After a run, Valiente’s night isn’t over. He’s usually up until 3:30 a.m. sorting through the night’s photos and uploading the selects to his photo-sharing website. This, along with planning tonight’s run and others throughout the week, plus the half-marathon training that BlacklistLA now offers, adds up to full-time work for him. But he’s not getting paid.
“Hopefully this year is the first year I actually get some kind of money for this, because I’ve been living on fumes for two years!” he says.
To that end, BlacklistLA recently became organized as a nonprofit—and Valiente is officially the founder and executive director. There are seven other people involved ranging from photographers and social media folks to finance experts, plus five seats on the steering committee. To make ends meet, Valiente is seeking funding from local grants and foundations to support what he feels is charitable work benefitting the city of Los Angeles. Major athletic brands have also shown an interest—Lululemon recently collaborated on a street-art project—and Valiente is open to the right kind of authentic partnership. Preferably a financial arrangement that supports BlacklistLA’s training programs and its annual 5K—not free shoes and gear, for example.
It’s no coincidence that a movement like this has taken such hold in Los Angeles of all places. Thousands of young people move here every year; meanwhile it’s a city that is most often viewed from inside a car, despite having some of the best weather anywhere in the world. People are looking for a connection to the city, and a group like BlacklistLA provides that—connections not only with other people, but also a street-level connection to the city’s many neighborhoods.
“If you’re from here you feel like there is community because you probably have a group of friends,” Valiente says. “But if you’re coming from another city, you don’t feel welcome because you probably land in Hollywood or places like what they show on TV. So you feel lonely and you give yourself a timeframe.
“But you’re not giving L.A. a chance—you’re not putting yourself out there. But L.A. also wasn’t putting itself out there. It wasn’t welcoming either. If you need to travel 7 miles to go get lunch, how many communities do you pass on the way there? Who’s connecting those? Through art and running, we’re connecting each community.”
The big picture always for Valiente, though, is Los Angeles as a whole. Last year on the city’s birthday, at the spot where it was officially founded, BlacklistLA organized a race called HBD LA 5K and passed out balloons to runners. The organization is expanding into all facets of running almost as quickly as it has grown. But it’s clear that the inspiration will always be the city in which it’s based.
“I’m super down for L.A.,” Valiente says. “I love L.A. It’s my city. When I think of L.A., I just think there are endless possibilities in the land of sunshine and dreams. The land where you can make anything happen.”