Atlantic City’s Bangladeshi community is one of the largest minority groups in the city with a significant voice in local politics. Since former Mayor Don Guardian in 2013 attributed his surprise election in part to a door-to-door strategy that connected him with the Bangladeshi community, other politicians have made an effort to attend the group’s events and meet with community leaders.
Abdul Rafique, working at the Bangladesh Community Center on Fairmount Avenue during one of the center’s weekly food distributions, said that voting matters to him and his family. He arrived in New York in 1996 and moved to Atlantic City for work. He joked that he has some children who vote democrat and one son who votes republican — but he still talks to him. “They’re voting for whoever they choose,” he said.
“It’s important to exercise your voice,” he said.
Rafique said that because the Bangladeshi community is a majority in the 5th ward (the section of the Chelsea neighborhood on the east side of Albany Avenue) it has a lot of power in the local election. “We are really well organized,” he said. “Whoever we like in this local area, he’s elected.”
Rafique’s colleague, Md. Jahed, was also working at the food distribution. He said that having the building has helped the Bangladeshi community to become better organized. Since COVID-19, they have been using the building to hold meetings as well as events such as weekly food distributions.
Jahed and Rafique said they are able to distribute food to up to 500 families each week, working in partnership with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
Food is a big issue for local residents right now, Jahed said. “The prices are going up…and people need food,” he said. Rafique added that he is also concerned by gun violence and he wants local candidates to take action to stop violence.
Jahed said the Bangladeshi community is fortunate that they feel they can take their complaints to their councilman. “It’s important to vote because you can select your choice and he or she will pass on the important things,” he said. “Then he or she can help us after the election.”