University of Louisville program plans to celebrate neighborhoods by pioneering a 10k [Opinion: The Arena]

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Anyone who sits down with Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, interim director of the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of Louisville, is sure to notice her infectious smile, positive attitude and honest passion for social change in Louisville and the world.

One of Bailey-Ndiaye's current passions is the Ali Shuffle, a 10k walk/run from the West End School to the Ali Center on Saturday, April 14th. Bailey-Ndiaye explains with a smile that her hopes are, "The entire city gets just as excited," as she is.

The Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice (not to be confused with the Muhammad Ali Center) exists to facilitate a two year program for University of Louisville students. Students accepted into this program are called Ali Scholars, and work with various social justice groups in Louisville metro to design their own project championing social issues.

This faculty-led program is focused on developing leaders and is, as Bailey-Ndiaye so aptly put it, "an investment in young people." The Ali Scholars also travel to Africa as a part of their program, which gives them global perspective to social issues. This grounding global adventure requires Ali Scholars to raise their own funds. This gives students a higher level of ownership in their program, and boots on the ground experience in organizing fundraisers.

Earlier this year, a student and active runner James Sims, came up with an idea involving a run through the West End. This is something that has never happened in Louisville, but the Ali Scholars and their dedicated faculty decided they are up to the task of making history happen.

There are various reasons that this walk/run is important, outside of fundraising for the Ali Scholars to visit an African country. Bailey-Ndiaye believes that, "This is an opportunity to celebrate neighborhoods that are often not celebrated."

Louisville's West End always seems to strike fear in the minds of people who have never had a reason to visit anywhere west of 9th street. This is often heard in many conversations about Louisville's "great neighborhoods." These conversations rarely include anywhere outside of the Highlands, Downtown or Clifton. It is completely fair to say that in this southern city, race plays a huge factor in the tone these conversations as the West End is predominantly populated by African Americans.

Organizers of the Ali Shuffle, including Bailey-Ndiaye, hope this event is a step towards changing that narrative and building a better community.

The Ali Shuffle is a positive, and comfortable opportunity for people to visit the West End. April is an especially lovely time of year to see West Louisville's beautiful lawns and streets with flowers and trees in bloom. Organizers say that many people they visited along the walk/run route in Shawnee, Park Duvall, California and Russell, were generally supportive of the event.

Walking, running and rolling are all welcome in this transformative celebration. The Ali Shuffle gets started on April 14th at 7:40am at the West End School. The opening celebration includes registration, warm up exercises led by the University of Louisville's women's volleyball coach and opening remarks from Mayor Greg Fischer followed by a kickoff at 8:00am. 

For those who may not feel up to the task of running, walking or shuffling all 10 kilometers, the Ali Shuffle plans to have transportation to the Ali Center at Central High School. Central has also been kind enough to offer their open doors and bathrooms to participants, and the Ali Institute is providing snacks at this location as well. A completion celebration, including healthy carbs and a DJ will close out the event at the Ali Center, starting at 9:30a.m. for quick runners and will go on until about 11:00a.m.

Organizations interested in partnering with the Ali Shuffle to fundraise for their organization are encouraged to register soon. There are opportunities for groups to have members sponsored in the race and use those funds for their organization. Volunteers are also needed for manning the water booths along the route. Individuals and groups are encouraged to volunteer.

For more information on the Ali Shuffle, including fundraising details, visit the Ali Institute's website. To register for the walk/run online, visit Active.com. To volunteer with the Ali Shuffle, email alishuffle.service@gmail.com.

​Image via the Ali Institute 

Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).

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