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'Track Queens' Lace up for First Annual Brownsville Royal Run

We Run Brownsville, a running group for women of color, will hold a two-mile "fun run" for the community on Saturday The current We Run Brownsville cohort.
Brownsville Royal Run
The current We Run Brownsville cohort. Photo: Miranda Levingston for BK Reader

We Run Brownsville, a running group for women of color, will hold a two-mile "fun run" for the community on Saturday

We Run Brownsville, Brownsville Royal Run
The current We Run Brownsville cohort.
Photo: Sheila Barksdale-Gordon for BK Reader

On your mark, get set, go!

The Brownsville Royal Run, Brownsville's first community-organized short-distance race, is set to kick off this Saturday at Betsy Head Park, giving local residents a chance to build cardio and camaraderie for a good cause.

The two mile course is hosted by We Run Brownsville, a running-centered women's empowerment organization, and is sponsored by Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corp., Brownsville Community Justice Center, the Brownsville Multi-Health Center and Copy King.

"I am looking forward to Brownsville's first annual community race because I was born and raised [here], I grew up in those projects," said La'Shawn Allen Mohammad, executive director of Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corp. "And to be a part of this is to feel Brownsville transformed; for the community to come together and run is to be literarily laying tracks."

Brownsville Royal Run, We Run Brownsville
WRB Co-founders Barksdale-Gordon and Grayman in their team shirts. Photo: Sheila Barksdale-Gordon for BK Reader

Dionne Grayman and Sheila Barksdale-Gordon, both Brownsville residents, co-founded WRB because they wanted to make a positive and lasting impact in their community. WRB has trained nine cohorts of women over the past three years for different races around the city. The organization's programming is entirely free for participants, and the groups meet twice a week for one and a half hours.

"We wanted to have a safe space for black and brown women to be able to access their best selves," Grayman said. "'We Run' is a love letter to our community from us but also for us. It's a way for us to celebrate ourselves."

Longtime WRB member Abena Moore said the race next Saturday will be the culmination of three years of health-minded community building.

"WRB has begun to change the negative narrative of Brownsville for my family and me," Moore said. "My mom, adult sister and I have all completed more that one cohort. My younger siblings and nephew all come out to help on training days, and support the group at 5K races and have embraced the women as a surrogate family network."

WRB cohorts do more than just run. Teams share healthy, budget-friendly recipes and periodically have group challenges like quitting soda. Barksdale-Gordon couldn't help but gush about the many triumphs of her cohorts, whom she calls the "Track Queens."

Brownsville Royal Run, We Run Brownsville.
The WRB cohort sharing a moment before training begins. Photo: Sheila Barksdale-Gordon for BK Reader

"There have been women in this group who have started businesses, began teaching one exercise class and now they're teaching ten," Barksdale-Gordon said. "This increased confidence is the Destiny's Child stuff."

City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuels will be running in the race, and Assemblymember Latrice Walker will attend as well.

"It's not just about the running," Barksdale-Gordon said. "The running is what brought us together, but it's the resilience and the community-building that is making a difference."

Saturday's fun is $15 for Brownsville locals and $35 for visiting runners. All proceeds will go toward running shoes and track gear for the WRB running groups.

Miranda Levingston

About the Author: Miranda Levingston

Miranda Levingston is an award-winning reporter and editor passionate about covering the change-makers in her borough.
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