Rojas: Marty Small and Steve Young – Atlantic City’s Sword and Shield


By Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas, M.Ed. | Guest Blogger AC JosepH Media

I would like to preface this by asking any South Jersey organization looking to create “The Sword and The Shield Award” that I am putting in first dibs on nominating the first recipients. One, two, three, Cheese! This duo would be great to capture together in photos so the people of Atlantic City can see what unity and working across differences looks like.

I can’t think of any two people who deserve this award more than Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. and his chief nemesis, activist Steve Young, president of the Atlantic City chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

Despite the differences between these two Black leaders, the two came together on Friday, Sept. 4 for the painting of “Black Lives Matter” on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, where the Civil Rights Garden, between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, is located.

Mayor Marty Small. Photo courtesy of Marty Small campaign.

The 1960’s sit-ins, mass demonstrations, picketing, hunger strikes, and other forms of protesting for and against diverse aspects of our social norms, economic status, and government policies were common. Heading into the 21st century, America showed both great promise and many challenges.

In Atlantic City, New Jersey, there are two leaders that have emerged with different approaches to the “Black Lives Movement” that has swept across our nation with the murder of Black and Brown people. The experience, perspective, and background of Mayor Mary Small, Sr. and activist Steve Young are contributing immeasurably to the local, state and national “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Undated 2017 photo of Steve Young at Stockton University. Photo courtesy of Stockton University.

Mayor Marty Small, Sr. and activist Steve Young are, to many observers of the continuing struggle for civil rights, as opposing forces, but equally committed to advancing the inclusion and equal treatment of Black people, not only in Atlantic City, but in the State of New Jersey and the United States of America.

While Mayor Small is viewed as a senior government official with fresh ideas to transform and re-invigorate municipal government and its relationship with the diverse communities in Atlantic City; while activist Steve Young is seen as a community activist with a by-any-means-necessary approach to instill a sense of ownership of Atlantic City in its residents, especially it Black residents.

Full shot of Black Lives Matter street mural on Sept. 4. Photo courtesy of Mayor Marty Small Instagram.

Some would even argue that the tactics and ideology of the Black Lives Matter movement has been demonized, radicalized, and criminalized by a generally compliant and distracted culture. But those thoughts run counter to the actions of people in our country and countries abroad, who are sick and tired of racism and other isms that divide our humanity. 

Young people in New Jersey and the world, are fed up with so much and want to change the course of humanity so badly, that unity demonstrated by Mayor Small and Steve Young is a positive sign that implementing new ideas, new partnerships, and new strategies with a multiracial & multicultural groping of “woke folks,” can advance goals and objectives of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Small and Young have shown us that while they are polar opposites in their quest for justice and equality for all, they share a mission and commitment to galvanizing community support in standing up to white supremacist ideas and working on our human spirit to treat people how we want to be treated.

Make a mental note to revolutionize your mind and help the cause of justice and equality for all, regardless of their background.  Save me a ticket for the Sword and Shield Award Presentation event.

Bio: Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas is an award-winning columnist, veteran civil rights activist and former officer with the Gloucester County NAACP. He is the cofounder and retired director of Philadelphia Prison System’s Office of Community Justice and Outreach.

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