A new book by Turiya Raheem documents the sights and sounds of A.C. from an African-American perspective
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 theatres, restaurants, hotels and rooming houses that served people of color from janitors to doctors, families, celebrities like Sammy Davis Jr. and the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King are very much a part of the personal history that Raheem shares.
Raheem masterfully illustrates the beautiful world African-Americans built here. More than a mere reference book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City is a testimony to what family and neighborhoods used to be, and a living love letter to an Atlantic City that passed away far too soon.
I found Growing Up to be informative, entertaining and, as a young businessman myself, extremely inspiring. Last Friday, Jan. 22, Turiya Raheem had a book signing at the current Wash’s Café location, 128 N. New Road in Pleasantville. We talked about her having grown up in “the other Atlantic City.”
Where was the first Wash’s located?
The first Wash’s location was at 35 North Kentucky Avenue (for about 15 years), right down the street from the Club Harlem. That was great, but when rents on Kentucky became too high and business increased, my grandfather and uncles found a larger spot at 1702 Arctic Avenue (for about 20 years) before it moved to its current location in Pleasantville.
What are your earliest memories of Wash’s?
My earliest memories of Wash’s and some of my fondest are when we all (she and her cousins) went there for dinner after a day at the beach, because that’s where all of our parents were working.
What is your definition of ‘The Other Atlantic City’?
I tell people ‘the other A.C.’ is the down-home, cozy place where everybody knows everybody. You’ve got to watch who you marry because everybody is related. People talk to each other without leaving their own porches or stoops, where everybody sits in the summer to enjoy warm evenings after days at the beach. It’s the A.C. away from the south side, the Boardwalk and the casinos.
What dish would you suggest for people dining at Wash’s today?
Everybody wants Wash’s fried chicken wings, but I think they should try a seafood platter myself.
Your book shares the love your family has. What do you want readers to learn from your book?
Readers must know that A.C.’s African-American community contributed much to make this tiny city by the sea the ‘nation’s playground’ and then the ‘world’s playground,’ and it is a disgrace that local residents have not benefitted more from the presence of the casino industry. There were so many promises made that never happened, but like someone said, it still ain’t too late. If the right groups join together, we can have a Northside/Kentucky Avenue museum, a performing arts school, and more to document and preserve our history in A.C.
On Tuesday, Feb. 22, groundbreaking will commence on the newest Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian’s 19th museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will occupy a five-acre site on Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets N.W., between the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
When are we going to hear more talk about the many efforts available to help parents, teen and otherwise, deal with their own lack of parenting skills, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, depression and outdated employability skills?
A list of Black History Month related events in the Atlantic City region.
"...the feeling I left with from the Kwanzaa celebration was that 'the village must look out for the village — regardless of who or where we are.'"
The elections may be over, but there is still a bad taste left in the mouths of many local voters.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not sure if many decision-making officials truly understand how important honesty, inclusion and transparency are to the African-American community.
Nadirah Ruffin, Atlantic City Board of Education, the CRDA town-hall meetings and Raheem's original poem: 'The Ocean Has a Way With Me.'
"Hopefully, by Tuesday, March 29, the A.C. Board of Education members can agree not to close this alternative program, which, according to many, has practically saved the lives of some young people."
"For blocks and blocks, I would hear no other language spoken but Spanish. Then, there would be blocks and blocks where occupants spoke a different language at every house: French, Wolof, a Haitian patois, Ghujurati, Arabic, Bengali. One house would have a Virgin Mary statue in the front yard and next to it, there’d be a house with verses from the Qur’an on its front door."
"By the 1950s, Wash and Sons’ Seafood Restaurant was a full-service place seating more than 100. Among our guests were celebrities, like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr., Nipsey Russell, Moms Mabley and Count Basie, who were featured at nightclubs on Kentucky Avenue."
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.
Plus this week's new Drew Toonz cartoon, and the MLK Awards with Nelson Johnson speaking set for Jan. 14.
Art Dorrington's daughter Judah was speechless with pride, and thanked everyone for giving her father “his flowers while he can still see them.”
Songs in the Key of My Life
‘The Music Beat’ Moves In
Verse For Verse, Part Three
Verse for Verse, Part One.
Atlantic City Shout Outs
Tribute to Playwright August Wilson
Back To School