South Central Run Club Is Building Black & Brown Relationships in Los Angeles
What inspired South Central Run Club?
In 2018, Jazmin Garcia and I were participating in the growing running culture in Los Angeles and frequenting many run club meets. We were inspired by how the act of running was creating community, placemaking and wellness for strangers hailing from all parts of LA.
At the same time, we couldn’t help but notice that some of our most favorite run clubs only hosted pop-up meets throughout Mid City, West LA, Venice and Santa Monica.
They did not venture out South East and this made those of us living in South Central have to travel just to take part in a running community.
When was the organization/group founded? Key members?
Two separate South Central Run Clubs were founded in 2018. One was started by Jazmin Garcia, and the other by Zaakiyah Brisker.
The two joined forces in 2020 during the COVID Pandemic to combine efforts. We later brought on Veronica Villasenor who is a South Central ally and interested in prioritizing South Central natives and supporting our efforts.
At the same time, we were cognizant of the 2028 Olympic bid, the SoFi Stadium and Metro Extension and how it accelerated massive gentrification in South Central.
We were seeing the displacement of low-income and houseless community members and the erasure of South Central as a namesake and it’s history.
Why should people have to leave South Central to find wellness? If people in South Central can sleep there, why can’t they run there and build deep connections there?
We love South Central in a holistic way and so these questions inspire us. Addressing these questions and using running as a release and unifier we are growing a culture of
wellness in South Central.
Why is unity between Black and Brown folks in South Central/ South L.A important to the organization?
South Central Run Club exists to increase community wellness. We are made up of black and brown people and we want to be well.
However, we understand that individual wellness cannot sustain itself without a culture of wellness to support it. At the moment many people of South Central are doggedly trying to live well in an emotional, physical and financial environment that cannot sustain it. We call this a culture of illness.
Before South Central became South L.A., it was considered a ghetto and the people that lived here come from histories of forced migration and enslavement.
At one point, South Central was predominantly a black neighborhood and this was due to being redlined out of Manhattan Beach, Venice and Beverly Hills. Black people made a home out of South Central because of redlining. And the same is true for Brown people.
There are no path ways or systems designed specifically to address the experiences felt by the Latinx diaspora that could lead to homeownership, career development and wellness practice in Culver City.
While on the west side, there are gyms, fitness boutiques, wellness studios, juice and smoothie bars, private physicians, counseling offices, bike lanes and most importantly the financial means to support these wellness businesses, there are few of these things in South Central and not enough surplus income to enjoy them.
That is the reality Black and Brown people made South Central their home out of survival and because both occupy the land, both groups need to move with awareness of each other’s histories and needs.
Both need to survive and it threatens the survival of either, if one is made an enemy in regards to circumstances that they did not create themselves.
If there is no understanding of this reality, that both black and brown people were relegated to the ghetto to work free to low wages and that we share that reality, we will increase illness for one another through shame and blame.
The history and impacts of enslavement of African people has created so much misunderstanding for brown people. And the history of migration and refuge of Latinx people has created misunderstanding for black people. This space of misunderstanding is where fear and strife stems from.
We say, it is unsightly houseless black folks, street vendors or gangs that
create the culture of illness in South Central. We are to blame for our own limited opportunities. Many ideas of wellness stem from the desire of being free of poor environmental conditions and the way we make cultural associations with poor environmental conditions warps our ideas of wellness.
That is to say that many ideas of wellness in black and brown communities can be Anti-Brown and Anti-Black.
One can not create their own opportunities of success with the ignorance of Anti-Blackness and Anti-Brownness fogging their vision from seeing areas of growth and healing.
We do not stress unity in South Central Run Club because there is the common belief that unity means to perpetuate the status quo of silence, suppression and neglect.
We stress openness, compassion and courage to challenge fear when engaging each other and unity comes as a result.
And so by South Central Run Club, organizing together as black and brown cultured people, we are allowing an increased consciousness about each other’s histories and of what truly creates poor environmental conditions.
Our organization works to create the opportunity to dispel misunderstandings in South Central and learn what is needed to bring wellness to the community. Unity comes as a result.
How has running been used as a tool in the goal of coalition and solidarity building between both groups?
Running as a sport, as an exercise, as an act of expelling energy and as an act of
agency by sheer physical movement is the most accessible means of wellness for able
bodied folks in South Central.
It does not require a cent, people still run barefoot. Daily, the nervous systems of people of South Central are overwhelmed.
Addictions of all kinds have been menial debilitating attempts at creating calm and ease in our lives. Running is slept on for its natural ability to regulate the nervous system and create calm.
Running expels energy and activates the same parts of our nervous system that weed activates and increases ease, calm, clarity and more confidence. It frees up our energy from being trapped in the past and future loop of anxiety.
No gyms or wellness studios needed. Imagine seeing black and brown walkers, joggers and runners along Hoover and it’s safe. It sounds lofty, but it is attainable.
What is often misunderstood about running is that not everyone can do it.
South Central Run Club recognized everyone cannot do it. This is because of the spectrum of disabilities that impact physical and mental capacities.
How does a history of redlining impact black and brown folks’ ideas on their ability to move? How can someone run when there is a deep-seated belief that they cannot?
How can someone run when they can not see how their physical environment can support them running safely?
Running brings us together because it puts us in the position to have to address this reality. I want to run, I want wellness but what stops me from running?
Really, it forces black and brown people to have to face reality and experience what’s real for themselves.
The act of running outside creates responsibility for self, others and your environment by having to move through and around all at once.
That’s why we say, We Run South Central because we are embracing that responsibility, affirming that South Central can be well and signaling to others that if you want to answer the question of what stops you from running, we are here to support you.