SaltWire E-Edition

BLM Running Group Turns Talk to Action

In the summer of 2020, when antiBlack racism became a dominant topic after a video of a Minneapolis police officer murdering George Floyd went viral, Mekisha Johnston and Danielle Jackson decided that talking about it wasn’t enough.

It was a heavy time for people of African descent on both sides of the border, and the two friends and coworkers wanted to get out and move.

COVID-19 also made gathering challenging, but as restrictions eased, their walk-and-talks grew into a regular walking club, then a running club.

“We wanted to normalize the uncomfortable side of (racism conversations),” Jackson says. “We know that walking does so much, so we started doing weekend walks and runs. People started to say, ‘Let’s do this every weekend,’ and it kept building.”

From there, the BLM – In This TOGETHER running club was born. They held their first organized fun run in 2021 in conjunction with Emancipation Day, which is celebrated on Aug. 1 to recognize the abolition of slavery in the former British empire in 1838. Nova Scotia first officially recognized Emancipation Day in 2021.

“The first time we did it (an organized run) was scary,” Johnston says. “But it went well, so we just kept going.”

“You find yourself thinking, ‘Are people even going to show up?’” Jackson adds. “But man, did they show up. It was really moving.”

In 2022, the group organized virtual and satellite runs on Aug. 1, where people recorded videos of themselves out walking or running, or gathered in smaller groups in historic African Nova Scotian communities like Beechville, Upper Hammonds Plains, and Africville for walks or runs.

Also in August, the club held its first timed run in Cherry Brook, starting and ending at the Black Cultural Centre. The event was a full celebration, complete with a barbecue and bouncy castles.

The event really brought people together, Johnston says — kids saw their teachers or other community members out running, including an 86-year-old North Preston woman who had others hustling to keep up with her.

“There were some kids who weren’t runners (before) but learned, ‘This could really be my thing,’” Johnston says.

For the organizers, that’s what the club is all about: encouraging people to connect with each other in ways that benefit their physical and mental health. They have partnered with other community organizations like Akoma and the Black Wellness Co-operative to help group members take a holistic approach to health and wellness, and they’d like to branch out into offering running clinics for kids and maybe other sports as well.

“This is our self-care, tapping into community,” Johnston says.

“We try to address mind, body, and soul in everything we do,” Jackson adds. “Being active is great, but we’re finding it’s also the mental wellness benefit … Our bodies can help us heal when we move.”

This summer, the group is planning another virtual celebration on Emancipation Day and a timed run/ walk on Aug. 5. All events are free, and open to everyone. Johnston and Jackson say they’re grateful to Sport Nova Scotia for funding support.

“Sport Nova Scotia has really been able to help us make that happen for community,” Jackson says.

Find BLM – In This TOGETHER on Facebook and Instagram or register for the 2023 race at events/2023/75776/emancipation-daytimed-runwalk.

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