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Honoring the legacy of the Richmond 34 at the Diamond

Posted at 7:16 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 18:02:39-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond Flying Squirrels planned to hold an event Wednesday announcing the launch of several initiatives to honor the Richmond 34.

One of those initiatives could be seen in large letters painted across the Diamond just above home plate.

Over the weekend, artist, Andre Shank painted a mural that says, 'Richmond 34 Legacy.'

Monday marked the 61 anniversary of the Thalhimer's sit-in, in which a group of former Virginia Union University -- now known as the Richmond 34 -- peacefully protested at the whites-only lunch counter of Thalhimer's Department store in downtown Richmond.

On February 22, 1960, the Richmond 34 were arrested for that sit-in. The protest ultimately led to the integration of Thalhimer's and helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1962.

Along with the mural, the Richmond Flying Squirrels planned to launch a Richmond 34 Legacy Campaign with one of the Richmond 34 members, Elizabeth Rice Johnson.

The Flying Squirrels COO, Todd (Parney) Parnell, said the partnership involved sharing Johnson's story with Richmond students.

"When she tells her story, the eyes of the kids just get really wide, because it doesn't register with them that someone could not sit somewhere because of their skin color. Yet there's a person on vert in virtual right in front of them, that not only experienced that -- but got arrested for that," said Parney. "No matter what color your skin is, I think it's important for the local minor league baseball team to connect with somebody like Elizabeth, who, who has a story to tell, and we can take her into the places to tell the story to make an impact, not just on the young people, but the conversations that they have after they get home about this are equally as important,"

Richmond 34 Legacy Diamond 3.png

In addition to that, the flying squirrels planned to announce the permanent retirement of the number 34 from on-field use.

They also planned to partner with Virginia Union University and Virginia State University for career advancement and mentorship programs with the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Parney said they wanted to do something tangible, that could be seen, and also, something long lasting.

"We want the Richmond 34 to be a part of our message, forever," Parney said.

The event announcing those initiatives is scheduled to take place at The Diamond at 10 a.m. The public was invited to watch the event live on the Flying Squirrels website.