What is Our Side about?
Our Side tells the story of a community-led theater production in Atlantic City — a stage adaptation of Growing up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside by Atlantic City native Turiya S.A. Raheem. From bustling streets to broken promises, from discrimination to resiliency, the film follows local residents staging a play about the historically Black community of Atlantic City through the lens of Raheem’s own family odyssey. Coming together to perform their community history shapes residents’ hearts and minds and helps them imagine a better future for their community.
Theatrical footage and oral history interviews illustrate the vibrant Atlantic City of yesteryears, bringing to life the pride and struggle that made the Northside a self-sustaining community and epicenter of Black culture. As we follow the daily lives of cast members, we learn about their struggles to give their city a better future and honor its past in the wake of the 2014 casino closures, the current city budget crises, brain drain, and gentrification.
We meet Tamee, a crossing guard and single mom, as she checks in with students about their homework curbside. Arnelle is a former casino employee and city worker, currently substitute teaching after her job teaching theatre at the Police Athletic League was terminated during layoffs in 2012. Travis is an HIV case worker, social activist, and artist who works tirelessly to lift up the history and culture of local residents. Sparkle, Travis’s sister, is a student at Stockton University who wants to be a community organizer, and is a product of many of the city’s successful youth safety net programs.
These are real everyday people with deep commitments to the role the city’s history plays in shaping its future at this pivotal point in time. Sparkle Prevard, one of the film’s main characters, describes why staging Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City matters today: “The people in this play are AC natives. This play is a platform for them to share what our biggest problems are and how we can go about changing them. That’s what grassroots theatre is supposed to do: create a dialogue and give a reflection of what’s happening in the city and make people think about it.”
Travis Love is an activist and performance artist who uses his talents to teach and inspire his community. After graduating from Montclair State University, Travis appeared on the off-off Broadway production of “7 Degrees of Separation”, toured regionally with the George Street Playhouse and nationally with Educational Tours Inc. His most recent credits include artistic director for “Nina In Motion”, director of “Before It Hits Home” and “The Vagina Monologues”. Travis will be honored this year for his work in the community by Princess Inc. after being acknowledged by the Martin Luther King Community Commission. He will also hold the honor of being Stockton’s Activist in Residence for the 2017 academic year. While much of his career centers on HIV prevention, he continues to utilize his theatrical and creative roots to evoke positive change in his surrounding community. Although Atlantic City has very little spaces devoted to art or culture, with tenacity, perseverance, and a little help from his friends he’s spearheaded culturally and artistically diverse projects. Most recently directing “Growing Up In the Other Atlantic City” based on local writer Turiya Raheem’s memoir of that same title. Mr. Love is a passionate self-starter, being able to mobilize and inspire others in realizing their own agency. He also founded the Sex Brigade, AIDS activists who use art to educate and encourage community members to practice safer sex, responsible for producing the Story Slam series at The Noyes Arts Garage and Stockton’s Kramer Hall in Hammonton. With few resources they have brought the community together, young and old alike, to tell their stories and in turn, receive inexpensive, but meaningful awards for categories, such as, the Made Us Blush Award and the Viewer’s Choice Award. Mr. Love’s body of work is a testament to the creatives who came before him whose legacies continue to enhance the creative spirit of Atlantic City.
Turiya S. A. Raheem
Turiya was born and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She loves to describe her neighborhood as “the other Atlantic City,” because it was not the casino-resort mecca most people know today. It was a place with a “cozy, down-home feeling” as she describes in her book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside. Like most members of her large family, she grew up working at Wash’s, the family’s restaurant business, which celebrated 75 years before it closed in 2013. She graduated from Atlantic City High School as Senior Class President in 1972 (nee, Lillian D. Thomas).
After graduating from Hiram College with a B.A. in the Sociology of Communications, Turiya worked briefly as a copy editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Washington Post newspapers. She began to love teaching while home-schooling her own daughters and received a Master’s in Education in 1996. She taught at public, private and alternative schools in the Washington, D.C.- suburban Maryland area. Later, she taught English at Prince George’s and Northern Virginia Community College but left teaching to pursue a full-time writer’s life. In 2008, Turiya and Hassan relocated back to her hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey. They have five grown daughters.
In 2010, after self-publishing Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City, Turiya garnered the attention of HBO and appeared on two (2) of its documentaries in association with the Boardwalk Empire series. In 2014, Growing Up was staged as a play and had 9 sold-out shows at Stockton College and Dante Hall. Today, she enjoys teaching English at Atlantic Cape Community College, reciting her poetry and writing.
T.C. Owens is a folklorist and videographer. Since 2008, he has worked collaboratively to document, preserve and present the vital community traditions of working communities. While at the Philadelphia Folklore Project, he worked on Eatala: A Life in Klezmer, about klezmer drummer Elaine Hoffman Watts. He holds an MA in Folklore from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His master’s thesis documents cultural impacts and collective responses of resistance to the natural gas industry in Northeast Pennsylvania. As a media organizer with the Media Mobilizing Project, he recently co-produced Building a Sandcastle: A Broken Promise to Atlantic City, a short documentary that tells the stories of the casino workers who remain after the wave of casino closures and layoffs in 2014. He also in 2015 co-produced A Valley With a Heart about a nursing union a healthcare union in Wilkes-Barre, PA fighting for better patient care. He was the co-director and co-producer of Groundwork: Justice in the Birthplace of America.
Ellen Reynolds is a resident of Philadelphia, a documentary cinematographer and editor, an inspiring educator of students at all ages and experience levels, and a film studies scholar with a focus on children’s media and education. Her commitment as a filmmaker is to illuminate positive work and ideas in the areas of education; children’s experience and points of view; and spiritual, physical, and social wellness. She has worked or is working with the following institutions and organizations: The University of Pennsylvania School of Design (Instructor and Post production supervisor); Scribe Video Center (Instructor and Project facilitator); PhillyCam (Instructor); Media Mobilizing Project (Project co-producer); and is currently a Graduate student at The New School in NYC. Some of her work can be viewed here.