“For years, this city has been like the phoenix… we have not learned from its past resurrections the importance of including residents, and those people who struggle on a day to day basis to keep this city alive, and provide the lifeblood of this city.” – Belinda Manning
Belinda Manning is a poet, artist, community activist, volunteer, and long-time resident of Atlantic County. A few weeks ago, we met in the Civil Rights Garden in Atlantic City to talk about the importance of this place to her. We talked about the power and promise of this Garden, as well as the challenges it presents to people that visit it. This story is the first in an ongoing series called Our City Our Voices which will feature the stories of everyday residents in Atlantic City responding to the current crisis over the city’s finances and future.
The Atlantic City Civil Rights Garden pays homage to important African-American leaders whose footsteps anyone fighting for justice walks in: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph and more. The pillars of justice, increasing in height throughout the garden, remind us we are still on the road– that there is still much work to do. At the same time, in recent years, due to budget shortfalls, the Garden isn’t maintained as it should, some of the engravings fading on the stone pillars, a reminder of the disinvestment by city and state government in the local community and the important legacies that are the “lifeblood” of this community.