By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
GALLOWAY — Stockton University’s Christina Noble is the project manager of Stories of Atlantic City, a collaborative nonprofit project focused on telling restorative, untold stories about the resort city and its people, something she is passionate about.
Noble admits, though, she has taken the long road personally to come to her feelings about Atlantic City. As an inspiring educator, world traveler and dance performer, she has taken her experiences in Atlantic County and shaped them to help move students — and herself — forward.
Those feelings and insights make Noble the perfect person for what she is doing in guiding young people to help tell those untold stories and organizing fellow collaborators and partners to shine a light on Atlantic City that may have been missed in the past by mainstream media outlets.
She fondly remembers her family roots in Atlantic City and where her grandparents brought 15 children collectively into the world, where her parents worked and were also the focal point for family gatherings, church, community service and other things.
It was also the place where her only brother was murdered just weeks before her graduation from high school, leaving her to put Atlantic City in her rearview mirror, figuratively and literally, for Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“This event rattled me to the core and left me with feelings of hopelessness and anger,” Noble told Front Runner New Jersey about her brother’s death. “My departure for college in Washington D.C. could not come soon enough. I saw it as an escape from the pain that felt so heavy in New Jersey.
“Upon graduating from Howard University and spending some more time in D.C. I reluctantly returned back to my home state. I still had a very contentious relationship with Atlantic City. My perspective of the city was jaded and I seldom visited. I slowly, but surely, began to repair my connection to, and view of, the city I had once known and loved.”
Noble earned a degree in psychology and human development from Howard and worked in education in different capacities over the past 10 years between D.C. and New Jersey.
“My mother and aunt were educators, and my sisters and I all worked in education and youth programs for a good portion of our lives,” Noble said. “After experiencing the trauma of tragically losing my brother, it took me a while to repair my relationship with AC, and even then, it was never the same.
“Fast forward to 2020, in the middle of a pandemic and a social reckoning, an unexpected opportunity arose. I was just returning from my world travels and looking to finally begin rooting myself back into a semi ‘normal’ life (which meant finding a job lol). A friend of mine randomly came across the job posting for Stories of Atlantic City and suggested that I apply.”
Noble said she initially hesitated applying for the job because of her history with the city and its call for her to engage with the community.
“I would be charged with sharing the beauty of the city despite its challenges,” Noble said. “I would have to share the untold stories of this community — stories of resilience. All of a sudden, the role sounded like just the thing I needed. I applied and was offered the position of project manager for Stories of Atlantic City.
“This was my full-circle moment. I jumped into the role with no prior traditional journalism experience, but with a passion for story-gathering/sharing and an eagerness to learn. In less than a year’s time, I was recognized for my work on the project.
Noble led Stories of Atlantic City to the 2021 Engage Local News Award at the annual NJ News Commons Excellence in Local News Awards, a network of nearly 400 news organizations and freelancers across New Jersey.
“Since then, I’ve been invited to participate in important discussions with U.S. senators, lobbyists, and news and community leaders,” Noble said. “I’ve given presentations for WHYY, Free Press, an academic group in Amsterdam, and more. I also currently sit on multiple statewide news/journalism groups, coalitions and committees, and local community and art advisory boards.”
Noble said while her original hopes for Stories of Atlantic City have not changed, she said her work is more strategic now.
“When I first assumed the project manager role, I was most excited about helping to change the narrative of this city as it is often portrayed by the media,” Noble said. “I wanted to show the world that the real beauty of ‘America’s Playground’ lies in the stories of its people: stories of strength, stories of altruism, stories of authenticity, and stories of togetherness.
“My team and I aim to foster community connection, build and maintain trusting relationships, act as an education resource, encourage civic engagement, initiate cross-representational dialogue, and share accurate information. We want to change the way our community engages with news media and vice versa.”
Now, she is helping lead the next generation of young storytellers and those writing the first draft of history. She calls the experience a “privilege.”
“Technically, Toby Rosenthal acts as the official SOAC internship course professor,” Noble said. “I collaborate as the community partner (still acting in an instructional role). I have the privilege of working alongside some very talented, bright youth that are eager to be tomorrow’s changemakers.
“Witnessing their willingness to learn and grow inspires me to keep striving. During class, we often talk about the importance of the work we do. We talk about the power of identity, representation, racial justice, equity and more. It feels good when I witness students have an ‘Aha!’ moment — when something clicks.”
“Although I did not pursue communication studies in my formal education, much of my professional work, community projects, and life experiences required me to exercise elements of the field. My involvement with Stories of Atlantic is the first professional position in the field of journalism, and I have learned so much in the two years I’ve been with the organization,” she continues.
And Atlantic City is better for it.
The Rest of the Story
Here are other things Noble shared with Front Runner New Jersey during her interview.
FRNJ: Tell me about your family and where you grew up. Just whatever you’d like to share. How did that shape you?
Christina Noble: I was born and raised in Egg Harbor Township, however my roots run deep in Atlantic City. My parents were born, raised and fell in love there. My grandparents collectively brought 15 children into the world there. I too was born there. I am the youngest of four children (3 girls and 1 boy). In my younger years, my family visited 1-2 times a week (if not more) to connect with extended family, run errands, volunteer and do community service, attend church, and more. My father and mother also worked in AC. My memories of the city are beautiful, but also tragic.
FRNJ: Any particular story that came from the project really resonated with you? Why?
Christina Noble: I’ve really enjoyed coordinating each round of our Intergenerational Project. Each story we’ve captured from the elders has been so captivating and dynamic. I’ve also cherished building personal relationships with the elders and fostering relationships between the students and elders. I’ve been able to witness the excitement and attention both elders and students have displayed while exchanging stories with individuals from a different generation, and many times, a different race. In each round of the project, both students and elders walk away with new perspectives and hope for the future.
Just days ago, one of our beloved AC elders passed away. Before her passing, she had participated in two rounds of our intergenerational work (including this past fall 2021) and another SOAC project. After her unexpected death, I was reminded of the importance of collecting and persevering the stories of our community. I am so happy that my work with SOAC brought me into the life of this wise woman that was both beautiful inside and out. And now, her story will continue to live on.
FRNJ: What would you like to do next with Stories of Atlantic City?
Christina Noble: We are in the midst of wrapping up our first-ever Community Reporter Fellowship. This 7-month civic education and storytelling skill-building program is geared towards training community members to provide transparent community access to critical local information. Our first cohort consisted of 17 fellows (We originally aimed for 4 but adjusted our cap after receiving such an amazing response to the call!). We plan to continue future iterations of this program moving forward. We also intend to continue our Intergenerational Project partnering with new academic courses in future rounds. Eventually, we hope to build more programming for high school students.
FRNJ: Anything else you would like to add?
Christina Noble: Other fun facts about me/personal history:
I am an international performer (dancer), instructor, and choreographer having taught, performed, and directed for over 15 years. I’ve produced shows and events, led creative projects, and headed youth programs locally, nationally and overseas. I also worked closely with at-risk youth teaching them dance and acting as a mentor.
My passion for culture and travel led me to embark on an expedition around the world. As a solo traveler traveling to approximately 30 countries, I was granted many opportunities and fostered a host of meaningful global connections. I was given the opportunity to learn, teach and perform cultural dance styles in places such as Switzerland, Czech Republic, Indonesia and The Netherlands. I also experienced life-changing events like visiting schools and orphanages in India and Tanzania, celebrating holidays like Holi in India and Nyepi in Indonesia, sharing stories with my host (an Olympic volleyball team doctor) and his family in Cuba, hiking world-famous mountains and volcanoes like Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Batur, and the list goes on.
I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in American Studies with a concentration in Africana Studies.
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