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The Washington Post

Actor Djimon Hounsou’s basis hosts run to have fun unity


A number of years in the past, actor Djimon Hounsou was visiting his dwelling nation of Benin. As he appeared out on the West African coast, he considered what it represented; particularly, its significance within the transatlantic slave commerce.

Hounsou starred within the Steven Spielberg-directed historic drama “Amistad” within the mid-Nineteen Nineties. Whereas doing so, the 58-year-old actor says he realized way more in regards to the historical past of the African individuals and the way, within the aftermath of the slave commerce, many misplaced the information of their households, origins and ancestry. “We’re speaking a few extreme identification concern,” Hounsou stated. “For those who don’t know the place you come from, you positive don’t know who you’re.”

That realization was one of many inspirations behind his founding of the Djimon Hounsou Foundation in 2019 on Dec. 2, which the United Nations marks because the Worldwide Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The muse goals, partly, to reconnect the individuals of the African diaspora with their roots and tradition, and to struggle fashionable slavery and human trafficking.

On Saturday, as a part of that imaginative and prescient, the inspiration will host the inaugural Run Richmond 16.19 , the primary in a three-part operating and live performance occasion sequence referred to as Africa Reconnect. Deliberate with occasions on three continents, it was designed as an instance how the previous is linked to the long run whereas celebrating unity in range.

“I assumed, what brings a mass of individuals from a various world collectively?” Hounsou stated. “And I spotted, it’s solely round sports activities and music you could deliver individuals from completely different backgrounds collectively.”

Richmond and the opposite two Africa Reconnect occasion places — Liverpool, England, and Ouidah, West Africa — are host cities to the Reconciliation Triangle created by Liverpool-based artist Stephen Broadbent. When linked by way of straight traces, three sculptures type the Triangle of the Transatlantic Slave Commerce and the Triangle of Hope. Every statue is inscripted, “Acknowledge and forgive the previous. Embrace the current. Form a way forward for reconciliation and justice.”

Members in Run Richmond 16.19 can select both a 6.19-mile or a 16.19-kilometer distance, with tiered pricing starting from $35 to $105. Earlier than every race begins on Saturday morning, the Elegba Folklore Society will carry out a drum name and libation ceremony.

As of Thursday afternoon, practically 600 individuals had signed up, organizers stated.

Every route has runners passing historic factors that, DHF Program and Advertising and marketing Director Max Plank stated, communicate to the Black expertise and have fun the influence of African and African American tradition.

In designing the routes, Plank studied Richmond’s historical past and researched extensively on-line. The muse collaborated with the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia and different native grass-roots organizations, academic establishments and Black-run companies and people in planning the occasion festivities and course routes.

“In Richmond, we’re lucky to have numerous African American landmarks or landmarks associated to African American historical past and tradition,” stated Monroe Harris, BHMVA board president and appearing govt director. “However the individuals which are coming collectively most likely wouldn’t be doing so if it weren’t for an occasion comparable to this. You might be educating individuals who is probably not conscious of a number of the accomplishments of Black individuals in tradition and historical past — it will increase our consciousness and understanding of one another, which if now we have that, it makes the world a greater place.”

From there, the inspiration labored with Sports activities Backers, a Richmond-area group that helps energetic life, to find out potential street closures and logistics in permitting for the members to expertise as many historic landmarks as potential. At three websites alongside the route, members will have the ability to cease and watch a brief video on the historic significance of the situation; there will even be indicators with headlines, a brief description and QR codes at 12 completely different historic markers for members to scan, pay attention and study.

Some notable locations — such because the size of historic Monument Avenue and the positioning of “Rumors of Battle,” American artist Kehinde Wiley’s bronze sculpture commemorating African American youth dealing with social and political injustices — couldn’t be integrated into this 12 months’s course Plank stated. However Plank stated the inspiration hopes to have the ability to embody them because the occasion grows in future years.

Many different vital areas had been included. The crossing of various bridges is current on each routes, paralleling the symbolism of the transatlantic slave commerce crossing the Atlantic. The route additionally passes by way of the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood, Shockoe Backside and several other murals of the “Mending Partitions” public artwork venture.

“I’m hoping it is going to deliver a sure journey of experiencing 400 years of Black historical past, the place you’ll be able to contact and really feel,” stated Hounsou, who will run the 6.19-mile distance.

Anthony and Tara Clary grew up within the Blackwell neighborhood of Richmond. A number of years in the past, they based #WeOfftheCouch, a operating group constructed to deliver range to operating and construct neighborhood. It has grown to 80 individuals attending one of many group’s three weekly runs. The members, Tara says, “are individuals of all shapes, ages, sizes, backgrounds, paces, faces and races. It’s such a phenomenal factor as a result of one way or the other, now we have struck a chord with so many alternative individuals.”

Once they realized of Run Richmond 16.19 six months in the past, they had been on the cellphone with Plank that very same day, as a part of the inspiration’s preliminary outreach to native African American organizations and corporations. “That was lovely to us as a result of we all know we maintain a particular area on this place we’re occupying,” Tara says. “Lengthy-distance operating has historically been out there to upper-middle class Whites. It’s not historically a Black or Brown sport.”

Though they recurrently run the streets of Richmond and go many of those historic websites, the Clarys sit up for the influence it is going to have. “To expertise it in actual time, it’ll be a phenomenal factor,” Tara says. “It’s connecting African American descendants to their identification. Due to the transatlantic slave commerce, we’ve been stripped of our identification in so some ways. That is to commemorate the sacrifices African People have made to our nation and world.”

A number of of the neighborhood companions will arrange tents on-site following the race’s end, together with the Afrikana Film Festival happening the identical weekend. The Experience Band and Show will even carry out stay on the post-race End Competition, as will the Elegba Folklore Society together with visitor artist Jah Baba from Cotonou, Benin, Hounsou’s dwelling nation. Meals and drinks will even be out there. (The end space is free to anybody, whether or not a race participant or not.)

“We are attempting to champion the concept of unity in range,” Hounsou says. “The aim is all about therapeutic. We’re at a historic second in time to acknowledge that Black historical past is American historical past. It’s in regards to the Afro-descendents of this world to really feel the facility of their historical past and to have a bit of data about who they’re, what they imply on this world and what they completed over time.”

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