Zaakiyah is a Black/African non-binary and community healer and co-founder of the South Central Run Club. She has a calmness to her spirit that envelops and motivates others to ask themselves what wellness means for them. The South Central Run Club shares her vision of making running more inclusive by creating a space that redefines wellness and combats the stigmas of running in low-income communities. She looks at wellness through a holistic lens that encompasses coming together as a community to confront racial and economic justice.
Growing up, Zaakiyah never thought of gender in terms of gender performance and gender roles. She played with everyone, running with the boys and often beating them. She later began to feel crushed in middle school by gender assignment, realizing that suddenly there were certain things that she was not allowed to do simply because she was a girl. She understands that gender roles and current gender structures create egoic realities that people latch on to, causing more harm than unity. For her, to be nonbinary is to renounce societal gender assignment and the effects of the harmful divide it creates, especially for women.
Zaakiyah experienced the impact of societal pressures, particularly as a young Black person navigating the higher education system. While in college, Zaakiyah experienced a debilitating breakdown that led her to mindfulness as an alternative approach to healing. She learned how to anchor herself by exploring a connection to a larger picture and embracing her spirituality. After undergraduate school, Zaakiyah, along with Jazmin Garcia, co-founded the run club in an effort to normalize wellness in South Central and foster a community of caring. Zaakiyah’s proudest achievement has been giving people of color the space to gather and directly counter the culture of oppression, capitalism, and white supremacy by peacefully reclaiming wellness.
Today, Zaakiyah lets her spirituality guide her interactions and decision-making and doesn’t get caught in the hubris of material life. Her advice to people, particularly women, is to prioritize wellness and education as it can uplift the spirit and help people feel grounded, particularly when learning about one's history. Equally important for Zaakiyah is the practice of compassion and empathy, qualities that she embodies through her role as a fierce community leader.