The Race for Reconciliation (R4R) inaugural race is scheduled for noon on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 17) at AutoZone Park. R4R's mission is to provide healing from the past, honor in the present and hope for the future through 5K and one-mile races, with funds raised for local nonprofits that focus on literacy, vocational skills training, career & leadership development, and historical education on racial injustices. 

by Brianna Smith-Herman —

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you must keep moving forward.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While life during a global pandemic is anything but normal, it still is important that we come together to unify our community.

There is a long road ahead to recovery, especially for communities of color because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants, which have caused a worldwide spike in new cases and deaths.

The Race for Reconciliation (R4R) inaugural race will provide that space at noon on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan.17) at AutoZone Park.

R4R is on a mission to provide healing from the past, honor in the present and hope for the future through 5K and one-mile races, where funds raised will be delivered to local nonprofits that focus on literacy, vocational skills training, career & leadership development, and historical education on racial injustices.

Karin Conlee, executive director, said at one of Race 4 Reconciliation’s Vision Events, “R4R isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, but rather connect the resources to the people who are already succeeding in tackling the various issues facing our city.

“Our city partners all relayed the same message, resources drive progress, not just monetary but also volunteers and community cheerleaders.”

Dr. King popularized the notion of the “Beloved Community,” envisioning the concept as a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings. Fundamental to the concept of the Beloved Community is inclusiveness, both economic and social.

R4R’s race will be a rewarding way for families, friends, neighbors and colleagues to make a lasting impact on their community in the spirit of Dr. King’s vision.

“We are so excited about this first race. And its location, Memphis, is significant for sure. We are confident that the city of Memphis can lead the way toward unity,” Conlee said.

“We want to encourage business, education and religious institutions, as well as individuals, from across Tennessee to get involved in the 5K run/walk and one-mile family fun run.”

R4R’s request is a humble yet powerful one. “We are asking for your heart and your presence… Register and invite 1 person a day.”

This grassroots approach has been daunting but fulfilling, growing partnerships with ARISE2Read, UPSkill901, STS Enterprise, National Civil Rights Museum, Thrivent Financial, and an army of faith leaders in the city of Memphis.

Karin Conlee, R4R executive director. (Courtesy photo)

“As a middle-aged white woman, I know I do not belong as the face or spearhead of this movement,” said Conlee.

“It is definitely cliche, but my white privilege has allowed me and my family to overcome obstacles that others who do not look like me may not get, that many people take for granted.… R4R’s goal is to provide those same blessings to those who wouldn’t have access to the opportunities.”

The nonprofit organization has three key values: Inspire people to prove love works, build a movement of unity and partner together to educate and elevate all people.

Through these foundational building blocks, Race for Reconciliation’s races are set to transform Memphis.

Lorenzo Herman, a financial advisor and supporter of R4R, added, “For me, it’s not about the race, but the opportunity for our city to be intentional about the steps we take to heal and progress forward…in a time where our community organizations need us most, this is the perfect opportunity to show a united front.”

Proceeds from the R4R race will go toward local organizations committed to literacy tutoring, vocational training and minority leadership development.

 

(To learn more about the Race for Reconciliation, visit R4R.one.)