A nearly forgotten part of Richmond sports history will be remembered at an event on Saturday, April 22.
A benefit for the Townsend Community Center Inc., the Black and White Ball will recognize three men who were part of a group that owned racehorses from the 1960s until about 1980.
“It was difficult for a Black man to be part of sports and other recreational activities” in those years, said Dr. Lucinda Wright, the Townsend Community Center’s president. “So, they decided to get involved in harness racing. They raised and trained horses in Freeman Park.”
Of the 10 to a dozen men involved in Richmond’s Miniature Harness Horse Racers, three survive and will be recognized during the Black and White Ball. They are Darnell Twine, Ronnie Armstead and Robert Allen.
The recognition will celebrate the inspiration they provide by having overcome obstacles to becoming successful in horse racing.
“It’s humbling and I’m proud to have known these gentlemen,” Wright said.
The annual ball is the largest fundraising activity for Townsend Community Center Inc. Featuring music by DJ Donald Deloney, it will last from 6-10 p.m. at American Legion Post 65, 109 N. Sixth St., Richmond. Tickets are $25 apiece or $250 for a table. To buy tickets, call 765-488-4024 or 765-977-5057.
Townsend Community Center, Inc. has been serving the Richmond community since 1921. Its volunteers operate programs for youth and women from an 11,000-square-foot building at 300 N. 10th St.
“Every penny that is donated to us, every penny that is raised goes back to our programs,” Wright told members of the Drug Free Wayne County Partnership last Thursday. “We are unique because we have danced by our own beat for 102 years.”
The center’s goal is “to make every person self-sufficient,” Wright said.
Volunteers including board members, their families and friends operate an afterschool program for about 25 young people on weekdays. It’s called Harambee, a Swahili word meaning “all pull together,” Wright said.
Program Coordinator Adria Deloney is the board treasurer. The program includes tutoring, homework assistance, arts, recreation, problem solving, life skills and conflict resolution.
“Miss Adria checks every backpack to see if they have homework and if they have homework, they go upstairs” for work with tutors. Then, at 5 p.m., the children get a full dinner before going home.
The Community Center also operates Women of Worth, called WOW. Recognizing that many women spend a great deal of time caring for other people, WOW tries to help them learn how to balance that with caring for themselves.
Townsend Community Center is run by a board. Along with Wright and Deloney, board members include Ellen Mabry, vice president; Dawn Jackson, secretary; Alfredo Diamond, Bob Bennett, Paige Jennings, Sheila Armstead, Kendra Snipes and Karen Matitu.
The Community Center formerly operated from the James M. Townsend Memorial Building on North 12th Street. Even though Townsend Community Center left there in 2017, people still get the locations confused, Wright said.
If you go
What: Townsend Community Center, Inc.’s Black and White Ball to support the center’s programming
When: Saturday April 22, 6-10 p.m.
Where: American Legion Post 65, 109 N. Sixth St., Richmond.
Tickets: $25 or $250 for a table. Call 765-488-4024 or 765-977-5057.
More information at townsendcommunitycenter.org.
A version of this article appeared in the April 12 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.