IFR Interview Between Reggie Snowden and Darlene A. Hall, Ph.D.
On January 28, 2017, East Bay Front Runners and Walkers made Front Runner history: the club elected FR's first Black lesbian as President. Reggie Snowden, active member of IFR, took time to proudly interview the current President of Eastbay Front Runners and Walkers.
1) REGGIE: How long have you been associated with Front Runners and why did you join the club? What was your first impression?
DARLENE: Although I am a sprinter naturally (had my first track meet in 4th grade and ran track though high school), I began running distance for fun in 1979 when I was 13. For decades, I ran by myself. I moved to San Francisco in 1988 and learned of San Francisco Front Runners (SFFR). By the early 2000s, I wanted to connect with other runners. I thought about joining a women's running club, which would likely be mostly heterosexual, or the gay running club, which would be mostly male. I chose gay, but it took me 18 years to join SFFR because it took that long for me to be ready to join a predominantly male club. My first association with SFFR was in 2004 when I volunteered for the Pride Run. In 2005, I ran in the club's Pride Run and Little Black Dress Run. Finally, in August, 2006, I went to the club for the first time on a regular Saturday run/walk day, not for a special event. I arrived early. It took me 30 minutes to get out of my car because all I saw was a sea of men. Men may not realize how intimidating this is for new women. Terry Baransy (a now 76 year old who just finished his 200th marathon) was the first FR to immediately greet me once I got out of the car; he gave me a big welcome, smile, and hug. To this day, this is how Terry greets me. Also on this day, you were President of SFFR. The fact that SFFR had a Black gay man as President meant a lot to me, and I immediately put my money down to pay dues - and have been a member ever since. I joined the board as Secretary in 2008, was the Women's Contact from 2009 - 2013, was on the elections committee in 2010, was an active volunteer, and was one of the VERY FEW active women club members -- often times being the only woman at a club event or on Saturdays. In 2014, I moved to Oakland, CA and immediately joined East Bay Front Runners and Walkers (EBFRW). I was board Secretary in 2015 and 2016. In January, 2017, I was elected President of EBFRW.
2) REGGIE: As President of Eastbay Front Runners and Walkers, what challenges do you anticipate this year?
DARLENE: One challenge is that I had two total hip replacement surgeries (December, 2016 and March, 2017), which meant being away from the club for weeks at a time during my immediate recovery period. Club members were/are extremely supportive, including other officers filling in for me during my weeks away. Another potential challenge is the transition to a new person in this role as change can be hard. The last President was in the position for 5 years. Thankfully, members are positively accepting the change. Finally, I have a lot to learn as President. Despite being Secretary for the club for two years, as President the knowledge needed is different. I am very grateful for board members staying on another year to help me as I learn as well as other club members who share their knowledge with me.
3) REGGIE: How do you identify yourself?
DARLENE: I identify as a Black lesbian. That's the quick for who I am regarding race, sex, and sexual orientation. I also have a low-income experience. Professionally, I am a Psychologist.
4) REGGIE: Why do you think it is significant to be the First African American Lesbian President of any Front Runners' organization?
DARLENE: We live in a world that continues to under- or misrepresent people of color in terms of our presence, histories, and accomplishments. In the United States, our history of racism is longstanding - be it subtle or obvious. Breaking barriers is fundamental to changing the world. Harriet Tubman, Madame C.J. Walker, Jackie Robinson, Mae C. Jemison, Barack Obama, and countless other African Americans have been the first to break barriers in this country. I want my place to be recognized in our Front Runner world.
5) REGGIE: What do you see as being the biggest responsibility of being President?
DARLENE: I believe the biggest responsibility of being President is representing the club and its interests - to the membership and public - to the best of my ability. To do so, I have to know what members are thinking, which means I have to talk to them, listen to them, learn from them. I cannot assume my interests are synonymous with the interests of the club. If my interests are at odds with the membership, unless it is something major, which usually is not, club interests outweigh my personal interests. After all, I am but one member of EBFRW.
6) REGGIE: There are a lot of Front Runner organizations on the globe but in your dream world, where would you like to visit a club you have not visited with before and what city would you like to see a club form? (click here to see most other official clubs: http://www.frontrunners.org/ EN/clubs/intl_clubs.php )
DARLENE: I have not visited other clubs beyond the San Francisco/Bay Area due to travel limitations. More than visiting or starting a club, I am committed to bringing the local San Francisco/Bay Area clubs, especially SFFR and EBFRW, closer together in order to get to know each other and build community by doing joint events, supporting each others' activities, and encouraging members to visit the other club on a regular run/walk day.
7) REGGIE: How can other FR clubs help you?
DARLENE: Spread the word about this historic, significant Front Runner achievement. Take a look at your clubs. See who is missing. Think long and hard about how to attract and make the club safe for who is missing. Then, implement your ideas, knowing it is an ongoing process that will take time (years, in fact), is not easy, and requires revisions in the plan. Though Front Runners may have been started by primarily white gay men in San Francisco decades ago, we tout ourselves as a club for LGBT communities. We must be this in all of our diversity.
8) REGGIE: What are YOU most proud of?
DARLENE: That I am a 51 year old Black lesbian who is still alive to do the many things I care about. Running has always been an important part of my life. While FrontRunners is a major community in my life, I have had many challenges, disappointments, and frustrations related to its lack of diversity. Despite my ups and downs with Front Runners, I am still here. Some may take that for granted. I do not.
Reggie Snowden, hailing from New Hampshire, is former President and two-time Vice President of San Francisco FrontRunners.