RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - 60 years after 200 Virginia Union University students marched from their campus to the segregated Thalhimer’s Department Store to hold a sit in, one of those former students and her younger brother are reflecting on past calls for equality, and the movements seen today.
“They’ve had enough, they’ve had enough,” said Elizabeth Johnson Rice, a member of the Richmond 34. “People of all nationalities have joined together to realize YES this is too much it’s time for reconcilation, it’s time to talk, racism is here we have to do it--we have to address it now.”
Johnson Rice marched among 200 Virginia Union Students in February 1960. 34 were arrested for trespassing after peacefully protesting in the long segregated Thalhimer’s Department Store.
“Duirng the sit ins in 1960 things were so different, the police were so different and I kept asking why? There was not a billy clun used. There was a respect for life that day and there was a hidden agenda because we all were apart of the community and that is so lost right now in society," she said.
Johnson Rice’s brother Darrell is more than a decade younger than her, but remembers the civil rights movement in Richmond well. Johnson says watching what is unfolding across the country following the killing of Geroge Floyd, brought a rush of emotions, as he thought “this is nothing new, it is like here we go again.”
“I felt emotions that I had not felt in quite a long time and I found myself crying a tearful cry and I had to express myself in some way, this has to stop,” said Johnson.
He shared his feelings on social media, sharing “Let us please stop the killing, and the hatred, and the fear. May we all realize the true purpose of our being, to know that we are one, and find our way back home.”
Johnson says what is happening today is an explosion of emotions of years of pain. He encourages those choosing to protest and march, to focus on oneness.
“To the light givers. I know you are outraged like I am, we need to look to peace, to hold on to hope, we need to not give in to fear, but to express love in their hearts. We are going to get through this,” he said.
Elizabeth Johnson Rice says she has continued to “fight the good fight,” since standing up for equality in 1960. In 1968, she says she was a part of integrating schools in Petersburg, enduring racism, but perservering to be the best educator she could. She sees the pain and anguish felt by the black community and country at large, and says that is time to work towards solutions.
“You know that evil is being perpetuated on the African-American male especially--it’s time to have a respect for life, there needs to be justice and accountability in the police departments--and there needs to be an equal playing field,” she said. “We have an opportunity now, because we are listening, to come together.”
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