Museum Exhibit Celebrates Ocean City’s Black History

first_imgJeff McGranahan, executive director of the Ocean City Historical Museum, prepares a dress that will be on display in the black history exhibit opening Feb. 12. By Donald WittkowskiOcean City’s founding as a Christian seashore retreat by four Methodist ministers in 1879 has been chronicled countless times by historians and journalists.Not nearly as well known in local history is that the first black family arrived just six years later to find work in the beach town’s fledging hospitality industry, said Jeff McGranahan, executive director of the Ocean City Historical Museum.Now, the museum and a local organization whose name is inspired by a pivotal event in black history are collaborating on a new exhibit opening Feb. 12 that traces the deep roots of Ocean City’s African American community.Brittany Battle, a leader of the Ocean City Juneteenth Organization, said the exhibit will help fill in a “gap” in local black history by recognizing the contributions of African American families.Battle, of Ocean City, appeared before City Council on Thursday night to promote the exhibit and describe the charitable efforts of the Juneteenth Organization, which was founded by her and two other former Ocean City High School graduates, Takiya Wilson and Joshua Baker.Their group is named after the celebration of Juneteenth, which marks the day that slaves in Texas finally learned of their freedom on June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.Brittany Battle, a founding member of the Ocean City Juneteenth Organization, appears before City Council to discuss her group’s involvement in the new exhibit.Council members praised the Juneteenth Organization for its charity work and efforts to raise awareness of local black history.In December, the organization sponsored a holiday drive and day of service to collect clothing, toiletries and other items that were donated to homeless shelters in Atlantic City. In addition to teaming up with the museum for the black history exhibit, it is planning the second annual Juneteenth Celebration and Brunch on June 16 at Ocean City High School.“They’re doing great things,” Councilman Antwan McClellan said. “I think this is a great project.”Councilman Keith Hartzell said the museum’s new exhibit will recognize the many achievements of the African American community that have been unintentionally “overlooked.” “I’m thrilled to see more of that will get out,” Hartzell said.In an interview after the Council meeting, Battle explained that up to this point, there was “really nothing” in the museum that chronicled local black history, other than a few photos of African American churches.She said the new exhibit will build on the efforts of the Juneteenth Organization to help local children understand the contributions of older African Americans.Titled “The Seasons of Life: The African American Community in Ocean City,” the exhibit will open Feb. 12 and run through March 31. To celebrate the exhibit, the museum will hold an open house, free to the public, on Feb. 23 from 7-8:30 p.m.Clothing and other artifacts donated by local African American families will be featured in the exhibit.The exhibit will share artifacts, images and stories about the lives of Ocean City’s black families “through the lens” of the four seasons of the year, according to a museum press release.Spring will focus on the importance of the churches in African American life. Summer will look at how black families came to Ocean City in search of jobs and economic opportunities in the resort’s hotels and restaurants.Fall will shine the spotlight on Ocean City’s Elks Lodge. Winter will examine the ways black families endured the long, slow days of Ocean City’s off-season and how they created their own economic opportunities.In addition, the exhibit will detail the founding and growth of the black community beginning in the late 1880s, McGranahan said.“So many of the African Americans came to Ocean City when the hotel industry became big,” he said. “They worked in the hotels, in the service industry and the restaurants.”The exhibit is being stocked with clothing, photos and an array of other artifacts collected from local black families, McGranahan noted.For more information about the exhibit, call the Ocean City Historical Museum at (609) 399-1801 or visit www.ocnjmuseum.org. For more information about the Juneteenth Organization, visit www.ocnjjuneteenth.jimdo.com.last_img read more

Room for improvement in ed policy

first_imgWhile the issue of education may have been largely missing from presidential campaign rhetoric, supplanted by language aimed at calming fears about the economy, many polls suggested it was still a top concern for voters.In a discussion at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Thursday, a panel of experts examined how the election results will affect education reform at the federal, state, and local levels.Education wasn’t a main talking point during the campaign, the speakers agreed, in part because of its nuance and political sensitivity. Obama programs such as “Race to the Top,” a $4 billion competitive grant program that rewards states that develop reforms, has some support from states but is “not easy to explain,” said Jal Mehta, an assistant professor of education. Mitt Romney, Mehta said, was forced to balance his track record of overhauls at the state level with the Republican Party’s desire to have a “limited federal role in education.”Voters are worried about the nation’s education system, said Martin West, an assistant professor of education and deputy director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, but they often perceive it as “someone else’s problem.”“National assessments of the public schools are at an all-time low,” said West, who served as the chair of Romney’s advisory group for K-12 education policy. “But at the same time, voters’ assessments of their local schools are an all-time high.”Part of the evening’s discussion centered on the prospects for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which established high standards for students and high accountability for educators and administrators. The act was amended and reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 under George W. Bush, but it has failed to receive further reauthorization from a Congress deeply divided over its system of reforms. Many critics argue that the act places too much emphasis on test scores and standardized measures to evaluate student performance.Yet Congress could potentially unite behind some kind of reauthorization of NCLB based on lawmakers’ distaste for the way the Obama administration has circumvented many of its accountability systems, said West. Both Democrats and Republicans, West argued, are upset with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for granting waivers that exempt states from parts of the law. As a condition of those waivers, Duncan has required that states adopt certain policies supported by the administration, like teacher evaluations based on objective indicators.“In particular, this attachment of additional conditions that Congress has not promulgated itself is what has members of Congress worked up.”West added that he hoped for an early reauthorization of the act during Obama’s second term. Such a move could provide “stability in the policy environment,” he said.Moderator Paul Reville, a senior lecturer on education at HGSE and Massachusetts’ secretary of education, asked the panelists to address the status of the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the wake of Obama’s victory. The Common Core program is an effort to establish a shared set of educational standards for English and math that states can voluntarily adopt. More than 40 states participate in the program.Although Mehta deemed it a “good program in principle,” he worried it could, like NCLB, push for ambitious yet unattainable targets. “I am fearful that in a climate where there is no money, high accountability, and really high standards, what is a good idea will get rolled out, schools and states won’t be able to realize the standards, and that will lead to backlash.”Looking ahead, panelist Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus, a national education nonprofit that works to retain experienced teachers in urban classrooms, was hopeful. She said she envisions the president continuing to promote a national model that supports teaching as a performance-driven profession, one that “puts the interests of the students first” and moves away from a system traditionally linked to seniority. “I think that has been a really good thing. I think it has seen its share of challenges over the last four years, but for me it’s the right track.”last_img read more

Professionals lead way in ‘shrinking’ city centre

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