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Emeralds Welcome Former Player And His Message Of Unity On Juneteenth

Chris Singleton

The Eugene Emeralds are celebrating Juneteenth by welcoming back a former player who has become an inspirational speaker, spreading a message of love and unity. Chris Singleton came to spread this message after an unthinkable tragedy.

Six years ago this week, nine people lost their lives after a shooter, who espoused racial hatred, opened fire after a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

One of the parishioners who was killed that night was Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, mother of Chris Singleton. At the time, Singleton was a promising college baseball player who would go on to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs and assigned to the Eugene Emeralds. He is now the Director of Community Outreach for the Charleston RiverDogs, a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Credit Chris Singleton
Chris Singleton and his mom, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Coleman-Singleton was one of nine victims who died in the June 17, 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

Since his mother’s death, Singleton has refused to let that life-changing moment in 2015 define him and has chosen to forgive the shooter. He describes himself as a “missionary in the minor leagues” as he works to inspire others with his message of resilience, forgiveness, and unity.

“You know any time we start talking about whether it’s about race or bringing people together, I wish it was something that was only needed here and there, but I think it is something that is always needed,” explained Singleton. “And the mission is simple, to get people of different faiths, cultures, whatever it may be- just to live in harmony. You don’t have to believe the same thing to respect somebody else that maybe thinks a little bit differently or looks a bit differently than you do.”

That’s the message Singleton will bring to Eugene this Saturday before the Emeralds take the field.

Singleton recognizes the poignancy of people hearing his message on Juneteenth, a day that was signed as a federal holiday this week and earlier in June was declared an official Oregon state holiday beginning in 2022. He said “I think it’s number one, super important for people to learn about Juneteenth. You know with me growing up I didn’t really know a ton until my mom actually told me about it, so I actually applaud those that are making it a holiday and celebrating it every single year because it’s huge for my message, it’s a message of unity, but history is also a part of that, so I think it ties in well.”

Credit Chris Singleton
Chris Singleton with his family. Singleton is the author of two children's books.

Singleton, the father of a three-year-old son, has written two children’s books. The first 500 kids at Saturday’s game will get a copy of Different: A Story About Loving Your Neighbor. Singleton explains the main message of the book is to have kids “celebrate kids that are different from one another. In our schools we’ll see it- in life we’ll see it. So I am teaching it to them at an early age- celebrating people that are from different places around the world, maybe speak different languages. I think that’s a message that we all should be sharing with our children so I’m so glad to be giving them out.”

Whether it’s writing children’s books, speaking to Fortune 500 companies, or addressing Minor League Baseball fans, Singleton says his mom, Sharonda, is always there with him. “For me, it used to be really tough talking about my mom, but now, I speak so many times about her and her story, that’s its therapeutic for me,” explained Singleton. “So when I get to go to speak to a company or whether I’m speaking to students, it’s always implementing my mom- how awesome of a woman she was. Whether it was her faith, whether it was just being an amazing parental figure- she was all those things. She was very hard working, highly educated- she was an athlete in college. Taught me everything I knew as far as athletics. She was an all-star parent and I definitely miss her.”

Singleton hopes his story will encourage self-reflection. “Far too often I see people judge somebody based on their opinion without realizing they’ve got a story behind it. And so when I go to share my message, it really gets people to kind of you know, put those walls down because this is their story. Or for the first time they evaluate why they believe why they believe and then going forward they think you know maybe I shouldn’t automatically judge someone based on their opinion because I know they’ve got a story behind theirs just like I’ve got a story behind mine.”

Credit Chris Singleton
Chris Singleton says his mom, Sharonda, is his inspiration as he spreads his message of love, forgiveness, and unity.

Chris Singleton, former member of the Eugene Emeralds, will speak before the game Saturday night as part of their Juneteenth celebration.

For more information, visit the Eugene Emeralds website.

Copyright 2021, KLCC

Love Cross joined KLCC in 2017. She began her public radio career as a graduate student, serving as Morning Edition Host for Boise State Public Radio in the late 1990s. She earned her undergraduate degree in Rhetoric and Communication from University of California at Davis, and her Master’s Degree from Boise State University. In addition to her work in public radio, Love teaches college-level courses in Communication and Public Speaking.
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