Africatown Bridge Challenge 5K and Fun Run 2022 Recap

Joycelyn after winning 2nd place in her age division

This year’s Africatown Bridge Challenge 5K and Fun Run is in the books, and a great time was had by everyone – especially the winners!

Clotilda Descendants Association and Africatown~CHESS organizer Joycelyn Davis came in second place in her division!

Joycelyn said that her success in this 5K is a testament to her determination to regain what her battles with cancer threatened to take away. How her personal story connects the fights against cancer and environmental racism in Africatown will be featured in the forthcoming award-winning documentary Descendant by Mobile-born Margaret Brown, set to release worldwide this fall on Netflix under the Obamas’ production banner.

Along with plenty of representation from Africatown community groups like the Africatown CDC, which hosted the event, some of the runners taking part in this weekend’s annual Africatown Bridge Challenge 5K and Fun Run dedicated their run over the Mobile River to raising awareness about its status as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.

The two elders Lewis daughters with their metals standing with MLB legend and Africatown resident Cleon Jones.

Chief Jason Lewis and his family are no outsiders to Africatown. Having grown up in the community, Jason has since returned repeatedly to the community that helped raise him as a volunteer under the guise of his celebrated Visualize Everyone That Serves (VETS) organization.

Participating as a 5K runner with his three girls, his partner, and their baby son (on wheels), his two eldest children won 1st and 2nd place in their age group. They completed the entire 5K with a passionate purpose that Jason captured in his announcement about their intentions to raise awareness ahead of the event:

Both/And
by Chief Jason Lewis

Gulf Coast Family,

This indeed has been a busy time for both MEJAC and Africatown~CHESS. At a closer look, the calculated strides made by both organizations, along with the many others who have fought to maintain the humanity of our beloved community and environment, have been noteworthy.

Take a look at this picture. Looking a bit closer one would notice that it’s earthworms on a pavement; if we zoom out, we’d see the sidewalk running in between the rich soil these worms are trying to crawl to. Sadly, the sidewalk is filled worms who were inches away from not being baked in the hot sun.

The fate of our community and the surrounding rivers are no different than these worms if we don’t engage in preserving what’s left of all that we’ve been given. As the climate shifts and demands on energy surges, we have to make a concerted effort to both become knowledgeable of the risks that could devastate a rich ecosystem within our delta and the continued neglect of our underserved communities. It was in the cool of the morning when I saw these worms making their way across the sidewalk, but the pace at which they were moving couldn’t outrun the pending doom of Alabama Heat that would soon cut their journey short.

Just days before, I took my daughters to the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center to the monthly Sierra Club Mobile Bay Group presentation, and we watched the American Rivers documentary about their 2022 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers. It was disheartening to see the Mobile River and the Coosa River, two rivers from here in Alabama, at risk. I gazed into their hope filled eyes as they saw the unique birds, turtles, amphibious, and plant life that they could access at any time near their homes. For the first time, I had to damper their spirits and explain the miscalculations our generation is making that they may have to fix. I had to make them aware of both climate change and poverty. I wondered how daunting the goal of preserving our environment was to them, both as they learned about the risks these beloved rivers face and the harsh truth of how some of our family members are living as they fish and crab from the same waters.

Jason and his daughters just after watching the American Rivers Most Endangers Rivers documentary, with organizers from MEJAC, Sierra Club, Gulf Coast Creation Care, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

In an attempt to give them a positive outlook I told them that this was an opportunity to serve, and we concluded that we’d dedicate our Africatown Bridge 5K and Kids Fun Run to the rivers and community they loved so dearly. I wanted them to take on a task that was bigger than them, that many others needed help with, so they never miscalculated the blessing of waking up in a Gulf Coast that gives them both fresh seafood and wholesome hellos from friends and family. I want them to know that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch the sun scorch the earth in front of them without both doing their part in preserving the planet we’ve been blessed with and appreciating the humanity of our people. They impressed me once by starting a small arms recycling program on base once. I pray they make well on this opportunity.

Jason’s daughters drew a map of Alabama’s river systems by hand and brought it with them to the Africatown Bridge Challenge 5K.

I’d like to thank the other members in the Sierra Club, MEJAC, Africatown~CHESS, and everyone that has been holding the line in our mission to preserve both our rivers and our humanity. Thanks for this opportunity to come alongside and add to the numbers of so many who understand the consequences of jumping on the pavement too late in this ever-shifting change in climate. I saw a few worms nestled in the cool soil inches away from where so many lay dried from the noon day sun. I pray we all take as much time on the one-inch steps to do the right thing, and haste to the overwhelming leaps we tend to take; leaps that in most cases miss the mark.

Every person’s effort matters. The rivers matter, and the community matters – both.


The documentary short that inspired Jason’s run was produced by Mobile Delta advocate Ben Raines and can be seen here (starting at 42:29):


MEJAC president Ramsey Sprague can been seen completing the 5K successfully in this short clip:


On July 9, 2022, the Africatown Plateau Pacers walking group will host their inaugural fundraiser walk, inviting all interested in promoting healthy lifestyles to walk with them.

The Plateau Pacers was founded by Rochelle Williams, an organizer with Jason Lewis in VETS. To register for their 2022 Community Walk, visit their website here:

https://cwill4212.wixsite.com/website-1


More images of the fun morning at the Africatown Bridge Challenge 5K and Fun Run captured by Joycelyn, Jason, and Ramsey can be seen in the gallery below:

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