Running crew creates weekly BIPOC runs in support of anti-Black racism
Every Wednesday, the Air Up There Running Crew take to the streets. The group is exclusively for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) runners looking to support each other. That need for support was evident in mid-October as members of the Running Crew were stopped by police while on one of their runs.
The Hamilton-based running crew was created three years ago and has been holding BIPOC-specific runs every week since March as a safe space for people facing systemic racism.
This, in part, was a response to when Ahmaud Arbery killed, while jogging, by three white citizens in Brunswick, Georgia. The case and lack of investigation, as well as other systemic racial interactions in the United States, started a worldwide protest in response to Anti-Black Racism.
Vincent Kuber, a member of Air Up There Running Crew who was involved in the October incident, says that he tries not to let the verbal abuse and racial slurs phase him, but it’s hard, despite the many challenges.
In mid-October, some members of the running crew were involved in what they call a ‘dehumanizing’ interaction with Hamilton police officials.
Kuber was one of three members of the running crew who stopped and confronted by Police while on one of their 5K runs. It was after a ‘concerned citizen’ reported suspicious activity in front of the police station where the group of runners were seen taking pictures and videos of a display that was created to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
As the runners continued on their jog two Hamilton Police officers called them back to interrogate them. When asked, the officers told the group they were not being detained and continued their run.
“I’m a person that’s calm, collected and understanding, but over the years of growing up in the same area, and I’m still having to deal with similar situations,” said Kuber.
In an interview with the CBC, Air Up There co-founder Mohamad Bsat said, “It was a really dehumanizing experience because we put this run on as a way to take back our space, to empower us in a city where we experience a lot of systemic racism and oppression.”
“Now I’m almost 40 and I’m more aware of certain things,” Kuber said. “I’m realizing ‘Hey, you shouldn’t have talked to me that way, or you shouldn’t have had to search my car, or I shouldn’t have had to do this, because that was my right.'”
“It’s scary because we need these individuals for help when we do need it and It’s hard to even make a phone call because all these situations are now running through my head,” he said.
Kuber said that it’s frustrating because some people don’t truly comprehend the struggle of having to deal with systematic racism, oppression and thinks more should be done to address the issue and they aren’t handling the severity of the situation the correct way.
“People need to understand that you’re not going to get results from a four-hour racism workshop. You’re not going to get results from watching videos. You’re not going to get results from reading quotes and reposting quotes all day long. You’re going to get results from accepting and hearing, absorbing, and taking action with all those tools,” he said.
Kuber says he enjoys being a part of the group and having the opportunity to help people who may not have some sort of support system to help them get through the tough times.
“We’re a crew, we’re a team, doesn’t matter what area you come from, at the end of the day, we all link up at a time in a day, and we spend time together to demonstrate that this is going to be safe. don’t think that it’s not and We’re getting lots of folks from all different walks of life show up,” he said.
“It’s amazing to hear their stories which they might not have felt comfortable telling anybody else, it’s sort of a warm thing in my heart to hear because they’re sharing that moment with me.”
Members of Air Up There say that it’s more than just posting things and saying Black Lives Matter. People have to take action. They use running as a catalyst to help bring a different perspective of individuals in the community and hope people start to take notice.