By Mark F. Gray
Graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) from local and regional alumni association chapters are taking over the National Mall in early July. The DC HBCU Alumni Alliance will host its “8th Annual HBCU 5K Run/Walk and Community Day,” however the event’s location is moving from Howard University and breaking barriers all at once. On Saturday, July 11, the DC HBCU Alumni Alliance will be the first African American organization to host a 5K run/walk on the National Mall.
“We’ve had our sights set on moving this 5K run/walk to the National Mall and increasing the number of participants from over 2,000 to 10,000 people for quite a while, so we are delighted to make this vision come to fruition in 2020,” said Dr. Nardos King, president of the DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance in a public statement.
A new decade and the number of participants has prompted the change in the race location from the Northwest, D.C. campus and the surrounding community to the National Mall. The 5K run/walk has become one of the five largest race events of its kind in the nation according to USA Track and Field, which is the sport’s governing body in the United States. The success of the 5K outgrew the constraints of its original neighborhood in Shaw and thus the National Mall will set the stage for this year’s group of HBCU alumni and supporters to run or walk in the eighth annual event.
This year’s theme is “Run on Freedom” and the organization hopes to drive more students towards attending HBCUs, which they believe are critical to the success of the African American community. Another consistent theme since the event’s inception has been the Alliance’s community outreach program, designed to help reduce health disparities that are problematic in Black communities. The organization also continues to support the Capital Area Food Bank and partners with local medical associations to improve eating habits and promote healthy fitness and lifestyle choices.
“Run on Freedom registrants will be a part of a history-making fundraiser that will not only help empower the African American community to overcome a range of health, education and economic disparities, but also show the nation the influence and power HBCU alumni and students,” Dr. King added in his statement.
The race has become the signature event during the annual local HBCU alumni weekend. It also is a major fundraiser for the non profit organization to provide financial support for the 64 local HBCU alumni association chapters to help their member institutions assist with their scholarship efforts. These local HBCU alumni chapters can use the funds raised towards scholarships for students who plan to attend their respective schools. Local fraternity and sorority chapters can also form teams who can participate in the Greek Giveback Program to receive funds to benefit their scholarship programs.
In addition to its support of the Capital Area Foodbank, proceeds from the DC HBCU Alumni Association also supports Ronald McDonald House Charities as well as holiday clothing and food drives. With the race on a larger scale, the organization expects a record number of participants this year and have started the registration process already. Those who are interested in participating in either the walk or run are being encouraged to reserve their place by visiting their website at www.dchbcu.org.