We met Jiquanda Nelson because she came into our Tacoma shop. That's when we learned she also led the local Black Girls Run! Seattle/Tacoma chapter. Over the past year, we've gotten to know her and see her as a resource for understanding the BIPOC experiene, specifically when it comes to running. So, we asked her a few questions in the hope that her answers might encourage and inspire others in her community.
We hope you'll read up on what BGR! Seattle/Tacoma is doing and consider supporting their efforts to support other Black runners across the Puget Sound.
Tell us your story and how you fell in love with running.
I grew up in Zion, IL, a small suburb north of Chicago. So I grew up with the true experience of having a village! After college in Florida, I moved back to my small town because I wanted to make a difference in the community that raised me. Seven years later, my family and I chose to follow my dreams of doing diversity, equity and inclusion work for a large organization and we made the move to Washington state. We appreciated the diversity of Tacoma, so we found a small town just East of the city.
I began distance running in June of 2019 and it's completely changed my life. As part of an activity for our annual family reunion, there was a 5K river walk/run I wanted to participate in. I casually mentioned to my neighbor the need to prepare for it and boy was I in for a surprise! She introduced me to her running group of amazing women and I started hitting the pavement. Over a span of four months, my running journey rocketed and I ran my first 5K in July, first 10K in August and first half Marathon in October of that year.
Jiquanda completing a challenge of running a 5K, 10K and half marathon over 24 hours
How and why did you get involved in BGR! Seattle/Tacoma?
When I was first introduced to a group of running women, it opened my eyes to all the beautiful opportunities in the running space. It was a phenomenal experience! However, I didn't see many other Black women engaged or present in the spaces I was in. So after googling "Black women running + Seattle," I discovered the Official Black Girls Run! and better yet, there was a local chapter. It feels so good to share the love of running, fitness, hair, fashion, the importance of embracing and supporting each other in this society and much more.
Being an ambassador means so much because I'm able to share with others my newfound love and passion for running. I want to show other Black women that we, too, are runners! Despite our many roles in society—wife, mom, family, leader, #girlboss, volunteer —we deserve to carve out space for ourselves and our health. And there's nothing more magical than what happens when we do that with each other.
Jiquanda with her family after completing 37 miles for her birthday run
Can you provide us (Fleet Feeters, many of who are white) any insight into the BIPOC experience of running?
Running in a Black body sometimes feels complex and complicated. And honestly, I had never really said it out loud until after the murder of Ahmad Arbery because it almost sounded crazy. I also realized may Black runners felt and had the same experiences.
When I go out running, I almost always wear my run vest. Not just my leggings with pockets because that means I'd have to reach. I carefully place my phone and ID in areas where I can access them with little movement. And I've gone over in my mind what I'd say in case I'm approached by someone or law enforcement. Why? Because of fear for being a Black girl running and somehow someone thinking I look "suspicious" or like I don't belong. Crazy, right? Not quite. Looking suspicious as a BIPOC person could be life or death. Even if it’s for doing something that is good for you and you love.
On the contrary, there’s something liberating about running in my body as a BIPOC person. When I’m outside in nature, the air is a reminder that despite all the weight of the world that oftentimes feels like it’s weighing me down, I still have breath in my lungs. And the beauty of nature—the sound of the birds, the little ducklings on a path, the bunnies crossing the trails—reminds me that despite some people not wanting my existence, I belong here! And that the earth belongs to me, too. So, I will continue to run boldly and show up, as proud and powerful as I want to be. Running feels truly liberating.
Jiquanda leading a group run with other members of the BGR! Seattle/Tacoma chapter
How is BGR! working in the Seattle/Tacoma community, and how others can get involved and support what they're doing?
The mission of BGR! is encouraging Black women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. Not only do we encourage and motivate black women to practice a healthy lifestyle, our goal is to encourage all women to get active. BGR! wants to create a movement to lower the number of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and inactive lifestyle. We work to remove many barriers that impede women, especially women of color, from participating in activities and practices that promote a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s running, walking or jogging, for one mile or 50 miles, we celebrate everyone all the same!
Through our work, we partner with many organizations that support people and their health journey. We do partner runs, fundraiser events, volunteer at runs, provide letters of support on running projects etc. You name it, we make it work! Any way we can show that Black women do run and increase representation in the running world, we’re there. We build these partnerships across the nation. The best way to connect with us is going to our national Black Girls Run! Website and reaching out to the ambassadors of the local chapter near you.