A name can communicate a lot. Take, for example, the Northside Trap Run, a 5k run/walk scheduled for September 7 in North St. Louis. Its name comes from a style of hip-hop music that developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A dozen DJs spread at the start/finish line and along the route will motivate participants by spinning records inspired by the subgenre’s layered rhythms, energetic beats, and gritty lyrical content.

It’s all very intentional.

“Hip-hop and trap music are true to the culture of the community and are popular across generations,” said Aaron Williams, race co-director. “But the term ‘trap’ can also take on a negative meaning, such as, literally, a ‘trap house’ being a place where narcotics are sold.” Though “Trap” has become a very commercial term with popular activities such as Trap Karaoke, Trap N’ Paint, Trap Yoga and even the Trap Music Museum, the Northside Trap Run gives deeper meaning to the name. “While being aware of its duality, we want to embrace the complexity and celebrate the beauty in the struggle, because there is no doubt that they both exist.”

DJ KP da Kid at a Trap Run cheer station in 2018. Mike Matney, Photo Flood STL

“Our idea with this event is to celebrate transcendence in hardship. The name is sort of tongue in cheek. Yes, you are going to run by abandoned buildings. The streets may not be well manicured. But also, there are signs of resilience. There is beauty. People of the community will be around, watching and participating. This rawness is what we want more St. Louisans to acknowledge: the human factor of North St. Louis, the community and how it perseveres.”

In other words, this is not your typical 5k event — intentionally.

Many St. Louis residents may not know that The Historic Ville neighborhood where the race takes place is one of the most historic African-American communities in the U.S., home to important landmarks like Homer G. Phillips Hospital, Sumner High School, Annie Malone Children’s Home, the Chuck Berry House and the Shelley House. Preserving and restoring The Ville and nearby communities is paramount to Trap Run and its hosts, Young Friends of The Ville, a board committee of Northside Community Housing, Inc.

“In order to give the neighborhood its due care, we have to show its value. The Trap Run, like many other activities that community groups host in the neighborhood, showcases this value by offering an experience that people can look forward to each year while fundraising for revitalization efforts,” said Williams.

This will be the second year for the event, which in 2018 attracted 315 runners and raised $10,000 for Northside Community Housing, Inc. This year, the goal is to draw 500 runners and generate $20,000, said race co-director Kameel Stanley. Proceeds will go toward the campaign to restore the historic Sara Lou Café and revitalize the North Sarah corridor with mixed-income, mixed-use housing and neighborhood retail space.

“You can’t come to Trap Run and feel that the effort you put in will not have an impact,” Stanley said. “It’s a very unique experience, and even though it’s only our second year, a lot of people are proud to participate. It’s a homecoming of sorts for some people.”

Dream Builders 4 Equity students working the MLK water station. Sue Rakers, Photo Flood STL

Black affinity groups such as Girl Trek, Black Girls Run, Outdoor Afro, Brunch Run Crew and We Run the Lou provided support last year. After running in the 2018 Trap Run, one of Stanley’s friends joined a gym, lost 40 pounds, and plans to race this year. “I received a surprise text from them one day thanking us for the encouragement to become more active. It was humbling!”

“We’re intentional about getting people to change their approach to health issues in North St. Louis and display resources that promote and support healthy lifestyles,” said Stanley.

The Northside Trap Run is partnering with ConsciousFest this year to provide post-race entertainment and activities from culturally driven artists, performers, and vendors. Music during the race will include DJs from Hot 104.1, FarFetched, The Soulition, DJ KP da Kid and DJ Rico Steez.

“The outpouring from last year was amazing,” said Stanley. “The Trap Run is about bringing people to the place that we are trying to uplift and empower. We have a lot of people who are excited for our ‘sophomore album’. We really hope to build on last year’s momentum and put this beautiful, ignored community on display.”

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.
Lead Image: Ann Aurbach, Photo Flood STL.