Over the last few weeks we were approached by an old friend and community member at November Project who proposed we coordinate a Global Running Day event. They suggested a partnership that would encourage members to run a route that encompassed as many of their properties as possible. And for every mile we collectively ran, they would donate $1 to an organization of our choice. To us, this seemed like a win-win: in running as usual on Global Running Day, we would be able to raise money for, and therefore support, an organization that is meaningful to us. In that spirit, we tried to make something positive in the midst of a rapidly changing global situation. In retrospect, we tried too hard when we should have stopped and re-evaluated. Even though this didn’t work out, it has forced us to think more deeply about how we must continually be thoughtful about our decisions, and has also allowed us to see how we can be a better contributor to Baltimore as a whole, and a more inclusive and representative fitness community.
Initially, we chose Mera Kitchen Collective, a local worker-cooperative, focusing their efforts on feeding the community during this pandemic. To add to the importance of this organization, one of the co-founders is an NP community member and friend. Amidst this historic time of uprising against police brutality, white supremacy and systemic racism after recent and merciless deaths of black citizens including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, Mera Kitchen Collective responded to our offer saying that while appreciated the donation, they felt that the money would be more impactful and effective if given to a local, Black-led organization. We circled back and suggested a few organizations for our original partner to choose from, since it was their money after all. This communication between multiple organizations and contact points took a little while and we jumped the gun. We assumed that conversations had been had, and further assumed that this money would be welcomed, regardless of donor.
Yesterday, we shared that this money would be split between Mera Kitchen Collective and a Black-led organization, but we did not have permission directly from this organization to publicize. As such, they did not want to accept the money directly from a residential development organization with which they did not have any prior relationship with or even knowledge of. Moreover, we recognized (too late) that all of the properties we sent you to were in what Lawrence Brown PhD., scholar and educator, coined the term “The White L”. (You can read more about this and his work here.) In hindsight, their wariness in accepting this money makes total sense. And this is where our intent was good, but our impact was not. This is an important lesson in doing anti-racist work. Impact matters far more than intent. (There is an excellent article on that here.) While we thought (nay, assumed) that any monetary support would be welcomed, we failed to see that the way we wanted to support this organization (encouraging our event to occur in exclusively white and privileged neighborhoods) directly opposes their mission to dismantle racism and white privilege.
As we start to do more self-reflection and work harder and more intentionally to become anti-racist, it is important that we learn and share these lessons so that you, too, can understand our thought processes and misguidings. We vow that moving forward we will be more conscious of our partnerships. As leaders of a community that we love, it has also been important for us to set a tone and direction that reflects your kindness and openness. We have seen how much each of you has begun/continued to educate yourselves and become better allies of racial justice.
Our three brains are always open to ideas you have about improving who, what, and how we are. We may have started as a free fitness group, but we have grown to be a family that we all care about so much (I mean we have kids now!!!). So while we continue to do our own work, please: reach out to us, criticize us, push us, embrace us, as we make each other better physically, mentally and morally.
With so much respect and love,
Lizzie, Kaye and BrysonShare via socials: