Racing for Equity: 5k Event Celebrates Civil Rights Achievements and Spotlights Social Injustice

Four smiling adults wearing black "Race for Equity 5k" T-shirts stand in front of a purple fabric backdrop printed with University at Albany logos.
From left: Ekow King, assistant to the VP for student affairs for intercultural engagement, equity & inclusion; Asst. Men’s Basketball Coach Dan Madhavapallil; Director of Equity & Compliance Amelia Barbadoro; Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dwayne Killings.

By Erin Frick 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 8, 2022) — Final preparations are underway for the second annual Race for Equity 5k — a community event designed to celebrate U.S. civil rights accomplishments, recognize enduring injustices and galvanize momentum for change.

The race, set for Saturday, Oct. 8, was spearheaded by Amelia Barbadoro, UAlbany’s director of equity & compliance, who conceived of the event in early 2021 with the aim to cultivate positive energy around social justice. Volunteers are needed to help out on race day, checking in participants, handing out water and staffing informational stations that focus on social justice.

“It is easy to feel discouraged about the current state of many social justice issues,” Barbadoro says. “But it’s important to remember that there are also many people who care deeply about these issues and are working towards change — efforts that build on the work and sacrifices of generations of activists before them who fought for the rights we have today. I wanted to call attention to these accomplishments and celebrate the exceptional people that made them happen.”

The timed 5k race will follow UAlbany’s perimeter ring road. Participants will receive numbered bibs and water stations will be available along the route.

Runners and walkers will cross the finish line in Casey Stadium, where they will have the opportunity to explore 33 social justice stations. Each station is unique and is designed to either memorialize a civil rights victory or leader, or raise awareness of a current social injustice.

Stations will be arranged in approximate chronological order, starting with tables devoted to topics like abolition, the Montgomery bus boycott and the Civil Rights Act. “Later” stations address issues like police brutality, voter suppression and environmental racism. At each station, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the issue, ask questions and receive a themed giveaway. (Participants will receive a canvas tote bag to collect giveaways along the way!)

New stations this year include food insecurity, the Clean Air Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.

“In this country, we have made remarkably quick progress on many civil rights issues,” Barbadoro says. “As just one example, laws against interracial marriage were in place until the Loving v. Virginia ruling in 1967. This is very recent history. This event calls attention to the timeline of these advances as a reminder of how far we have come in such a short time — without ignoring recent setbacks and the need for continued work. There is much to do, but we should draw from past successes to energize current movements.”

The event will be staffed by volunteers, including those representing University offices, councils, student organizations and athletic teams. Organizers are also reaching out to local middle and high schools for students who want to participate or volunteer.

Barbadoro notes features new to this year’s event that aim to increase inclusivity. “Last year, we had stations set up along the race route. We decided to bring them together into the stadium to make the event more accessible for anyone who wants to skip the race and head straight to the educational resources. We are also excited to offer the event free to K-12 students this year. We would love to see more engagement from the surrounding community. This event highlights issues that affect us all, and all are welcome to come learn.”

Last year’s event saw about 500 registrants and 150 volunteers. Organizers are hoping to grow that number this year.

“During last year’s event, I felt buoyed by the collective positive energy of the crowd,” says Barbadoro. “The people who came out cared, and we were unified in our enthusiasm to work towards change. I’m hopeful that we can create that atmosphere again this year.”

All proceeds from the event fund the Equity 5K Social Justice Leadership Awards, a designation among the President's Awards for Leadership, which recognizes UAlbany students who have demonstrated a passion for social justice and played a leadership role in advancing social change and promoting equity and inclusion.

There are many opportunities to volunteer. If you would like to manage a social justice station, hand out water to race participants, direct traffic, or help with any number of other tasks, reach out to Amelia Barbadoro to find a job that’s right for you.

Campus groups seeking support for any related social justice issues are welcome to use the event as a platform for action. Seeking signatures for a social justice petition? Come share your cause! Contact Barbadoro to coordinate.

Event co-hosts include UAlbany’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, and the men’s basketball team.

The event is free for UAlbany students. Registration is required for all.

Visit the race for equity website to register.