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BlacklistLA

They gather after dark and experience downtown Los Angeles en masse. They are hundreds of joggers who sweep through the center of the city, stop to appreciate L.A. murals, and cross the finish line with a sense of community.  Reporter Dija Dowling joined the group called “BlacklistLA” and met Erik Valiente, the young organizer who’s own running habit started with a bet.

Transcript 

Dija Dowling: Downtown L.A. on a Monday night can be well less than inviting. It’s dark, sometimes lonely and even intimidating. But there is a group called BlacklistLA, that’s changing that. They demystify the city by running through it. Every Monday night, they meet in front of Walt Disney concert hall and embark on a guided art run. I like running and I like people most of the time anyway. So I laced up my shoes and joined the party.

Erik Valiente: We have a 3.6 mile run today. We are visiting an art piece on Los Angeles and 8th. Remember we are here at night enjoy yourself.

Dija Dowling: So who is it that manages to get hundreds of people out to run the streets of LA at night?

Erik Valiente: What we do is run all over the city and what we do is find pieces of art and connect runners to community and other people  (through running)

Dija Dowling: His name is Erik Valiente. I met up with him at his family home where he busted the myth that no one grows up in Los Angeles. You were born here?

Erik Valiente: Yes I feel like two hours on the Earth I came here. After I was born at the hospital then I came here ...my whole life.

Dija Dowling: Both of Erik's parents were born and raised in El Salvador. They fled the Civil War in the 1970s & came here to Los Angeles.  They wanted to help their family back home, raise their four children, and live the American Dream.

Erik Valiente: I always knew I wanted to inspire people to one follow their dreams to also live happy which living happy is probably the hardest thing you can do. It is such a simple concept but happiness is hard. So I always wanted to give that to people somehow and of course I wanted to stay active myself…

Dija Dowling: Erik was a basketball player in high school; he  got into  running when a friend bet him that he couldn't finish marathon… but he did…

Erik Valiente: Once I completed it, it definitely gave me the confidence to realize that if I stick to a plan I can complete a marathon.  I lost a bet ran my first marathon and I guess I still love it. He started Blacklist back in 2013 and years later the bet is still playing off ...... whoever you are you get to show, up, you don’t get judged, you get to do a workout, you get to see the city, and then you leave with a friend that was a stranger before.

Dija Dowling: I’m a runner but usually go by myself. Running in a group was a major departure for me. But I found myself loving it. The awesome part of Blacklist is that they make street art the focus of the run.’

Erik Valiente: Make sure you tag him on Instagram. Show him some love so he can keep beautifying our city. Hands up, come on!  1...2..3…..

Dija Dowling: After a little art appreciation, a couple of photos, we’re off again. This time the last leg is through the 2nd Street tunnel. I was exhausted, but exhilarated…especially by the warm welcome from my new blacklist family.

Runner: This program  actually brings people together. It works so well like it feels like family it's crazy. You would expect people to walk by each other but right here, no, they are like a family.

Dija Dowling: What do you feel like when your feet hit the pavement?

Runner: The fact that I can keep going. With gratitude every foot I'm pushing it because I'm... I'm out here chasing my dreams anyway in la so every time I run in LA it's more like it's deeper it's more spiritual to me. It's like I got to keep pushing I gotta keep going. I got to give this in my heart. I have to do it.

Erik Valiente: There is a magic in Los Angeles where it seems outside of Los Angeles people don't realize that L.A. is a great city. We always get a negative rep for some reason so it is kind of like a secret when you are here you're like alright. If you are a creative person. If you are anybody you can do whatever you want in Los Angeles.

Dija Dowling: I’m Dija Dowling with "SoCal Connected."

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