By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY – In an era where women are making strides in all corner of politics and business, LaToya Dunston joined the Atlantic City’s city council in December as its only female member.
Undaunted, the Atlantic City native who replaced Marty Small in Second Ward after Small took over as mayor, said she wants her chance to improve the resort town she has embraced and loves.
“The way I view Atlantic City in relation to any place else I have had the pleasure of visiting is that there is truly no place like Atlantic City,” Dunston told Front Runner New Jersey in her first interview with the Black-owned news website. “Literally more than a two mile island that has all the enjoyable amenities of any major tourist destination, from culture, industry, major entertainment, and festival’s the question is who wouldn’t want to stay in Atlantic City.”
While Dunston, 36, may be new to politics, she is not to activism, especially when it comes to youth. This is the 12th years she has been involved with AC Xclusive Drill Team, an organization she started in 2008 to created positive youth involvement.
She has been recognized by the Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the New Jersey Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and Atlantic County Freeholders, among others for her years of work with Atlantic City’s youth. Her candidacy to retain her Ward 2 seat is backed by the Youth Empowerment Society and the Atlantic City Democratic Committee.
The AC Xclusive Experience
“I have literally worked every day of my young and adult life to not only be a role model but also an advocate, teacher, social worker, care giver, activist, and even in some cases referee,” Dunston said.
“All of the these titles energize the efforts of not only myself but those many adult and youth volunteer’s that have the same desire and passion to ensure that not only our young, beautiful black girls and boys act as what they represent in relation to AC Xclusive Drill Team but also how they exhibit that positive representation to this greater community as a whole,” she continued.
Wanting to Make a Difference
Dunston said wanted to extend her impact on the community because of what she saw in her district.
“The Second Ward, although tainted as one of Atlantic City’s highest crime-infested area, believe it or not, there are still a lot of great citizens and youth who choose to battle against that unfortunate stigma,” Dunston said.
“I enjoy being at the forefront of what we like to coin as the unforgotten who traditionally have been looked over and passed by just because of where they live and what limitations they have to survive through it all. So by founding AC Xclusive Drill Team, we established the mantra of fighting violence, victimization, crime, poverty, teen pregnancy and the necessary pursuit of higher education one step at a time.”
Dunston has not hesitated in speaking out on city council and challenging those in power. In her seven months on council, she challenged city officials on why she was forced to take a drug test and have a background check, something other council members did not have to endure.
She accused officials of singling out two candidates she asked to be appointed to the Municipal Utilities Board because they were Muslim and in May accused Mayor Marty Small of violating the federal Hatch Act, the measure that prevents forcing government employees from campaigning for their bosses, something Small has denied.
She went a step further this week, endorsing Small’s opponent Pamela Thomas-Fields for mayor in the July 7 Democratic primary, according to the Press of Atlantic City. Thomas-Fields, in turn, backed her.
The article said three of her fellow city council members — Vice President Moisse Delgado, At-Larger member Jeffree Fauntleroy II and Fifth Ward member Muhammad Anjum Zia – are now backing Dunston’s campaign as well.
“I’m definitely supporting my colleague LaToya because she shows a passion and commitment that we need and a dedication to the community that is seldom seen but that the community deserves,” Delgado told the Press of Atlantic City this week.
Dunston said she is not going away.
“In five years I see myself sitting as an elected official for the City of Atlantic City making decisions for the betterment of the community,” Dunston said when asked about her immediate future. “[I’ll be] ensuring that we have lower taxes, free from state takeover, a vibrant and state of the arts, recreation and senior service department, ensuring that city resident have resources to help them become self-sufficient. [I’ll be] a part of the change that is needed in our city.”
Inspired to Inspire
Dunston said she has been inspired by strong African-American women of the past, who has given her a reason to make a difference.
“I am inspired by Michele Obama,” Dunston said. “Although many others have been an inspiration to me, she have given me a purpose, a reason and a lesson to keep pressing on.
“[I’m inspired] also by Shirley Chisholm’s courageous spirit. It has given me hope that there is a space in for woman in politics if we believe. I’ve always gone by her quote ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, then bring a folding chair.”
Dunston said she is ready to fight to keep her seat and will solider on with her duties in representing her ward.
“Maya Angelou stated, ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them,'” Dunston said. “As a current survivor of many illnesses, life struggles and a mother of three amazing children, my life can only be told in one way — challenger.
“My hope for Atlantic City during this COVID-19 pandemic is that as a community we not only become stronger. I believe it is my mission to assist and delegate the mitigating the response to ensure that we as residents stay healthy, educated, and aware,” she concluded.
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