We gathered our belongings from our lockers before meeting up in Mrs. Cash’s classroom for our first meeting. Immediately, we began planning senior activities and changes we wanted to make before leaving our alma mater. We did not want our last year at Atlantic City High to be only a year filled with parties, dances, senior skip days and celebrations.
We wanted to make real progress and that’s how the year began. Students were talking and sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, attending football games, dances and other school events without any rioting like the past couple of years.
Unfortunately, as the year progressed, society’s bigger issues affected the way we did business as well and many sides were taken straight down racial lines.
Even when the class officers could agree, the student body could not.
White seniors voted for and took a ski trip; blacks went on a separate trip to Peg Leg Bates Country Club in upstate New York. (Peg Leg bates was a famous entertainer from the 1940s who sang and danced on one wooden leg). Black students pressed for and achieved more Afro-American history coverage in American History classes; many whites thought it was a non-issue.
There were even major arguments over the location, types of music and bands for our senior prom. I had not expected such disunity, because the student body had voted for me as its president.
It was disheartening.
That was 1972 and when I watched the Republican National Convention [last week] with such a lack of diversity amongst its delegates, I wondered how much progress we’ve really made and how it will affect this year’s presidential election.
In 2008, the election of President Obama seemed to bring out the best in us. U.S. voters felt so good about ourselves and how we came together despite our differences to put the best candidate for all of us into the office of President.
As the years moved on, however, President Obama’s presidency seemed to bring out the worst in many of us with steep climbs in racial profiling, discrimination against brown-skinned immigrants and hate crimes on the rise.
I know my class president experience can’t be compared with President Obama’s, but I am really hoping and praying that U.S. voters will once again rise to our better selves and put the best candidate into office, even if he has brown skin or seems ethnically different.
We cannot let something as superficial as skin color determine how we will vote.
What matters most is the substance of the person and his/her desire and ability to improve the living conditions of all Americans, as well as our country’s relationship with others around the world.
I think President Obama has already proven himself in this regard, despite having been burdened with some horrible policies left from the Bush administration.
Let’s give him another four years to keep moving America forward, to keep his head to the sky, as Earth, Wind and Fire would put it.
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.
Jacob Lawrence Day in Atlantic City
Black History, Jazz and Poetry