meeting in support of Usry; later, male members were added as the “plus-es.” Mr. Usry would become Atlantic City’s first African-American mayor.
This year, 101 Women Plus, Inc., had its 28th annual leadership luncheon at the sprawling Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, but the recipients of its awards were all from The Other A.C. Also, for the 20th year, 101 Women awarded two scholarships to outstanding high school students.
When I walked into the sun-drenched banquet room, I was surprised to hear Judah Dorrington, daughter of 101’s founder, belting out all kinds of smooth sounds with her Umoja Ensemble. We grew up together, but I didn’t know she could blow like that. Hors d’oeuvres were available and people sat or walked from table-to-table socializing. I’m always amazed at how many people 101 Women Plus can draw at $65 per ticket. This is reasonable for such an event in the D.C. area where I lived for 20-plus years, but around here, folks are always complaining about such prices.
As with all black community events in the area, this was an A.C. reunion. Family members, co-workers and extended family of awardees shared congratulations, old classmates and neighbors hugged and kissed, and visiting A.C. natives got caught up on all the latest news. After we sang the Negro National Anthem, lunch was served and the guest speaker, Reverend Kevin Ragland, told the audience, “A leader’s true worth is measured by succession.” Rev. Ragland explained that it is not enough to do good things, but that somebody must see that your works are worth continuing long after you are gone.
To date, more than 400 children have come through the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, where education, opportunity and life skills are stressed as much as the sport. In 2006, the students won the Hockey in the Hood tournament in Detroit. Mr. Dorrington has been Atlantic City’s Softball Commissioner since 2002.
"An urban high school is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It’s a global world now so it’s good to get to know people from a lot of different places, with a lot of different backgrounds. You can’t learn that from a book.”
Is it a black middle-class thing? It shouldn’t be; swimming can be a life-saving skill. Last summer, I remember seeing children return to the water after the lifeguards went off duty. The guards would ...
At our family’s restaurant, we prepared special lunches for these Freedom Riders, known as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Other business people, churches and homes around the city offered meals and shelter for this tired and disenfranchised group of activists who had traveled so far.
A.C. Youth Exposure has a curriculum that includes everything from mentoring, tutoring, job and scholarship counseling, college and career exploration, to field trips. Modeled after the five-year-old Youth Exposure program in Plainfield, N.J., it is designed for students in grades 5th through 8th, a group sometimes overlooked by other programs.
With the current focus on non-gaming, family-friendly and cultural attractions in Atlantic City's future, here are some of the reasons why Ralph Hunter and the AAHMSNJ should have a home in Atlantic City:
It’s been very weird. When I decided to self-publish my book in Dec. 2009, I did it because an agent in New York told me — and this is pre-Obama — that nobody’s interested in black history now. I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Nobody is interested. That’s just the truth.’ Then, I think it was in April, HBO calls me.
With the new TV series based on early Atlantic City, Boardwalk Empire, coming this fall to HBO, I was glad when I received Turiya Raheem’s book Growing Up In the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside. Finally there is a book that researches and documents the sights and sounds of A.C. from the African-American/Kentucky Avenue perspective. In other books and TV specials, places like Chicken Bone Beach, Club Harlem and the Wonder Gardens are footnotes to stories about places like the 500 Club and/or the Steele Pier. In Raheem’s book these places are more than just background. The long-gone...
Art Dorrington's daughter Judah was speechless with pride, and thanked everyone for giving her father “his flowers while he can still see them.”