The Third Annual Queen City 5k Walk/Run will be held on October 5th, this coming weekend, so I figured it would be a good time to sit down with Darryl Clark, its founder and chairman. This weekend we talked about Plainfield, this event, Saturday morning power walking clinics, and his progressive radio show. For the the official entry form, click here. The event’s flier is available here in English, or here in Spanish.
Q: I want to ask you, first, about the need for volunteers, vendors, and sponsors.
A: The 5k run is still seeking sponsorships at the $5, $50, and $1000 level, or any other amount you’d like to give. Unfortunately, it will be too late as of Monday September 30 to get a plug on the t-shirts, but you can still sponsor. We are also seeking both vendors and volunteers. Volunteers will have to be at 515 Watchung Avenue, City Hall, at 7:00am. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact email@example.com.
Q: Now that we got that out of the way, tell us a bit about yourself. When did you move to Plainfield, or, as you call it, the Queen City?
A: I moved to Plainfield in, I believe it was ’88 or ’89, so it’s been over twenty years. I stopped counting the number of years, it’s like age. I transferred out here from Ohio, so I’m a Cleveland boy. I’m still a fan of the Cleveland Browns and Indians, who made the wildcard today. Go Indians! But I’ve adopted Plainfield, obviously, living here with my family. I care about the town very much and it’s near and dear to me. I’m retired and over the last five years I have substitute taught at every single Public School in the district and at every grade level in each of those schools. It’s not often that I go a week where I don’t see one or a group of my children. They always yell, “Mr. Clark, Mr. Clark.” I’d like to think I made a difference in some children’s lives.
Q: You break down the reasons for next weekend’s 5k run into 5 “pillars”. What are these 5 pillars?
A: The first pillar is unity and engagement of community. As my friend Dick Gregory says, “we don’t live in communities, we live in neighborhoods.” We live in ‘hoods, and we have lost so much community where we’d have togetherness. We need to bring about our community again, and to unify by blurring all the lines that divide us: race, creed, religion, geography, East End, West End, politics. The purpose here is for there to be one event, and hopefully there will be many that come behind it that will truly bring out, engage, and unify for a common purpose. We all have a common goal, which is to be well.
The second pillar is to improve the image of Plainfield. It’s lost its glamor, it’s gleam, over the years. I have only been here twenty to twenty-five years, but even when I came here this town had so much more going for it. There was a major department store in Macy’s as well as a major furniture store – I forget the name. There were major car dealerships, representing a tax base. There was a whole lot more going on in this town. There was an entire youth football league within Plainfield, with eight teams, not just the two that exist now in Pop Warner. Improving the image of the town is so very important because with the image as tarnished as it is, the positive factions begin to leave and are replaced by negative. We have to improve the image of Plainfield so that the media will acknowledge that Plainfield is a good place to be to those outside of the city, and that it has a top shelf event that anyone would want to attend.
Pillar number three is advocating for the bookends of our society, youth and senior citizens. Elders and youth hold our society together, and we have failed both of them. Our seniors, we laugh at them, we tell them that they don’t know what’s going on, we don’t revere them. As for our youth, we don’t nurture them, we ignore them, we don’t give them what they need to grow strong roots or enhance their self esteem. They don’t even know who they are. We must enhance and be advocates to our youth and our seniors.
The fourth pillar is health awareness. As a health professional – I’m a certified nutritionist, working on my doctorate in naturopathy – I can tell you from my empirical study that much of what happens in the medical field is not in our best interests. You can do your own research, for example, on the side effects of certain drugs. Why do we promote diet and lifestyles that are not good for our system? The FDA and USDA are failing us, so we must be the watchdogs of our own health. There is a disproportionate amount of disease in the Black and Latino communities. It’s because of stress. It’s because of lifestyle. It’s because of oppression. It all depletes your immune system.
The fifth and last pillar is fundraising.
Q: Where do these funds go?
A: We are funding two of the sports teams this year, the Pop Warner Vikings and Cardinals. When we go play other towns and cities, we want to look sharp. We want those young people to have self esteem. We want the band to have nice uniforms, so we give $1,000 to our award-winning marching band that travels around the state and country. Our seniors feel degraded – I know, I work with them. They feel so beat down. In one of our senior homes, we gave them a greenhouse so that they can go out and grow their fruit, vegetables and their plants like they are used to. This year we gave them a professional warmer so that they can cook their own food, sustain themselves, and have pride and self respect. It feeds 100 people. These things improve the image of the town, they improve the unity, and they engage us.
Q: How has participation been the first two years?
A: In 2011, the first year, we had two hundred people. That was phenomenal by 5k standards for the first event, as one hundred participants in the first year is considered very good. In our second year, participation dropped to around 175, but we attribute this to the weather as it was very cold last year. Both years, we have had people of all creeds, colors, and religions. We have had the fraternities and sororities, and the civic organizations like the Eastern Stars and the Masons. The School Board is partnering with us this year, and the churches are participating more. Last year we had a couple come out and this year we are expecting several more. There will be loads of vendors, more than the six or seven that we had last year and the two or three we had in year one. By the way, as of right now, Saturday is forecast to be in the mid 70s, which is a blessing.
Q: Is this a certified course?
A: Yes. When I first imagined this 5k walk/run, I knew that I wanted this to be a top-notch, high class event, right here in Plainfield. This course is certified of exactly 3.1 miles, and we use one of the larger road race coordinating and timing services in the state. We use computerized timing, and we hope to attract the caliber runner who is preparing for major races and marathons. This race goes through five scenic historic districts and has a bit of a hill, which is a draw for runners.
Q: I hear this year will have a special honoree.
A:Yes. This year we will have a special tribute to the late Milt Campbell, considered by some sports aficionados as the greatest athlete to ever live. He was a decathlon silver medalist at the age of 17, in 1952. In 1956 he took the Gold Medal, becoming the first African-American to ever win gold in the decathlon, and he’s from right here from Plainfield, NJ. He went on later to play football in the NFL, on the Cleveland Browns with Jim Brown before having a successful career in the Canadian football league. We will have a commemoration for him on the City Hall steps, and we reached out to the Olympic committee who sent special gifts for all of the event’s participants. It’s really going to be a special day.
Q: I know we are approaching the end of this season, but a lot of people don’t know that you give free power walking lessons. Can you give us the why, when, and where?
A: I have been doing this walking and running clinic since before I started the 5k walk run. I grew up playing sports and I’m currently a member of the New York Road Runners. I have always been a health advocate. Seeing the changes that can be made from making a conscious effort and staying with something, I decided I’d do a walking and running clinic here where I teach how to power walk. In power walking, you use 30% more muscles than running, and additionally you get a better chance to smell the roses compared to running where you miss a lot. At 8:00am, every Saturday at Cedarbrook Park, I do it as a community service by my company, Essence of Life Center. Sometimes there are only one or two people, especially in bad weather. Other times I’ll get eight or nine, but never more than fifteen. It’s not a club, just different folks coming out at their leisure.
Q: A lot of people would be surprised to learn that you deliver a progressive political/health education via internet radio. Why did you start this show and how can people listen to it?
A: I used to listen to Gary Null, who has been on the radio for at least 30 years. At some point he had a fallout with the terrestrial radio network that he worked for and moved to internet radio about 8 years ago, creating the Progressive Radio Network. Long story short, he gave me a show on his network. I was doing this from my heart, trying to get people news that they weren’t getting elsewhere. As his network does not pay, it became to expensive to go to the city so often, so I started my own show from home, on Blog Talk Radio, called Progressive News Weekly. I’ve established a bit of a reputation, and some of my guests include Dennis Kucinich, Dick Gregory, and Jawanza Kunjufu, to name a few. You can listen to it by clicking this link and scrolling to my latest show. The show can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darryl Clark is a certified nutritionist, and his services are available for hire. Those interested should contact email@example.com.