How One Father’s Day 5K Brought Awareness to Black Men’s Mental Health Struggles

There was no shortage of running events hosted in and around Chicago on Father’s Day. However, only one race was dedicated to George Floyd and was organized to raise funds for the George Floyd Memorial Foundation.

The George Floyd Memorial Foundation

Based in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the George Floyd Memorial Foundation has recently launched a new mental health program. It aims to improve the mental health outcomes for African Americans. According to Jacari Harris, the executive director of the foundation, “There are different phases (to the program), and right now we are on the educating phase. Educating people that it is not always about the trauma, but it is about how we can also heal.”

It has been close to two years since Floyd was killed while in police custody. Harris says, “We spend every single moment since his life was taken fighting to make sure no other family has to endure the pain the Floyd family has to endure.” The foundation has entered the mental health space to assist in easing trauma from violence toward people of color. Harris explains that with new technology it is easy to just “scroll hoping to see something nice” only to find news about deaths which leads to trauma. “Here at the foundation, we want to prevent that. We want to ensure that we are providing resources and tools.”

The foundation’s new mental health program is a partnership with several corporate partners including Color of Change, Black Health, and MTV, to name a few. Ohio psychologist Dr. Calista Brooks has also joined forces with the George Floyd Memorial Foundation providing grants to black men and women seeking mental health treatment. She will also focus on training mental health providers to help them gain a better understanding of the unique issues that black people face daily.

More on The Father’s Day Run

Although it was a short 5-kilometer (3.1 mile) run on Chicago’s South Side, a total of close to 50 runners participated. The event, organized by two of the city’s local running clubs, was dedicated to George Floyd’s memory. The idea is that runners would help spread awareness of the many mental health issues black men face daily, ranging from emotional trauma to gun violence. If you would like to seek in-person care for mental health issues, you can sign up online at private practice locations such as Geode Health, with locations all across Illinois.

What They Had to Say

Another goal of the 5K run was to help reduce the stigma and remove barriers to seeking treatment for mental health issues. Plus, the implementation of mental health and healing justice workshops. Activist Greg Conner says, “We just need to always come together, show some positivity as the older generation to forge for the younger generation.”

Dominique Sabbs says that the black women supporting these men daily are impacted by these efforts as well. “Our black men, they’re fathers every day. They don’t need this one day. They are fathers every single day.” She adds that these fathers are not just father figures to their own children, but also help children within their community who do not have fathers. This exposes them to additional sources of trauma, even though they are doing a good thing by being community leaders. They need to know support is out there.

As for Why The Run Is 5K…

There was no official word from the race organizers as to why the race distance was only 5 kilometers. However, typically, a 5-kilometer race is considered a fun run. Fun runs require runners to participate as they would in 10k races, but the shorter distance permits beginners to take part without hesitation. This run saw several runners finish within minutes without breaking a sweat. As for these runners making the event look easy, Conner explains, “See, from a runner’s perspective, the shorter the distance the harder you’re supposed to run it. So a 5K is really hard, hard work.”

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to bring awareness to the mental health issues faced daily by black men. In Chicago, a pair of running clubs chose to join forces to get the word out that there is help available and that watching out for each other is a huge step towards the finish line. The run took place on Father’s Day, which was no coincidence, and honored George Floyd. It was also a fundraiser for the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, which has just introduced a new mental health program. By working together and helping each other, we can remove the stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment.