CAMDEN, NJ — It was bound for a George Floyd march that began on the Camden waterfront in June, that political activist and motivational speaker, Ahava Divine, says she conjured up the idea for a “5K protest.”
Divine was in the car speaking with fellow “I Breathe for You” organizer, Lael Divine — who are not related but consider themselves “sisters in the fight” — about making an impact of their own.
“I knew I wanted to do something but I also wanted to step outside the box. Suppose we run...this way we get people to participate on a different level and rethink that term that’s being used so often: ‘I Can’t Breathe,’” Ahava, 29, told TAPinto Camden in an interview Monday.
“The whole point of the event is to show them that although our people are being brutally murdered — Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Robert Fuller and many others — their blood still pumps through our veins,” she added.
Set for Aug. 9, the 5K is being hosted by Divine’s City Girl Ambition, a community-centered program under the umbrella of Vision Empower LLC based in the city.
Ahava, who will hoist a baton and lead the pack, has a relationship to Camden that is unique.
In addition to being a mother and “mindset coach” for the city’s next generation, she served as a special law enforcement officer from September 2012 to February 2014. At the time, the Camden County Police Department (CCPD) was in the midst of reforming its police force — a much-discoursed move that’s being touted countywide but also speculated over by longtime residents.
Ahava recalls a predominantly white academy class, which she says was disheartening especially amid her treatment due to the color of her skin. Because of the nature of her position (she mostly worked on booking and processing), there was no clear path for any efforts she could make toward helping her city be proactive, she recalls.
“I decided that the way that I wanted to help my community wasn't going to be in that uniform,” Ahava said. “I wanted to help people before they got to the police station.”
Four years later at the end of 2018, during a LEAP Academy Charter School internship, Ahava would encounter Lael while they were both students of Rutgers-Camden.
“As mothers, I’d say our goals are to give [our children] all the opportunities that should be afforded to them,” Lael said. “I went to college in Camden, and I was even a social worker...and there were a lot of things that I realized needed to be addressed and improved upon across all school types.”
Accountability is high on the pair’s list.
After the August event, a survey will be conducted by City Girl Ambition in order to inquire over what attendees believe the city is lacking or could be bettered. A meeting will also be established to educate community members over conducting research about whatever topic they think should be prioritized, creating an agenda and effectively carrying it out.
“What is the follow-through? What are the deadlines and what's going to happen if they’re not adhered to? Our people, not everyone but a lot, are not always equipped with that knowledge,” Ahava continued. “I think we can then start making impactful changes similar to the civil rights movement. They started going towards the laws. It was more of a structured agenda, and that's why I say with our run, we are going to be the foundation of how to create a more structured process over getting things done on a macro-level."
Although the 5K falls under political activism and is not impacted by outdoor COVID-19 crowd limits, temperature checks will still take place at registration, face masks will be required, social distancing will be encouraged and sanitation stations will be installed.
Attendees can wear three colors on race day: red (“for the blood of our martyrs"), green (representing fertility, productivity and prosperity) and black (in honor of the Black men and women united as one family).
Runners can also join virtually, which you can learn more about at Citygirlambition.com.
To register for the 5K, which will begin Sunday, Aug. 9 at 8 a.m. at 3100 Federal St. in Camden, click here.
Runners/walkers are encouraged to post I Breathe For You 5K Protest and #CityGirlAmbition and #CamdenNJ.