By Lee Edwards
Sweltering heat was not enough to evaporate the souls as people from across the city filled Chicago Avenue to take part in the third annual Austin P.O.W.E.R. (People Organizing Wealth and Economic Resources) of Life 5K Walk/Run.
Malcolm Crawford, president of the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA), one of the primary organizers for the P.O.W.E.R. 5K, said that the involvement of local businesses, residents, and churches, among other entities, made the P.O.W.E.R. 5K a true representation of the Austin community. He said this year the race raised $4,000 for the Chicago Police Department's Explorers program and he hopes to raise more money in the years to come.
"This is our third year of doing the Austin POWER 5K," Crawford said. "It's a culmination of business, community and family all coming together to take control in our community."
Crawford said the P.O.W.E.R. 5K originated based on the desire to produce something different for the community. He attributed the consistent annual growth of the P.O.W.E.R. 5K to "the power of action".
"We want to continue to show people that this is what really brings a community together. It's OK to march, it's OK to be reactionary, but this is proactive — everybody together," said Crawford. "If you look at what's out here, this is a true representation of our community."
Crawford, who ran and finished the 5K, said part of his interest running in this year's P.O.W.E.R. 5K was to honor the memory of his late cousin, who died due to diabetes-related complications.
Many P.O.W.E.R. 5K participants hailed from Oak Park and nearby communities and saw the event as a prime opportunity to get to know their neighbors east of Austin Blvd.
Oak Park resident Brett Miller, a top finisher for the P.O.W.E.R. 5K, said he ran to support his brother-in-law, David Cassel, who strives to serve communities like Austin. He said he used the P.O.W.E.R. 5K to help train for the upcoming Frank Lloyd Wright 10K.
"I live in Oak Park and we're always looking for ways to bridge the divide between Austin Blvd. and support each other. Sometimes people don't know how to support each other, but we're all standing around," said Miller. "Congregating, talking ... I think that really helps bridge that gap."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who finished at an estimated time of 18:15, shared his glowing remarks about the race.
"This gives people a way of seeing the Austin community the way that they're supposed to see it," said Emanuel. "The people have come together to create community, that's what I came to see."
State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, (Dist. 8th) said the P.O.W.E.R. 5K was "Austin at its finest," as he applauded AAABNA for organizing the event. He said this year was his third year running and he anticipates running every year he's able to. He hoped that POWER 5K participants would make an effort to stay connected to the Austin community after they crossed the finish line so that they may support other initiatives to come.
The people from Chicago and from all over got a glance at all of the hardworking business people and homeowners in Austin and this is the area that I grew up in and to run in this area is great," said Ford.
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