Atlanta Braves Inaugural Heritage Weekend
After hosting Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game in 2011 and 2012, the Braves decided to start their own tradition of honoring Atlanta’s strong and rich history in the Civil Rights Movement which has become the Atlanta Braves Heritage Weekend presented by Belk and KIA.
During the weekend of May 31st – June 2nd we hosted a series of events and activities at Turner Field including a panel discussion and luncheon on Friday, a youth skills camp, Negro League celebration, and Run DMC concert on Saturday, and exhibits from the Tuskegee Airmen and Negro Leagues the entire weekend.
On Friday, May 31st, the Braves and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR) hosted more than 400 people at the Champions for Justice Award Panel Discussion and Award Presentation presented by Belk. The panel discussion was moderated by Doug Shipman, CEO of NCCHR and the panelists include former Tuskegee Airman Val Archer, 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 200 meter track and field event, Tommie Smith, former NBA player Bernard King and former Atlanta Brave Brian Jordan. Ambassador Andrew Young and Senator Leroy Johnson were presented with the inaugural Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Award for their involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
Young, the former Georgia Congressman and United Nations Ambassador, has had a long-storied career as a civil and human rights advocate. He was the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a colleague and friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was an integral person involved in the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.
Former state senator Johnson is the owner of Leroy R. Johnson & Associates, P.C., a law firm he has owned and managed for over 47 years. Throughout his many years of practice he has represented famous entertainers like James Brown and Otis Redding and Hall of Fame Braves great Hank Aaron. He is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he has also been an active member for over 40 years. Proceeds from the panel discussion benefited the NCCHR.
On Saturday, June 1st, a free youth baseball clinic presented by Kia was held at Turner Field led by Chance Beam of the East Cobb Baseball Academy. More than 150 youth aged 8 – 12 rotated through three stations focusing on hitting, fielding, and pitching. Following the clinic they enjoyed a pizza lunch and then received tickets to Saturday night’s matchup against the Washington Nationals. The kids improved their pitching techniques in the bullpen, their hitting skills in the batting cages, and their fielding skills in right field. Each station was manned by Braves alumni and coaches from East Cobb Baseball Academy as the kids cycled through each station. These coaches had a very strict “there’s no walking on the baseball field rule” that had our group leaders racing participants from station to station.
Saturday night’s game included a special tribute to the Negro Leagues that included a pregame autograph session featuring 25 former Negro League players, an on-field presentation for those same players. Many of the players were in their 80’s and 90’s and expressed how happy they were to participate in Heritage Weekend and were excited about being honored on the field. Included in that group as was 96 year old Legend James “Red” Moore of the Atlanta Black Crackers, Larry Williams of the Kansas City Monarchs and Ernest “Big Dog” Fann of the Birmingham Black Barons. The highlight of the ceremony was when 95 year old, Roosevelt Jackson, of the Miami Red Sox, stole the show with an impromptu dance. Not to mention, Mr. Jackson is completely blind!
To show their respect, the Braves and Nationals both donned throwback Negro League uniforms. The uniforms were later auctioned off for charity. Those Atlanta Black Crackers uniforms really did the trick, because BJ Upton hit a walk-off RBI in the bottom of the 9th inning to end the game.
Immediately following the game Run DMC put on a lights out show on the field in front of a packed stadium with hits including Walk This Way, My Adidas, It’s Like That, and King of Rock. This was the first time Run DMC has performed in Atlanta in 10 years and they did not disappoint.
For more information on Heritage Weekend, visit www.braves.com/heritage and for more information on The Center for Civil and Human Rights, please visit http://www.cchrpartnership.org. A slideshow of photos from Heritage Weekend can be found below.