Second annual Defiant Run off to a good start

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2004

More than 40 years ago the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to several hundred thousand citizens gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. about his “Dream” for America.

Nearly 40 years ago King, along with many others, came to Selma to support voting rights for all Americans. There was a successful crossing of the Alabama River after earlier attempts had failed and a march that went all the way to the State Capitol in Montgomery.

Later in the year the U.S. Congress at the urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the historicVoting Rights Act – perhaps the single most important legislative event

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in the long history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Despite the momentous events of the ’60s that took place in Selma, change has come slowly in Selma and Dallas County.

Most would acknowledge that racism is still a major factor in the life of the community and that while much progress has been made, much work remains to be done.

The first annual Defiant Run, held Saturday, Oct. 4, 2003, was one of many activities that are seeking to foster racial reconciliation and understanding in the community.

Sponsored by the Selma Youth Development Center, the run – a half marathon (a 13-mile walk or shorter for those who cannot run or go the distance) – took place on a course marked out through the streets of Selma.

The “Defiant Run: A Race Against Racism” was conceived by the center’s founder and director, Frank W. Hardy Sr., following a viewing of the 1958 movie “The Defiant Ones,” starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. In the movie the two were prison escapees who were shackled together and had to work together in order to make a successful escape.

Hardy’s idea was simple. Get the word out to as many people as possible – black and white, in Selma, Dallas County and beyond – to come to Selma that day, there to be shackled with Velcro with a member of the opposite race and go through an obstacle course running from Selma Mall to Bloch Park.

The starting blocks for this year’s Defiant Run have already been set and dozens of volunteers are beginning the planning process that Hardy hopes will bring an even larger group to Selma on Sept. 25.

Participants will be invited to come a week in advance to participate in reconciliation seminars and team-building activities.

According to Hardy a 5K-3 mile run has been added for those who want to support the event but cannot complete the full 13-mile course.

In the mean time things have gotten more organized, according to Hardy.

Activities will occur on other college campuses in Alabama, notably Auburn University, whose Office of Diversity and Cultural Affairs has endorsed the event and plans to offer special on-campus activities in connection with it.

There is a headquarters at 1428 Union St., a Web site –, and a number to call for further information, (334) 872-0426.

Additionally, the Defiant Run Reconciliation Institute is currently in the process of being incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization with the Selma Youth Development Center serving as the tax-exempt fiscal sponsor.

Frank W. Hardy Sr. has a dream, and that is to increase the number of participants every year until there are thousands of world-class runners, casual joggers, walkers and wheelchairs crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge linked arm in arm by the shackles that will be removed when they cross the finish line.

But Hardy insists that the race is not the main thing – the main thing, he says, is an ever-widening experience of individuals of different races and nationalities working together that will, in turn, increase racial reconciliation and the support for diversity.

And beyond that, Hardy says the run is not about Hardy. “It doesn’t belong to me,” he said, “it’s a gift to the city.”