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La Toshia Burrell, co-founder of Embrace the Race, wants Iowans to attend one more Juneteenth activity this weekend — a virtual 5k "run, walk, roll or stroll" on Sunday, June 19.
This growing event was created with the intention "to help other Black and Brown individuals feel safe while out running, walking, or playing outside in addition to promoting wellness, healthy equity and the uniting of communities together," according to its Facebook event page.
Embrace the Race is about movement, but it's also about something more important, Burrell said.
"It's understanding that other people have limitations in their movement — whether that is through their race and the color of their skin — or if it’s because of their abilities,” she said. “We just want to really make sure people are reflective of any type of disadvantage or danger or fear that other individuals have. And that they can be mindful of how they can be a part of that change to help improve, support and make a difference in other's lives."
La Toshia Burrell, co-founder of Embrace the Race. Photo courtesy of Burrell.
Burrell, a community impact manager at Broadlawns Medical Center, has a “strong passion” for health and wellness. Holding the event during Juneteenth provides another way participants can “get the message” about social justice, health equity, wellness and celebrating diversity, she said.
“I wanted to really be intentional about taking the opportunity to provide awareness and to speak up on these real hard truths that are happening but also educate, provide tools and takeaways,” she said.
The race, in its third year, is free and will be held at 9 a.m. CST on Sunday, June 19. The event will last about an hour. Participants can sign up by downloading the Charge Running app to walk, jog, run or dance wherever they are. The Charge team will provide tips, engagement and interaction to users, she said. Corey Dion Lewis, host of the Healthy Project podcast based in Des Moines, will serve as a special guest host. There will also be lots of music, she said.
Courtesy of Embrace the Race.
People can register online or in person for Embrace the Race during the Iowa Juneteenth Observance's Neighbor’s Day. The event will be held from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. on June 18, in the Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines. Burrell will have a booth, and participants who sign up will receive a special kit, which includes a book by a diverse author, wrist band, a T-shirt and water bottle, she said.
Burrell said she was struck by the murder of avid runner, Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was murdered during a racially-motivated hate crime in 2020. His murder illustrated “running while Black” and raised awareness nationwide about the safety issues facing Black joggers and runners. The murder happened three months before the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody, which sparked nationwide protests and a period some have defined as a racial reckoning in the U.S.
BRUNSWICK, GA – NOVEMBER 23: Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, leaves the Glynn County Courthouse as jury deliberations begin in the trial of the killers of her son on November 23, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan are charged with the February 2020 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
It’s an unsettling time Burrell remembers well.
“I just personally did not feel safe anymore in my community,” she said, while a guest on Lewis’ Healthy Project podcast.
That's when the idea for the 5k emerged.
Lewis, who is bringing a national conference, My City, My Health, to Des Moines in November, is excited to serve as a host for the event and said he believes in the mission of Embrace the Race.
“I have a passion for the community and health so when Toshia approached me about her event, why she started it and what it meant to her, I knew I wanted to support it and be involved in any way I could,” Lewis said.
Burrell encourages participants to sign a diversity pledge. She is also the co-founder and president of Embrace: Celebrating Diversity, which promotes the education of historically marginalized communities in order to encourage awareness, truth, and discomfort through education; in doing so, we invite people to allyship, belonging and celebration, according to its Facebook page.
Embrace the Race
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved Blacks in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom — two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. Blacks began marking the date with celebrations and community events. President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17, 2021, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Iowa's official Juneteenth recognition occurred on April 11, 2002.
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