Two Cal Poly students and their friend from the University of Portland created a virtual 5k called Step Into Justice to raise awareness and collect donations for the Black Lives Matter movement. The goal of the fundraiser is to encourage people to educate themselves about racism and police brutality and support the Black community. 

“That is our goal, to get people into a step by step process where they can better themselves through education, reflection and advocacy,” Carpenter said. 

Participants will use a variety of free running apps, such as Map My Run, Nike Run Club and Strava, to track their mileage. Once the participant has completed their 3.1 miles for that week, they will post a screenshot of their progress on their preferred media and tag Step Into Justice.

There is no set time for participants to run, they can engage with activity at their leisure so long as they complete the 3.1 miles within the week. Participants are also encouraged to be active in a way that suits them, whether it is biking, running or walking. The ultimate goal is to rally the community around the cause and collect donations.

 Lola Carpenter, a business administration sophomore, and Maureen Turnbaugh, a communication studies junior, alongside their friend Dasha Efremov, who attends the University of Portland, created the fundraiser. 

Video by Kallyn Hobmann

Carpenter and Turnbaugh participated in a virtual 5k for essential workers, and from that experience, they were inspired to orchestrate this fundraising campaign. They said they got home that night, hopped on a Zoom call and started up the Facebook page.

“We were talking about how we can actually do something, how we can make a difference,” Carpenter said. “I don’t want to just post a picture on Instagram and that be the end of it, I want to be an effective ally.”

The goal of Step Into Justice is to encourage their community to have real moments of introspection where they challenge their own biases, the effect they have on their community and different privileges they may have, Carpenter said. Carpenter and Turnbaugh want to help their community confront what is uncomfortable in a way that is easily understood and accessible.

For each week of June, Step Into Justice will be fundraising for different organizations involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition to fundraising, they created infographics on different injustices plaguing the Black community, circulated various petitions supporting the cause and collected resources for people to further educate themselves. 

The first organization they chose to donate to was the NAACP. Their initial goal for fundraising was $500, but by the end of the week, they had made it to $5,000 with over 270 participants for the virtual 5k.

To decide which organization to donate to for the second week of June, Carpenter and Turnbaugh reached out to their community. The decision was made to donate the second-week funds to the Equal Justice Initiative.

The Equal Justice Initiative is a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to those who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime or unfairly sentenced. They also help people who have been abused within the prison system, fight against the death penalty and excessive punishment and help to acclimate people who were formerly incarcerated.

“We really want our community to continue to educate themselves and have their own opinions about where the money raised should be going,” Turnbaugh said. “Once you put passion behind a decision, I think that the motivation triples.” 

Step Into Justice has received support from all over the country. College students from Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Drake University, Arizona State University and many more students from the west coast have all signed up to participate in the virtual run.

The group of founders is already looking for ways to continue this fundraiser into the future. They hope to start a movement with the hashtag #StepIntoJune, where every June they revive fundraising and select four new causes to be donate to. This year, they are monitoring the fundraiser as a trial run to see how feasible their long term goals are. 

“We all have goals that we all want to reach for the moon with,” Turnbaugh said. “I have no doubt in my mind that I will be doing this every year. Our group of founders even shook on it.”

 One fear the founders of this fundraiser said they had was losing momentum. They said people tend to care about problems while they are current, but eventually, the media stops covering the movement and things begin to die down. 

“Not this time. The goal for this experience is that it becomes your new identity, this is who you are as a person now,” Carpenter said. “You have to continue to educate yourself, continue to try and understand although you never will. The goal is to keep that foot on the gas.”

Another aspect of this movement Carpenter and Turnbaugh wanted to bring attention to is the aspect of white saviorism. 

 White saviorism is when a white person provides some form of help to a non-white person, but their intentions are self-serving. This is often seen in mission trips and voluntourism. 

Step Into Justice is very clear about where their motivations lie. They have said they are not here to save the Black community. Instead, they want to fuel them, to stand with them and amplify their voices. Step Into Justice wants to build a platform for Black voices. 

“You aren’t an angel for speaking up, you are just a decent human being,” Turnbaugh said. “You don’t deserve a thank you, this is what you should be doing.”

At the end of the day, Carpenter and Turnbaugh just hope to educate the people around them. They understand times are tough right now because of the pandemic and the idea of being a fully committed activist is difficult. As long as people continue to educate themselves and share what they have learned, these two founders said they will be happy.

“It doesn’t matter how big your platform is, your voice can still make a difference,” Carpenter said. “There is no excuse to not speak up because it will make a difference, even if it is in one person’s life or hundreds of people’s lives, it will make a difference.”

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