Santa Barbara teen organizes 5K to promote social justice
Kaitlyn Tang admits she isn’t much of a runner, but that’s not stopping her from trying to make a difference.
The 16-year-old upcoming junior at Providence School is following her heart as she spearheads the Run for CommUNITY 5k, a virtual race scheduled for Saturday.
The virtual event allows people from across the city, county and even the country to participate in their own neighborhoods in order to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The idea really came about because I just wanted to encourage the community,” Kaitlyn told the News-Press. “In the news, it’s all negative when you scroll through the news feed or look on the news.
“I just really wanted to do something to bring a positive impact on our community – our great community here in Santa Barbara.”
Kaitlyn launched a GoFundMe campaign a few weeks ago in an effort to bring more social awareness to the recent racial injustices that have occurred. The campaign exceeded its $1,000 goal earlier this week.
All proceeds from the event will go to Santa Barbara Young Black Professionals, the first and only young professionals group in the area that is catered towards fostering the black community and creating opportunities for young professionals.
Kaitlyn, whose parents lead Waypoint Church in Santa Barbara, met the group’s founder, Quienna Broadnax, while attending church. The two have since become close friends.
“This is really an amazing organization,” Kaitlyn said of SBYBP. “They do a lot of mixers, events, opportunities, different social awareness things.”
Kaitlyn’s mother, Rebekah, explained that Waypoint, which was formerly the SB Church of Christ, is very diverse in that it supports all races, and social and economic backgrounds.
“She’s used to people of all colors, you know?” Ms. Tang said. “I think for her she was just kind of shocked. … And obviously we are an Asian family, but she hasn’t really necessarily had experience with racism herself personally, but I think just hearing the stories it kind of really made her sad.
“Santa Barbara is kind of like a little bubble,” Ms. Tang said. “We have so many friends of all nationalities and she said, ‘I want to do something.’”
Kaitlyn said that, despite all the negative issues being discussed in the news, her church has shown a lot of unity.
“I’ve seen a lot of unity despite differences in diversity, so I really just wanted to show that aspect of our church to the community,” she said.
While in-person church service is not currently being offered due to the pandemic, Kaitlyn said that hasn’t stopped the group from being “a really loving and encouraging community.”
“Even though we’re distanced and we’re not meeting in person, it’s been really encouraging,” she said, adding that virtual meetings have been held to keep the church community connected.
“We’ve also been having our church live stream on YouTube and Facebook, so it’s nice that even though we’re not in person, just being able to look at the chats and everyone being so welcoming and encouraging even though we’re distanced,” she said.
In her free time, Kaitlyn enjoys playing volleyball and recently started playing beach volleyball. She also likes baking and cooking.
“I like exploring new recipes. Cakes, muffins, cookies,” she said with a laugh.
All good things to burn off with a Saturday afternoon jog, which she plans on doing with her family.
Kaitlyn admitted she didn’t know how the campaign would go when she first started. She has witnessed an outpouring of support from not just her local church community and close friends, but also from people from outside the area who she has never met.
“It’s just been really encouraging in seeing how great our Santa Barbara community is,” Kaitlyn said.
Several people have posted comments on the campaign site applauding her for her efforts. She has been blown away by how many people want to support the cause.
Participating in the race will be voluntary, though Kaitlyn encourages people to take photos and post to social media using the hashtags #SBYBP and #runforcommUNITYSB.
“I think it will be really cool just to see how many people participated, to see everyone participating with their family or friends, and to see pictures and the evidence,” she said.
Ms. Tang said she is very proud of her daughter for doing something to make a positive impact in what has been a difficult time for many.
“Hopefully this will bring a good, positive change,” Ms. Tang said.
Kaitlyn said she doesn’t have a specific goal in mind when it comes to how many people participate, but she is excited to see how many people post about the event.
Moving forward, Kaitlyn said she hopes to do an annual fundraiser to encourage community involvement. While it remains unclear what the next year will bring, she said “it would be really cool just to keep it going.”
“We know that racism has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years, but I think especially because of media and because of social media, there’s been a lot more news and attention on it,” Kaitlyn said. “I think it’s just really important that unity is something that we can (use) to celebrate our differences.
“Even though we might look different, we might have different backgrounds or resources, I think it’s just really important to know that together we can be much stronger than just individually.”
To learn more about the GoFundMe campaign, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/run-for-community-5k.