The Art Sanctuary
A week ago, I spent the afternoon at The Art Sanctuary, back to where I first laid eyes on the images of John W. Mosley's Chicken Bone Beach Collection four years ago. It was such a fulfilling event on a few levels. For one, visitors arrived before the book signing and began to buy multiple books. Guests mentioned their history of Chicken Bone Beach, excited that someone recalled what they already knew to be a fabulous time in America whereAfrican-Americans gathered to socialize. Secondly, thanks to the director of The Art Sanctuary, Val Gay, I learned that the sacred space in which the Art Sanctuary sits, was once the property of the Dickersons, a prominent African-American couple who devoted their time on Earth in this historically black neighborhood fighting for the rights of African-Americans and keeping the culture alive and well. Lastly, I met my first Virginian who frequented Chicken Bone Beach with her family as a child, now in her seventies, a woman whose father was a lifeguard during one summer and a man who worked in Atlantic City on the Northside in the summers as a teenager. It was like a class reunion. I was also shown personal pictures of loved ones on the beach and given a name of a person on the inside of my book.
What I love most about readings and discussions is that there is a mutual exchange of wonderful knowledge. Sometimes, I am informed and sometimes the informer. I never get tired of hearing people I meet tell me how it was their "tribe" that single-handedly made Atlantic City's Missouri Avenue Beach the spectacular place it became! I love it! Also Philadelphians, as you read the book, know that I intentionally acknowledged John W. Mosley being the catapult for researching the history, but the book is not just about Mosley's work, but a walk down memory lane of Chicken Bone Beach and what made visiting Atlantic City during the 1920s through the 1960s so very special to Americans.
The audience consisted of an age range from sixty to eighty years old with one lovely, intelligent, millennial who truly made my day. She thanked me for honoring the history of our people.....I thank them for living their lives unapologetically in the midst of trying times in America. They are a template of community involvement, empowerment, and inclusion that any race can learn from.