Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen justified anger and dismay in response to George Floyd’s murder manifest in many forms – both in our own city and across the world. I’m grateful to see more people insist that Black Lives Matter, I’m encouraged that the Denver School Board voted to end their contract with the Denver Police Department, and I’m optimistic about efforts such as the Law Enforcement Integrity & Accountability Act SB217 passing in the Colorado Legislature. I’ve also spent some time reflecting on the work I need to do as an individual, as a November Project coleader, and that our free fitness community needs to embrace.
November Project has long claimed the idea that we are an inclusive community. Though I felt immediately welcomed when I showed at Spices Cafe for bRUNch on Valentine’s day in 2016, and I’ve since gained a community that makes Denver feel like home, I know that has not been everyone’s story. Making a point to connect with new people at our workouts, designing a workout that encourages people to share what they are grateful for, looking each other in the eyes while saying “I’m glad you’re here” – these are good things, but they are not enough to live up to our aspiration of inclusivity. In a recent episode of Pace the Nation, the owner of Pacers Running (a group of DC area running stores) reflected on their motto “For EveryRun” with Alison Desir (founder of Harlem Run, Run 4 All Women, and the Global Womxn Run Collective). Like November Project, Pacers Running aims for inclusivity, but participants in our respective events do not reflect the diversity of our cities. Alison described this as “a dissonance between what you believe your mission to be and what you actually are in truth.” If I’m honest with myself, this dissonance resonates with me and our encouragement to #justshowup.
November Project Denver is lead by two middle-class white women, which means that there are many ways Gabby and I see and experience the world in similar ways. We’ve been socialized into an environment that is largely built to benefit us in undeserved ways, and there are undoubtedly decisions we make that perpetuate this environment. To be direct and concise: we have many blind spots to confront. Amongst coleaders, we’ve begun a book club to carve out time to learn about our blind spots, our country’s history of systemic racism, and to reflect on the ways we can disrupt how we preserve inequity and injustice. During a recent long run, a close friend of mine encouraged me to expand this beyond the coleadership level. Gabby and I agree. We know that the growth that our community needs to do can’t be simply a top-down effort. For now, we’d like to start with the following:
Listen-In Resources: We are going to maintain a list of resources that our community can use to learn more about things like white privilege, housing discrimination, the complex (and all-too-commonplace) ways racism plays out, ableism, redlining, LGBTQIA+ discrimination, and Denver’s own history of inequity. We’d like this to be a living document that grows over time, and we’d like to crowd-source what goes into it. If you find something you’d like us to add – whether it’s a book, podcast episode, a free class on African American History courtesy of Yale, please send us a link by DMing our socials.
NP DEN Learns: Once a month, we’ll choose one of the resources, read or listen to it, then get together to discuss our takeaways. Like our workouts, we ask that you come as you are, ready to reflect, engage, and challenge yourself according to our Community Agreements. Monica and Tyler have been organizing the NP 5280 Book Club for years, and racial inequity has been a recurring theme in the books they cover. Our goal is to supplement and complement these efforts, so if you are part of that group and want to stick with that, please do. If you’d like to join our group, we are so glad. If you’d like to do both, we completely support that too. If you’d like to participate, you can sign up for NP DEN Learns and/or NP 5280 Book Club (we’re having technical issues with the FB Group link, so we’ll release sign-up details soon). The NP DEN Learns sign-up link will continue to be available and editable; there is no deadline to join.
Gabby and I have no delusions that these initiatives are decisive solutions. Though we’d like this to grow into more, candidly, we don’t have a comprehensive road map figured out. However, we are confident that starting the process of unlearning and relearning is part of our journey. If the idea of joining us on this journey makes you uncomfortable, remember that discomfort often accompanies growth, and we are in this together.
To close, I’d like to share a quote from Austin Channing-Brown that both motivates and challenges me to take this on:
“What if instead of longing for ease, we were made for more – made to advocate, made to dig in, made to speak out, made for complexity, made for this moment? What if we believed so deeply in our own capacity to rise to this occasion that getting to work wasn’t a tiring chore, but a life-giving opportunity to invest in something larger than ourselves?”
With Love, ErinShare via socials: