Some people run to forget, but on Sunday Ali Husain Jean’s family ran the Montreal marathon to remember their lost son and brother.
Jean, a poet who expressed his messages of peace and unity through rap, was shot to death at an apartment in Lachine last January.
His killer remains at large.
Ten members of Jean’s family ran in Sunday’s marathon to both honour his memory and stay connected to the 27-year-old, who loved to run.
In the months before his killing, Jean was trying to pass on his love of running to his 46-year-old mother Dominique Narcisse.
"He got me running because he knows that I love food. I love cooking," Narcisse told CBC Radio’s Homerun recently.
His sister Sara Rogers said she wondered if that was the best idea.
"All the kids were saying, 'Oh my God, Husain, you’re going to kill mom! You’re having her run seven laps around the park," she told Homerun.
Narcisse began training in earnest in the wake of her son’s killing, which happened on her birthday.
Rather than let herself fall apart, she started to train and now takes pride in the fact she can run more than 20 kilometres in an hour.
On Sunday, they ran in t-shirts bearing a photo of Jean and raised money for the youth organization Leave Out Violence Everywhere.
Movement is U.P.
Rogers said they decided to run in part to correct the media narrative that she says emerged around her brother’s killing.
"It was covered as Montreal’s first murder of the year, a violent murder, and they quickly associated it with the lifestyle and rap music and all that stuff. But that’s not who he was. He was a very peaceful person, he fought very hard for unity and peace and teaching of knowledge to youth. That was very important to him," she said.
She points to a key idea that recurs in Jean’s poetry: "Movement is U.P. — unified peacefully."
"He didn’t see himself as Haitian or black," said Narcisse. "I was privileged to have him as my son."
Rogers said his funeral was a tribute to the ideal of unity that ran throughout his poetry.
"He had a Muslim burial, and you saw 300 people — Christian, Jewish… — with their heads covered. It was such a sight to see. He was able to bring people of all backgrounds, cultures, together."
In its own way, running is helping Narcisse deepen this sense of unity that was so fundamental to her son.
"When I’m running, I don’t really like running in the city. I like running in the woods, through nature. People in the city are supposed to be connected, but they are disconnected. And when you’re in the woods, you’re so connected. You're unified," she said.