2016 has been a transformative year for the Atlantic City Chapter of Black Lives Matter – NJ! Our monthly teach-in forums in Atlantic City empowered us, brought mutual understanding, and strengthened our bonds, allowing us to set and pursue meaningful priorities. BLM-NJ: Atlantic City brings people together in a powerful way, providing the infrastructure necessary to make shared values and concerns an agenda for social change for the entire region. It is fitting that this year, our group became an official chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement through the New Jersey chapter. Though we have diverse backgrounds and perspectives, we have similar hopes to end the systematic and intentional targeting of Black Lives for demise. Throughout the year, we came together with enthusiasm and generosity of spirit, to teach, to learn and to lay the groundwork for lasting racial justice. Facilitated by experts in their fields, we explored topics ranging from the mindsets behind racism and white privilege, to the importance of affirming black LGBTQ lives, to the issues of fair housing and the school-to-prison pipeline. Many months of our 12-month education sit-ins have been covered here on NJ Platform.
We have spoken out and have been covered by the Press of Atlantic City over forums we’ve had in August of 2016 and in November of 2016. We have commenced the process of archiving our own conversations about justice in Atlantic City in connection with Dr. Jackson’s urban sociology course. We have made coalitions and expanded our networks to include non-profits, schools and collectives. We have created Resolution 2017, bringing awareness to child sexual abuse making April Atlantic City’s Sexual Abuse prevention month. We have held a Civil Disobedience workshop with the National Action Network. Internally, we have provided opportunities for members of all colors to reflect on privilege, divisions, personhood and our creative outlets through workshops and poetry readings. Our goal has been to create a network of people of all colors who are committed to racial, economic and gender justice developing a language for how to talk about structural violence with our nation’s institutions.
We continue to grow and transition to a new phase of our movement. Our consensus is to focus on two issues: education reform and the creation of a stronger Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) in Atlantic City as a way to facilitate deeper trust and community relations with Atlantic City Police Department. Both objectives are seen as critical as it relates to implementing the guiding principles of the broader Black Lives Matter Movement. It is our hope that as we strive to achieve these aims, we will expand our base and build coalitions not only with established community groups but in our communities by going door-to-door and writing opinion editorials in local newspapers explaining our BLM objectives and guiding principles. Perhaps at no time in recent history have the challenges to peace and justice been greater, and the call to action been stronger. But together, we are equal to the task. If interested in joining our team and being apart of the work we are doing, email us. Up to date info can be found on our facebook page.
About the Authors:
Rev. William M. Williams, III is a husband to Joyce and father to Julia, William, IV, and James. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and is currently under appointment at the Asbury United Methodist Church of Atlantic City. He has Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Swarthmore College and a Masters of Divinity degree from Drew University School of Theology. He is a core member of the Black Lives Matter-New Jersey: Atlantic City chapter team.
Ronda Matthews Cluff is a long-time member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore in Galloway Township and serves on the congregation’s Racial Justice Task Force. She is an active participant in the Atlantic City Chapter of Black Lives Matter – NJ. She works as a freelance writer, specializing in public relations and communications for non-profits.
Dr. Christina Jackson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stockton University who participates in community work in both Atlantic City and Philadelphia. She is also a core team member of the Black Lives Matter Atlantic City chapter helping to facilitate monthly forums with community residents. Dr. Jackson teaches classes and conducts research on inequality, urban places, gender, social movements and the politics of redevelopment and gentrification. She is an avid supporter of integrating service learning into her teaching pedagogy. She is a board member of a girls’ leadership camp and year long program called Camp Sojourner based in West Philadelphia.
About Black Lives Matter AC:
Black Lives Matter AC was organized by a coalition of community organizations in and around Atlantic City that meets monthly at Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City to bring together people across lines of race, religion, age, gender, economic & educational levels, in order to learn and listen to one another. We honor the future through our youth, creating space for arts, culture, and local ministry to guide youth away from gangs and toward the arts. Various speakers present on topics, so we better understand the underlying systems of oppressions which people of color have inherited and which white Euro-Americans have often taken for granted. Since November, we have covered areas such as domestic violence, the prison industrial complex, housing, the current state takeover of Atlantic City, and more. We provide safe and facilitated space for people to begin listening to one another’s stories, to build trust, and to foster relationships that lead to organizing and building projects for change. Our goal is to create relationships where none existed, and then to allow the process of creativity and cooperation to flourish for good, so that the future of Atlantic City and Atlantic County is enhanced for as many people as possible, starting with our children.