Come Father’s Day for over a decade I have run in the Ricky Birdsong 5k.
I’m old. I’m getting fat. My legs feel like steel. Worse than steel.
But I run and I’ll will till I have to walk and then I’ll figure it out.
I run because its the most diverse race I know in Chicago.
I run beside more people of more different roots than anything similar here.
I run because of what happened to Ricky Birdsong and the meaning it has for us.
On a warm evening in July 1999 Ricky Birdsong, who had been the basketball coach at Northwestern University and a heap of other places, was walking home with his two of his children when shots rang out.
He died soon after.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times about Ricky Birdsong a few days later, Mike Downey wrote:
“He was a Bible-reading, good-natured man who loved to quote his mother’s favorite saying: “God doesn’t make any junk.”
The shots were fired from a car randomly roaming the area, Skokie. Over the next few days, the same person killed a Korean-American student at the University of Indiana, wounded a Taiwanese man in Urbana, two African-American ministers in Decatur, and six men coming home from Sabbath prayer services at a Jewish temple in Rogers Park.
The 21-year-old attacker died in a crash following a police chase. He had an apparent history of racist beliefs. He reportedly bought the guns by following up a classified ad from an unlicensed gun dealer.
Soon after, the Evanston YWCA began the annual Ricky Birdsong Race Against Hate. The money raised goes to programs that deal with racism and that empower women.
I’ll be there Saturday morning June 15th making believe I really am a good runner and faking an Olympian’s finish. I like make believe. I’ll be there hoping that instead of cold drinks they hand out donuts at one of the stations along the race.
And I’ll be taking in the scenery of people of all faiths and origins who care enough about each other to share their sweat and to lend their aching bodies for goodness and to stand together against hate.
This is why I have faith in my neighbors.
So see you there. Say hello and let’s take pictures. And if you finish ahead, wait for me. I’m way in the back.
talk to me – digame