Racing to End Racism: Community on the Right Track

By: Sasha Gay Lobban April, 2021

Tough conversations can happen anytime, even while staying active. As communities all over the world are coming up with ways to fight back against racism, this past year, runners in Saskatoon had the chance to accept the challenge and join an important race ­ a Race Against Racism.

Race Against Racism is a five­kilometre race with the hope of encouraging positive relationships in the community. The event, hosted by the Global Gathering Place (GGP), usually sees over 600 participants annually. Held for the past ten years, the Race had significantly reduced participation this year due to the ongoing COVID­19 pandemic. However, despite COVID­19 challenges, organizers say the event’s impact was nothing short of effective as the run still met its objectives of engaging the community in discussions about racism, how to become advocates, promoting positive relationships, and staying active.

Carlie Russell, program coordinator at the GGP, says the Race Against Racism is an initiative that, “facilitates a positive environment that brings people of diverse backgrounds together to promote an active, healthy lifestyle while encouraging positive relationships in the community.”

Participants are also able to receive useful, engaging resources on how they can help to foster diversity and inclusion.

“Throughout the route, there were five checkpoints where runners would stop, scan the sign with their phone, and gain an educational resource about stopping racism,” Russell explains. “We were lucky that the sun was shining, and the river was in full fall colours over the race weekend, so it was a treat to get outside and enjoy our city while being active and learning something new.”

She goes on to say that the Run is a metaphor for the endurance and the intentionality it takes for people to work against racism. “A fun run also brings diverse groups together in a unique setting,” she adds.

Russell shares a comment from one participant who says, “I got to learn quite a number of different things about racism and its ongoing impact on society while being active. So I’m really glad to have participated in the event.”

After the event, participants were encouraged to continue having conversations about racism. GGP invited participants to join another event they called Train Against Racism. This event provided a chance for dialogue via Zoom.

“In Race Against Racism, runners were able to gather resources to learn about racism and anti­racism initiatives in our city, but we still saw a need to create space to have meaningful conversations,” she emphasizes. “It was important to have a local conversation about racism in our context and provide a starting point and common understanding for those who want to be engaged.”

Both events were held in partnership with other community partners such as the Saskatoon Police Service and several other settlement organizations. There were about 175 participants, over the four­day running period. There was a maximum of 30 runners within a three­hour timeslot over the duration of the race, and organizers made sure participants followed COVID­19 guidelines. Another 50 people participated in the Train Against Racism webinar.

This event received support through SaskCulture’s Multicultural Initiatives Fund, funded by Sask Lotteries.