Sit-in, Stand Out
On February 22, 1960 a group of Virginia Union University students were arrested after a sit in at a white’s only lunch counter in downtown Richmond. For the next six days Richmond Center Stage at Virginia Union University will honor those students.
“Sit-in, Stand Out” will include performances, lectures, and historic marker dedications. The celebration begins today at Virginia Union University.
Sadler: They will begin celebrating the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins at Thalhimer’s lunch counter, with “Remembering, Reflecting and Rededicating”, a conference sponsored by the Department of Languages and Literature.
Jeff Sadler, a member of the Centerstage Board, is coordinating the event.
Sadler: On Thursday they have a chapel service with the Leroy Bray Jr., who was one of the members of the protestors which were known as Richmond 34. That’s at Virginia Union University Coburn Hall.
Both of those events are open to the public.
Sadler: Friday there are several events starting at 9 in the morning and running through about 10 o’clock at night. Most exciting of these is the performance of “Lumpkin’s Jail,” which is a play that was written by Gregory Thornwell, and that’s in the Belgian Building Theater.
There will be a second performance at 8 o’clock on Saturday night.
Sadler: Sunday at 2:30 is a commemoration marker ceremony at Virginia Union University. That is a granite marker that was donated by Grappone and Sons that has the names of all 34 protestors.
That ceremony is also a public event. Tomorrow, Friday and Saturday at Centerstage’s Gottwald Playhouse there will be performances of Shakespeare’s “Othello”.
Sadler: And that is with Richmond Shakespeare and the African-American Repertory Theatre, which is the first time those two groups have worked together.
There will also be a full schedule events on Monday, including.
Sadler: At 10 am there is an educational forum that is moderated by Sheila Johnson and at that we will representatives of the Richmond 34. Also that includes students from partner schools throughout the region and the Thalheimer family. And then at 12:30 there is a luncheon at the Richmond Marriott downtown.
Another marker, this one at 6th and Broad where the students ended their march, happens at 2:30.
Sadler: And then at 7 pm we have a concert and a dance with Amaranth Contemporary Dance and produced a performance of "Equalizing the Lines: Prelude to a New Dream" that’s followed by "An Evening of Reflection with John Legend" and that is indeed with Grammy-award-winning John Legend.
Centerstage, Sadler said, is working to honor the courage of those 34 students and provide resources to tell their story.
Sadler: There are people such as Elizabeth Thalheimer Smart and Elizabeth Johnson Rice had been talking about doing some sort of event around this, but of course the two of them don’t have the time or the means to really put this all together. I’ve been in Richmond for about 25 years and this was the most that I’ve seen people and organizations work together and it was really exciting and I was really proud of that.
The Valentine Museum has loaned a part of the original Thalheimer’s lunch counter and some of the stools and they’ll be on the display.
Sadler: These were college students who didn’t know how things were going to turn out. There was the immediate threat of violence, of course, and the long-term threat of the possibility of jail time and a criminal record. So we really wanted to honor the courage that it took for them to do this, but we also wanted to make sure that we recognize this as a turning point for civil rights in Virginia, because it was the immediate event that caused Thalheimer’s as well as Miller & Rhoades and Woolworths and the other lunch counters in the downtown shopping district to integrate.
You can learn more on line at richmondcenterstage.com.
John Ogle, WCVE News