It dawned on me the other day that I have completed my first year as an acweekly.com columnist. It’s been one of the best years of my life, a year that has forced me to challenge myself and grow as a writer.
When Atlantic City Weekly editor Jeff Schwachter first approached me about the possibility of a column, I hardly knew what to say.
How do you know me? Where did you hear about my book? How do you know I can write a column? What do you want me to write about? You want four per month?
Really? Are you serious? Basically, I can write about anything I want?
Jeff and I met at a local McDonald’s to discuss the possibilities. I was pleased that he took so many hours with me and seemed to have no doubt in his mind that I could do this.
He had no idea that this was a dream come true for me, another blessing from taking that leap of faith and publishing my book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash's and the Northside, in December 2009 — by the way, after a reputable agent in New York City told me that there was little interest in African-American history anymore.
Unbeknownst to me, that’s when HBO was wrapping up its Boardwalk Empire series debut and by the spring of 2010, an HBO producer had called me asking to send a limousine that would take me to New York.
She wanted to include me on two HBO documentaries, Atlantic City: The Original Sin City and Color Barrier, as promos for the upcoming series.
It was almost too much to bear, but of course, Jeff didn’t know any of this when we met at McDonald’s.
He also didn’t know that I had been a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother for many years before becoming an English teacher, all the while writing bits and pieces of poems, essays, stories and finally, the book, when I could fit them in between wifing and mothering.
Now that my last daughter was off to college and I had returned to my hometown of Atlantic City, I was a published author, about to be on two HBO documentaries and here comes Jeff Schwachter with an offer to have my own column at acweekly.com.
What a journey! I tried to appear confident while Jeff interviewed me, but he didn’t see me all teary-eyed and nervous once I left his presence. I was so happy I’m surprised I did not burst with joy on my walk home.
I had also landed a part-time teaching position at Atlantic-Cape and was wondering if I’d be able to handle the responsibility of four articles per month. Talk about when preparation and opportunity come together!
I had been practicing my craft for years, completing writing exercises on my own, submitting essays and short stories to contests and magazines, and attending writers’ workshops or conferences whenever I had the chance. I loved teaching at the community college level, but I knew that was partly out of insecurity with a full-time writer’s life.
If anyone asked what I did for a living, I still would not refer to myself as “a writer.”
Now, after one year and 48 articles, I can truly say, “I am a writer, an online columnist at acweekly.com. My column is called 'The Other Atlantic City.'”
I try to keep things positive most of the time, covering people, places, events and topics of concern to the local community away from the entertainment areas of Atlantic City.
Now and then, I get disgusted enough to write angrily, but thoughtfully I hope, about something that may negatively affect residents of the city. I also enjoy sharing my views on “hot” topics and interesting historical tidbits.
We didn’t use the term “food desert,” but we knew exactly what consumer advocates meant when they declared our city one. Food deserts are communities where residents have little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes fresh meats and dairy products are also included.
“Three months to hurry and nine months to worry” was the slogan for locals who looked forward to having work and making as much money as possible during this short period.
ATLANTIC CITY — Watching so many TV shows and attending local programs during Black History Month makes African-Americans feel extremely proud of all the obstacles we’ve overcome and achievements we’ve accomplished. I exhaust myself trying to attend as many programs as possible, but inevitably, I end up wondering whether or not reparations are still in order: reparations, from the root “repair” meaning “to make amends, to put right, to put into good or sound condition after damage or the effects of wear and tear.” If someone steals 10 dollars from me and apologizes, that’s really nice and I appreciate it, but that still may not repair my relationship with this person, and I still may think of her as a thief. If someone steals 10 dollars from me, apologizes and gives my 10 dollars back to me, this will more likely help us to have a decent relationship in the future. In July 2009, our U.S. House of Representatives issued an apology to Black Americans for the institution of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws. Some of us probably felt all warm and fuzzy for all of 30 seconds and then, life went on as usual. Some of us...
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?
Art Dorrington's daughter Judah was speechless with pride, and thanked everyone for giving her father “his flowers while he can still see them.”
Over the last few months when families were gathering for all types of occasions, some of the young men in our family refused to attend because of “so many divorced couples and so few new marriages.” I was disappointed by their absence but understood their sentiments. Like many modern American families, we’ve had so many divorces now that one niece asked, “Is divorce a tradition in our family?”
If you’ve never been to the Civil Rights Garden in Atlantic City, you should make it a point to drop by there and sit awhile. It is a contemplative place.
I asked some of the special people in my life why we should NOT make resolutions and got some funny and enlightening answers other than the obvious one — that many of us don’t keep them.
Let’s set the record straight: Kwanzaa is truly African-American. It is NOT a religious holiday.
In a cozy purple sweater and gray sweatpants, the orange Mohawk was expertly coiffed as usual. I remembered attending her 75th birthday party a few years ago and knew then I wanted to hear her story from her own mouth, but she is one hard lady to catch up with.
There was a reason why I dedicated my book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside, to all the families in Atlantic City, in addition to my own grandparents and children — I knew they had similar stories to tell.
Today, most funding comes from city grants, local businesses and casino donations.
Jacob Lawrence Day in Atlantic City