Oh, Yes: Black Girls Do Run!
Organization takes aim at the stereotype that black women aren't fit
Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks started Black Girls RUN! (BGR), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle among black women, back in 2009. Now, three years later, their members have taken the organization to new heights and they are happy to be along for the ride.
Black Girls RUN! Is currently almost 20,000 members strong on their Facebook page and they're inspiring women to lace up their sneakers and hit the pavement -- together. Not only is there safety in numbers, but there is accountability too.
"I am down 34 pounds," one member boasts. "I got here by changing my eating habits, weight training, and running weekly with my local Black Girls RUN! Group. I have 30 pounds to go and I'm more motivated than ever!"
This sisterhood allows them to get tips on increasing distance, best workout clothes to wear, training regimens and more. Pushing each other to new heights seems to be the unofficial motto and it's working for members.
One member says, "I don't like running, but Black Girls RUN! has given me a new outlook on running, physical fitness, and health."
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Toni Carey talked to Loop 21 about the organization, their future plans and whether black women are willing to prioritize health over hair.
Loop 21: You created BGR in 2009. Were you serious runners before you started the organization? Can you tell me a little about your fitness journey before?
Toni Carey: Ashley and I have very different fitness journeys. I was never athletic as a kid and I never thought I would consider myself a runner. My journey started with watching Ashley getting more and more into running. I also worked with a company that sponsored the wheelchair division of the ING New York City Marathon.
After seeing the heart and determination of those athletes and experiencing the atmosphere of the race, I knew I wanted to give it a try. Ashley, on the other hand, has always been an athlete and played soccer in high school and in college. After ending her soccer career she started running to get back in shape. Her cousin, a veteran runner, encouraged her to take up the longer distances.
Loop 21: Why did you decide to start BGR? Was there a particular event that sparked the idea?
Toni Carey: Three years ago, we both were getting more and more involved in running. We realized that there was this stereotype that black women don’t run. We thought it was the most absurd thing ever and wanted to dispel that myth. We decided to start a blog called Black Girls RUN! to share our running journey, but also to increase awareness of the obesity epidemic in the African-American community, especially among black women.
Loop 21: What is your major goal with BGR?
Toni Carey: The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority.
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Loop 21: There has been a lot of talk in the news about black women and their lack of exercise, one of the primary reasons being that they don't want to mess up their hair. BGR seems to stand for the opposite approach -- that regular exercise is a part of looking good as well. Do you think your message is effective? What have your members been saying about the issue?
Toni Carey: Our stance has always been “health over hair.” What good is a fabulous hairstyle if you are overweight and/or obese?
While we still get a little resistance, our members typically have gotten to a point in their lives where they are ready to make that sacrifice. They understand that being healthy is a lifestyle and with that you have to change your mindset, not just your actions.
Loop 21: What are your future plans for BGR?
Toni Carey: Our plan is to continue to expand Black Girls RUN! across the nation and internationally, as well as implement more community-based program.
To learn more about Black Girls RUN! or find a running group near you, visit www.blackgirlsrun.com.