The Importance of the History of Atlantic City Examined Through “Our Side: The other Atlantic City”

By Alexis Cintron

Sign above an Atlantic City highway reading the previous motto, “Welcome to Atlantic City: always turned on”  before it was changed to “Do AC” in 2012.

Working with the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) has given me an idea about how this organization has impacted Atlantic City and other communities. Atlantic City is known for the casinos and the fast life. The old motto before “Do AC” was “Welcome to Atlantic City, always turned on.” I never really understood what that saying meant, until I got older. I learned that the average tourist visits Atlantic City for an average of six hours and then they return home to their real lives.

With that being said, people don’t typically acknowledge or care about the economic disparities that the majority of residents go through. MMP has given longtime residents a voice through storytelling in “Our Side: The other Atlantic City.” This documentary focuses not only on life and the impact of the casinos, but the history of Atlantic City before the casinos. This is a topic of discussion that should take place more often, especially with Stockton University soon gentrifying the city. Residents should be able to have a voice and projecting the voices to be heard through the documentary is a pretty good start.

There is more to the history of Atlantic City and it does not start with the uprising of the casinos, which has both a negative and positive impact on the people and the community as a whole. “Our Side: The other Atlantic City” focuses on Black life in Atlantic City and the personal stories. Turiya Raheem tells us the story of her family and how they owned the famous Wash’s diner. This documentary brings to light life before the casinos and the power of storytelling and how the audience can relate to the topics being discussed.

As a resident of Atlantic City, I know a lot of people who have been affected by the closing of multiple casinos; my grandmother being one of them. Our Side: The other Atlantic City” exposes power and shows root cause, which is one of MMP’s principles that relates to this situation because the rise and fall of the casinos has significantly impacted life in Atlantic City.

Storytelling has given a voice to those who do not feel they have a say on what goes on in their communities. “Our Side: The other Atlantic City” has shined a light on the different perspectives and the history of Black life in Atlantic City before the casinos. The documentary focused on one of Atlantic City’s many Black-owned businesses that allowed the city to function.

Photo I took in August on the Atlantic City Boardwalk of the Revel Casino and surrounding homes.

The photo to the left depicts the sad image of Atlantic City as a whole. The small house represents life before the takeover by casinos and the irony is the famous Revel casino pictured behind the small house and has been shut down. This casino was supposed to bring a lot of jobs and revenue to the city, but has done the opposite. It did provide people with jobs, but the sudden closing left many people hopeless and jobless. “Our Side: The other Atlantic City” touches briefly on this topic, but primarily focuses on life before the uprising of casinos.

The documentary also focuses on the almost-forgotten communities that once graced Atlantic City, such as Bacharach. My stepdad was a resident of the Bacharach village and for years has hosted Bacharach reunions at the end of summer. He would give the local kids free haircuts before they went back to school and would hold other fun festivities for the children. I never realized the meaning behind it and how many people actually lived in Bacharach and still live in Atlantic City today. It’s amazing to see the work and effort he put into a neighborhood that is slowly being forgotten about. Thanks to people like him and those featured in “Our Side: The other Atlantic City,” the legacy is kept alive.