Juneteenth Heritage 5K Raises Funds and Awareness for Oberlin Village
On Saturday, June 17, Friends of Oberlin Village will host its second annual Heritage 5K Run & Walk in Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park. Last year, the event amassed roughly 500 registrations and raised $20,000 for Friends of Oberlin Village (FOV), making it the organization’s largest fundraiser of 2022.
And this year, FOV hopes to be even bigger and better. The race is expanding its scope, starting with its booths. In 2022, the lineup was limited to sponsors and a “pop-up museum” with information on Oberlin Village, one of North Carolina’s last-remaining freedmen’s towns. Now, the group is inviting other nonprofits and Black-owned businesses to participate.
“We want people to come out and learn about Black-owned businesses that they didn't know about and some nonprofits. Maybe they can leave that day and say, ‘Wow, I found a cause that I want to be a part of and volunteer for,’” says Chris Mincey, director of development for Friends of Oberlin Village. “So we want folks to linger after the race and hang out for a couple of hours and learn how to be better allies in their community.” [Read more about FOV and Chris Mincey]
Mincey estimates about 10 businesses and six community nonprofits will participate. Since the event is only in its second year, he doesn’t want it to be too big for the space. Still, he expects the field of the participants and booths to grow year over year.
The upcoming event will also take place at a different location. In its inaugural year, the 5K started and ended in Dix Park in downtown Raleigh, but due to ongoing renovations, the race is moving to the WakeMed soccer field. Mincey has checked out the course and says it’s perfect for the race, with parking and open space aplenty.
Although the 5K garnered no shortage of enthusiasm last year, it also faced some headwinds— literally.
“We had our race scheduled for June 10, and the night before at about 8:30, gusts of wind of 50 to 60 MPH came through Raleigh and blew down trees and branches along the course. So the city, at 9 p.m. the night prior, called us and said, they’re canceling the race,” Mincey recalls.
As a runner, he’d raced in a number of 5Ks but never hosted one, so the inclement weather and last-minute cancellation only compounded the logistical burden.
Thankfully FOV and its partners were able to get the word out to participants. Following discussions with the city, a new date was set for three weeks later. Of the 500 registrations, only about 200 were able to participate in person; the others did a virtual 5K, and FOV mailed their race medals and shirts.
“It was disappointing, but we were able to persevere and do it a second time,” Mincey says. “Hopefully this year—knock on wood—we have no tornado-like winds coming through.”
The Heritage 5K is scheduled to coincide with the Juneteenth weekend. Mincey says the FOV website experiences its highest traffic volumes around this holiday, as well as during Black History month in February. Nevertheless, the hope is to boost interest throughout the rest of the year, too, especially with Oberlin Village facing a new threat: rampant development.
Over the past decade or so, the real estate market has boomed in Oberlin Village, with property values tripling in some cases. At one point, the neighborhood spanned from Hillsborough Street all the way to Glenwood Avenue. Now it’s about six blocks and shrinking.
Mincey says that what makes Oberlin Village especially vulnerable to development is the age of the homes.
“Many of the houses are three or four generations old. They're not protected. They fall into that in-between phase when it comes to historical homes. They’re too new to be historical, but too old for anyone to want,” he says. “Many of those houses get torn down. They're not even being purchased to renovate or add on to; they’re being torn down. It's the land itself that people want. And that's the sad part.”
But education and outreach might be the best tools in turning the tide. By raising public awareness about Oberlin Village, its historical significance, and the challenges it faces today, FOV hopes to protect what remains of the neighborhood and celebrate its rich history. Events like the Heritage 5K provide an organic inroad to learning more about the community, as well as other local organizations and businesses.
“If more people knew how valued that neighborhood and that history is, they would say, ‘I want to be in this neighborhood, but I also want to be in this neighborhood for what it means,’” Mincey says.
The second annual Friends of Oberlin Village Heritage 5K Run & Walk will take place Saturday, June 17 at 7 a.m., at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, with a Kids Dash at 9 a.m. To register, visit oberlinvillageheritage5k.itsyourrace.com. You can also learn more about Oberlin Village by visiting friendsofoberlinvillage.org.
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