Running Saved My Life
This may sound ridiculous to many of you but running and activism saved my life. At the age of 11, I hated everything about myself: my skin, my hair, my body. I was sucked into violent perceptions of beauty, wondering why women in my family looked nothing like the skinny white girls on the shiny glossed prints of Seventeen magazines. I felt a need to starve myself and throw away food behind my family's back. My mother, who struggled with her weight her entire life, praised me as I measured half cups of Special K and rejected every offer of chocolate ice cream.
That same year, my aunt Irene died of diabetes at the age of 53. She was one year shy of my Grandma Caballero, who died of diabetes at the age of 54. I figured the only way I could avoid being “fat” and dying young was by starving myself.
It was one year later that I found my refuge in running and playing sports. I quickly realized that I couldn’t kick the boys' butts in pick-up basketball or track if I was starving. Running gave me a sense of confidence and self love that I never had before. I began to love my body and all of the miraculous things I could do with it. Because I began to run and love myself as a 12 year old girl, I was able to love my community in return.
As I became a politicized, teenager athlete post-9/11, I realized that the war of hate I waged on my own body was intricately connected to the war of hate the U.S was waging both at home and abroad. I quickly learned that transformative change had to be met with healing and love or else cycles of destruction would continue.
My values of healing, love and social change are holistically aligned with the Ella Baker Center. The organizations has connected economic and environmental justice, created opportunities for young activists, helped reconnect families torn apart by the prison system and moved people and policies away from fear and into love. Through their campaigns, the Ella Baker Center strives for a brighter future where all people and communities can thrive.
As a member of Team Ella Baker Center, it is truly special for me to be able to bridge my love for running with my love for social justice. On March 27th, I will run my FIRST MARATHON (26.2 miles) and support Ella Baker Center at the same time.
I’m just one of many beautiful stories of people joining Team Ella Baker Center. Please check out our Team Page and find a story that inspires you to sponsor. We need your financial support in any amount-- five, ten, two hundred bucks-- to help this amazing organization thrive. If you are strapped for money but still want to cheer us on, volunteer for our Ella Baker Center water station the morning of March 27th at Mandela and 7th St. (near West Oakland Bart).
I am running for all the little brown girls like myself who struggled to love themselves. With support, we can heal from pain, and we can build a society based on love and common concerns. Hope to see you in the streets March 26th and 27!