What a ball we had at our 40th Atlantic City High School class reunion!
DJ MrKream (Aaron Washington) made it happen, as every time he played another tune, someone in the crowd yelled, “Oh, I loved this! This was my favorite song! Oh, no, he didn’t!”
Then, folks would jump up on the dance floor. He must have the best collection of Earth, Wind and Fire hits of any area DJ.
As usual, the food at the Atlantic City Country Club was very good, and I loved the wide variety of mini desserts displayed later in the evening. Before, during and after dinner, our Mistress of Ceremonies, Linda Holmes-Reaves, led us in prayer, introduced speakers, joked and thanked committee members for their tireless help.
This year, Linda asked me to open the reunion with a short welcome and I decided to share my book journey with the audience, admonishing everyone at the end, “If you still have dreams you want to pursue, don’t think it’s too late.”
John Grossman, who was academically No. 1 in our class, followed me, and I think we all expected him to deliver a longer speech. The soft-spoken Grossman, however, had not changed. He simply said that he was glad to see everybody and told us that he wasn’t allowed to speak at our graduation, because his “hair was too long.”
That alone was enough to remind me of the historic times we grew up in — the 1970s. The memories came flooding back and I turned to the last chapter of my book (parts of which are excerpted here).
I don’t know if I had ever considered running for class president, but in the fall of 1971, I decided to do just that. If I couldn’t make change happen among the adults in Atlantic City, I knew I could make a difference at school. There had been too many years of racial and political strife in our city. Maybe I could become our high school’s first black female class president. It was such an exciting time to be black and female. Even some of my Black Student Union brothers thought that I had become too much of a feminist, but they still supported my run for class president.
Right away, we began hanging posters all over the school, ones that reflected progress and social justice for all students. The team we assembled was one we thought would bring unity to our school --- four whites, one Jewish boy, one Jewish girl, three girls, one black, me.
The competition was fierce and the speeches moving, though I wasn’t sure if I could get enough votes from the white students to win the position. After all, we were returning that fall from some very tumultuous years. As we waited in the school’s auditorium to hear the final count, I paced the floor at the back, my palms sweating, my heartbeat speeding.
I thought about how, as a young girl, I had said I wanted to be the first woman president of the United State, and at that moment, you might have thought that was the result I was waiting to hear. Anxious students had gathered in the auditorium awaiting the last few voters and the final count. Senior class advisors stayed around to ensure compliance with all the rules.
When Mr. Faunce, our principal, announced the results of the race, a great roar went up in the auditorium and students flooded out into the hallways spreading the news before it was even announced on the intercom. I stood paralyzed against the black wall.
“We did it! We did it!” Joel, my vice president, yelled, jumping his full height into the air and returning to give me a big hug. “We did it!” He yelled again, lifting me high into the air.
“Yes, we did,” smiled Rosary in her quiet way.
Eventually, both young men fell in love with skateboarding and wanted to pass it on as a way of giving back to their community.
After being away for a couple of weeks, I had to make a trip to our Boardwalk, for inevitably, this time of year brings a hint of sadness to those of us who love all things summer.
If the Eagles don’t improve on their 8-8 slate of 2011, or fail to make the playoffs for a second straight year, head coach Andy Reid will likely not return for a 15th season.
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