Jeff Davis and Black Men Run Boston

Community in Motion: How Black Men Run is Changing Boston

Every Saturday morning in Boston’s Peabody Square, you’ll find a group of Black men in a circle. They’ll be talking, laughing, hugging each other, and preparing to go for a run. If you listen closely, you’ll hear them talking about their purpose and why they’re running that day, and you’re guaranteed to catch a few “I love you, man’s" peppered throughout the conversation.

This unique and heartwarming scene is Black Men Run Boston, led by Jeff Davis. Warm, friendly, and passionate about lifting up his community and the people around him, Davis started the Boston chapter in 2020 – a time when he and his community were reeling from the murders of Amaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others that had come before them. “I was depressed, I was angry, I was fed up,” says Davis. “It was just this wave of Black death.”

Having been a runner since his high school days, Davis’ wife sent him a link to an event called the “Run for Justice”. It was being hosted by the Phoenix chapter of Black Men Run in conjunction with another running group, and he was immediately intrigued. Boston, the unofficial running capital of the United States, has so many running groups – surely there must be a BMR group in the city.

To Davis’ surprise, there wasn’t – so after some thought and counsel, he decided to start one himself. The night of the first run, he arrived at the designated starting spot in one of Boston’s most historic black neighborhoods - Roxbury.  When no one showed up after 15 minutes, he started to consider packing it in. Finally, his friend arrived. A few minutes later, they found his friend’s brother-in-law, who’d been having trouble finding the meeting point.

The three of them took off on their inaugural run, and in less than three miles, they passed a mural of Frederick Douglass, the court where Martin Luther King used to play basketball, Malcolm X’s childhood home, and countless other murals celebrating the Black culture and history of the Roxbury community. “It was such a powerful and unifying moment,” says Davis.

Since then, the group has continued to grow and now has over 140 members. Every week, Black men from all walks of life come together for fellowship, support, and of course, some exercise.

“ We're not a running club,” says Davis.

“ We want to create a space for black men to be seen and to invest in their health - invest in themselves and be seen as who they are. ”

Jeff Davis, Black Men Run

Not only do they support each other, the group has also become known for investing back into their communities as well. They have occasionally filled backpacks with nonperishable goods and run around the neighborhood filling up community fridges that pepper the street corners of Boston. They’ve also partnered with a local organization called Voices of Liberation, delivering essential goods like feminine hygiene products, deodorant, socks and even peanut butter to the homeless population in the city. “It's Grassroots in a way that is really infectious,” says Davis. “It’s starting to impact the narrative and show the possibility of what community care and love looks like.”

Black Men Run has become a sacred space for Black men across Boston, including Davis himself.

“ I know that tomorrow morning, I could show up not just as a captain of Black Men Run, but as Jeff Davis – a person who's exhausted, who's tired, who is stressed out, and be held and laughed and cared for not because of what I do for people but because I am a person,” he says. “And that's everything. ”

Jeff Davis

Black Men Run Boston

To join the group, Davis says you only need three things – to be a man, to be Black, and to be willing to try to run or walk. If the running part worries you, he encourages you to come out anyway – you’ll be cheered on by a friendly, supportive group of men who hear you, understand you, and want you to succeed. “You can't put a price on feeling seen for who you are,” says Davis.

If you’re in the Boston area and are interested in joining BMR for a run, you can find everything you need to know on Heylo.