This year’s ROC Juneteenth 5K Run/Walk comes at a time when we are reminded, once again, that justice in America can still depend upon the color of one’s skin and that just about any action, including running, can be fatal to a Black American.
The Juneteenth race – a fundraiser for the Rochester Civil Rights Heritage Site — takes place in the aftermath of a shooting that killed an unarmed Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging Feb. 23, in a suburban neighborhood in Georgia, not far from his home. Arrests of the suspects were made only after two and a half months of no action on the case, and only after an incriminating video emerged on May 5.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s race is “virtual”: One could run or walk the 5K from home or from anywhere. The race can be done in one day or done over the course of a month or more, in one’s own neighborhood. Organizers simply ask that all running/walking be completed by midnight on June 19, 2020. “Juneteenth” is a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day that 250 years of slavery finally ended in America.
One can register for the race at: https://juneteenth5k.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=9320
The run is a fundraiser, and the $10 registration fee will go toward the funding of a site that will honor local Civil Rights leaders throughout history. The Rochester Civil Rights Heritage Site, a project in progress (spearheaded by the Spiritus Christi Anti-Racism Coalition — SPARC — and supported by many groups, including the First Universalist Initiative for Racial Equity, or FIRE), will be located within Baden Park near Upper Falls and will explore civil rights leaders, their stories, and their struggles.
The race, Rochester’s fourth, is relatively young, and Juneteenth is still an “under-celebrated day,” says Gloria Johnson Hovey, the founder and organizer of the race. Ms Johnson-Hovey, a retired social worker from the Rochester City School District, requested last year, and the City of Rochester agreed, to begin the practice of flying a Juneteenth flag outside of City Hall in honor of the day. The goal of the ROC Juneteenth Run-Walk 5K Race, she says, “is to make this a larger-celebrated day.
During this year’s race, Ms Johnson-Hovey says, we run in part to honor a man who could not run freely in his neighborhood and can never run again. Mr. Arbery, just two months shy of his 26th birthday, was jogging not far from his home when he was confronted by two armed white men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34. In the video that surfaced on May 5, Mr. Arbery is shown running, being watched by two men parked in the street in a truck. Mr. Arbery disappears from view near the truck for a few seconds, then in a conflict with the younger McMichael. Finally, Mr. Arbery is seen staggering and falling to the ground, ultimately to his death. Across the country, on Twitter, (#irunwithahmaud, #irunwithmaud), on other social media, and in person (through runs and protests), people are demanding that justice be served.