UPDATE : On September 23, a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for Breonna Taylor’s death. In light of this news, Gina Wickstead told Runner’s World on September 24 that the group plans to continue running to spread awareness that “No-Knock Warrants” need to be banned nationally. Their long-term goal is to turn Run for Breonna into a non-profit and plan to be in communication with the family to align this mission with their wishes.
Say her name. Now, say it again.
That’s been the message at each Run for Breonna run in San Diego, led by Gina Wickstead and Nicol Hodges, in the wake of the widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality in America.
Taylor, 26, was shot and killed while she was sleeping on March 13 by two Louisville Metro Police Department officers who forcefully entered her apartment in Kentucky. According to a lawsuit filed by her family, her killing was the result of an incorrect search warrant for drugs—no drugs were found at Taylor’s apartment, and the person that the warrant for had already detained when the officers entered Taylor’s home.
As of August 7, the officers who killed Taylor have yet to be arrested or charged with a crime. That means the Run for Breonna Taylor movement will host runs a few times a week until this happens.
Wickstead, a 41-year-old teacher in San Diego who started running last summer with a Couch-to-5K program, had the idea to dedicate her runs to seeking justice for Taylor’s death after the Minneapolis police officers who killed George Floyd had been arrested, but those who killed Taylor still hadn’t been.
“I kept missing protests in our city [for Taylor], so I thought, ‘I can start a run two to three days a week, and if people join, they join,’” Wickstead told Runner’s World. “Protests are only one day, but running as a form of protest is a moving advertisement. You can create more awareness that way.”
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On June 11, Wickstead took to the streets of downtown San Diego for the first time with a couple of her former students and fellow teachers, wearing bibs that read “#RunForBreonna Justice for Breonna Taylor.”
Hodges, a 49-year-old creative director in San Diego who has been running for more than 35 years, had also been following Taylor’s story since the beginning.
“I couldn’t sleep one night—it was June 29—so I got up in the middle of the night and made a bib,” Hodges told Runner’s World. “I’m a big runner—I know a lot of people in the running community—and I thought, ‘I have to do something.’ We’re in the middle of a pandemic, you should come out of it a better person. I run every day, and I wanted to run for a reason and a purpose. So I contacted as many people as I could, and I was told to connect with Gina.”
On July 1, Hodges dedicated her run in Encinitas, a suburb of San Diego, to Taylor, and wore a homemade bib that read “Run 4 Breonna Taylor 03.13.20.”
While Wickstead and Hodges lead runs in downtown San Diego and Encinitas multiple days a week—anywhere between 10 and 35 people a day gather for the runs—they’ve partnered with other San Diego suburbs (Hillcrest and Cardiff) as well as cities all over the country to do the same. Every Saturday at 8 a.m. in August, residents of the San Diego area, Baltimore, New York City, Seattle, Dallas, and Philadelphia will gather to run or walk a 5K to spread awareness and seek justice for Taylor.
Each group run starts with a circle where they have a moment of silence for Taylor and go over the details of the run.
“We tell [our runners] to say ‘hi’ and ‘good morning’ to people in the streets to force them to look at their bibs and remember Breonna,” Wickstead said. “Some of the walkers have had more negative interactions, but they’ve taken a positive stand.”
Those who don’t live in the above-mentioned cities can print Run for Breonna bibs and run in their own neighborhoods. Regardless of location, each runner must register through Eventbrite and select a date. Upon doing so, it’s suggested that runners make a donation of $10 to Justice for Breonna Taylor, which has raised $6,544,060 so far.
“Over the years, people always ask me why I run. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel sane,” Hodges said. “As far as Breonna, when people see commitment and how much you care, it changes the perspective of why you’re doing it. You can show passion through running.”
Wickstead and Hodges have received positive responses from people about Run for Breonna; Hodges said that it’s a learning experience for many people, and that people are getting the word out about the group.
“African American women are one of the groups that just doesn’t get justice,” Hodges said. “This is just something that is part of the system—we are the bottom of the barrel. But if you can lift this particular race up, everyone else can be lifted up. That’s what we are looking for. If Breonna Taylor can get justice, then the next person can get justice.”
Running is very symbolic, Hodges went on to explain.
“When you’re running every day, you have aches and pains. And that defines what racism is,” she said. “I live with racism every day, whether it’s microaggressions or blatant, and those things hurt just like those aches and pains you get from running.”
Both Wickstead and Hodges plan on continuing to spread awareness about police brutality in the future—even if Taylor’s killers are arrested and charged.
“Depending on the cause, it could turn into a daily run for someone else—for me, it would be a black woman—or a justice running club where we pick a cause to run for for a certain amount of time,” Wickstead said.
But right now, Wickstead and Hodges are focused on building a community of activists specifically for Taylor.
“We’re here for Breonna Taylor,” Wickstead said. “She deserves for her name to be the only name out there, not tagged along with a group of others [who have been killed], which has happened to a lot of African American women,” Wickstead said.
If you are interested in participating in a run for Breonna Taylor or leading a run in your own city, head over to the Run for Breonna Instagram page for more information. You can also find a list of resources Wickstead and Hodges have put together—such as petitions to sign, numbers to call, and fundraisers to donate to—to help seek justice for Taylor.