Why One Man Ran The New York City Marathon While Wearing Chains

"Our daily lives are governed by a system that is inherently more dangerous than anything that happened in Charlottesville."

Glenn Cantave was one of the thousands of people who ran the New York City marathon on Sunday, November 5, but unlike all of the other runners, Cantave participated in the event with a heavy chain wrapped around his neck and hands.

Though it may seem crazy to make an already grueling 26.2 mile race even more difficult, Cantave ran with chains in tow to make an important point about what people of color have experienced in this country throughout history. In an article for HuffPost about his experience and in an email to A Plus, Cantave explained why he chose to make such a powerful gesture while competing in the largest marathon in the world. 



"The marathon is a unique event that covers 5 boroughs and goes through neighborhoods across the socioeconomic spectrum," he wrote to A Plus. "I ran in chains to illustrate the fact that although most black and brown people are no longer in physical chains, we are still bound by restrictions imposed upon us by generations of systemic oppression."  

Cantave, who also sported chains while attending the fatal Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, believes in the power certain symbols can have in pushing for change. "My experience in Charlottesville made it very clear to me that uncomfortable and intense visual statements are necessary to wake people up," he wrote for HuffPost.

Cantave also makes an important point about how White supremacy in this country has evolved throughout time. While people of color are no longer enslaved and school segregation ended decades ago, Cantave argued White supremacy now "manifests itself in different forms," in his HuffPost article. 

"Some of the obvious 'chains' that restrict people of color is the fact that there is a disproportionate ratio of black and brown people in prison for nonviolent crimes. Moreover, the consistent verdicts of unarmed people of color (including children) getting murdered by employees of the state reaffirms to us that our lives do not matter," he wrote, referring to the disproportionate rate at which people of color experience violence at the hands of police.  "It impacts our trust for the police, our trust in the government and our everyday interactions.  Every Black adult has at least one personal experience regarding an unfair encounter with a law enforcement official.  I can speak for myself when I say that I feel anxiety every time I see a law enforcement official despite the fact that I am doing nothing wrong."

As Cantave later added in his HuffPost article "Our daily lives are governed by a system that is inherently more dangerous than anything that happened in Charlottesville due to its ubiquity."

With that in mind, the Wesleyan graduate has done more than just run in the New York City marathon with chains. 

"I hope that my approach to a more visually provocative form of activism can inspire others to take similar approaches to tackle other forms of injustice as well as join me in this fight," he told A Plus. " I started a group called Movers & Shakers that executes direct action and advocacy campaigns for marginalized communities using virtual reality, augmented reality and the creative arts.  Our current objectives are the removal of the name Columbus from New York City streets, monuments and public institutions, pushing for a focus on historical education that comprehensively recognizes the suffering of the oppressed rather than just the financial benefits of the oppressors and the recognition of Indigenous People's Day and Juneteenth as holidays."

He's also hopeful that his marathon participation started a conversation.

"On the day of the marathon, I received a lot of confused looks from black people. Their faces changed as soon as I put my fist up and screamed Black Lives Matter," Cantave told A Plus. "You could see in their eyes that they understood where I was coming from.  Some white people did not want to give me snacks (as is customary during the marathon) or a high five like they were doing to others.  I received a lot of love and support in social media after running the marathon.  It's nice to see that people are starting to understand the method to my madness." 

This article has been updated to include quotes from Cantave. 

Cover image via Shutterstock /Cory Seamer. 

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