We went to NYC for this month’s Coffee Talk to chat with About the People filmmaker, runner, and founder of Define New York Run Club, Coffey. The first time we heard about Coffey was in his interview on the Outside Magazine podcast and we were so impressed with the good work he is doing that we had to learn as much as we could about this North Carolina native. To our pleasant surprise, he offered to sit down for an interview with us for this month’s Coffee Talk with the Darby Crew. May his words open your eyes and your hearts.
Coffey, first off thank you so much for taking some time for us. We know that you’ve been busy doing interviews for everyone from Runner’s World to Outside to Deadline amongst others, as well as organizing #RunningToProtest and #AllCrewsOneCrew runs in the City.
Why don’t we get started at the beginning…how did you fall in love with running?
I just love being in shape all year round and what better way for me to do so.
Because we live in Asheville, we’re also going to need to know your birth sign.
Let’s say it’s a sunny, 75-degree day in NYC, where would we find you?
You would find me outside with my kids riding bikes or just being lazy.
Can you tell us a little bit about the run club you founded?
Define New York Run Club was founded because every year after training people for different marathons, I was always asked afterward, “Where can I continue running?” and if I was gonna start my own run club. So at the top of the year, I decided to begin my own run club. And I’m an adventurous runner, meaning I love to see different things while I’m out burning calories. So, that’s how I came up with the name of the run club and letting them know that we will always find different destinations to run too. And when you’re excited about sightseeing while running, the miles seem to not be as important any longer, which makes every run easier.
You’ve brought runners together to have conversations about race and injustice in this country. Is there something special that runners can bring to this conversation?
For me, I brought thousands of runners together because after doing the different podcasts, I was asked by many, “How can I help?” So, I decided to have a #RunningToProtest #AllCrewsOneCrew run to answer those who asked and the many who wanted to know without having to ask. The only thing that would be special for the runners to bring would be their full attention. And afterward, I’m hoping that they do the work. Just like the film I wrote, these runs are educating the runners about Black History. Where we come from. How we got here and why we are still here today. And yes, we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and change will come, this time.
What artists, writers, or musicians are inspiring you right now?
I’m inspired by artists who were before my time or during my teenage years, like Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, The Gap Band, 2Pac, and the list goes on. And that’s because it is timeless music that they made and with the climate we’re dealing with outside our doors now, it helps get through the day.
Your film About the People is spectacular. Can you share with our readers a little bit about why you made it, and the conversations it is sparking?
I wrote ‘About The People’ in 2016. During that summer, my son was about to be a senior in high school and he asked for a curfew. Well, I didn’t give him one because I felt like he was older and wiser and I wanted to see what time he felt like he should be home by, because his first three years I gave him a 10 p.m. curfew. Well, after he asked, the first three nights he made sure he was home before dark. He would walk in around 8 or 8:30 pm when it was still daylight. So I knew something wasn’t right. I was thinking someone was bothering him at the basketball court, but he cleared that up immediately and his direct words to me were, “Dad, my friends and I are making sure we make it home before dark so we won’t get killed by the cops.” As a father that was the first time I didn’t have an answer for my son. You can’t sugarcoat those types of things because it’s too real and still happening to us today. So, it took months for me to figure out what I needed to do to respond to what he was afraid of and it all came to me while I was running at midnight. And that’s how ‘About The People’ was birthed. We filmed it in 2018, premiered it in 2019, and made it free online this summer 2020 at aboutthepeoplefilm.com.
The conversations the film is sparking is just truth. It’s what we need to do as Black and People of Color to get back to where we once were, like how Black Wall Street was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A lot of the conversation is educational. Things we weren’t taught in school but needed to know. I mean let’s face it, there’s a lot of history that’s false. For example, Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America. And why exactly are we giving thanks to Thanksgiving, but also, in general, why would you want us to sing the national anthem when the third verse that not many people know of speaks about Francis Scott Key owning slaves himself? So, in today’s world, I’m hoping all the true facts emerge.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers and/or aspiring marathoners who might be a little hesitant?
Go for it without any hesitation because if not you then who, and if not you somebody else will. See there’s always a purpose to be afraid of something, simply because it’s meant for you to conquer it. So defeat the task so you will never have a ‘what if’ in your mind years later.
We come to NYC annually to meet with journalists and editors of publications and websites. One of our favorite things on our trip, is to find hidden, amazing restaurants throughout the city…if there was one place you’d recommend we check out what would it be?
That place would be Walter’s, which is a restaurant in Fort Greene.
In all the work you’ve done in the past 3 years, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the film I wrote because it’s helping all people as opposed to just one person. Because if my son was going through those changes can you imagine how many other teenagers were thinking the exact same thing?
If you could meet anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to meet 2Pac because his music helped raise me. He was always speaking of the truth, and the fact that we’re still dealing with what he was rapping about in the 90’s is crazy. As I mentioned earlier, a timeless artist.
Tell us about an upcoming project you’re excited about.
I’m excited about taking ‘About The People’ to the next level and developing it into a TV show.
We are definitely living in unique times. What have you found to bring you calm and happiness as you deal with new challenges every day?
Me just being me without allowing the outside troubles to defeat my family and me. Telling my kids the truth about everything and not worrying about hiding what America is really about, because things like that should come from the parents.
We love that you hail from our home state of NC! What’s something you miss about NC?
I miss the big space NC has to offer. Here in New York, we’re all living on top of one another. I’m from Aurora, North Carolina, where my backyard was bigger than an NFL football field. And no, I don’t I watch football because they should have listened and learned why Kaepernick was kneeling years ago instead of blackballing him.
Thank you so much for giving us a little bit of your time, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today before we wrap up this interview?
Thank you all for this interview and thanks to the readers who took the time out to read this; I really appreciate it. You can follow me on IG at @ThatCoffeyBoy, @DefineNewYorkRunClub, and @AboutThePeopleFilm. And if you haven’t already, go to Aboutthepeoplefilm.com and watch my short; it’s 28 minutes. And most importantly, arrest the officers who murdered Ms. Breonna Taylor in her own home. Their names are Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson, and Myles Cosgrove. She was shot 8 times and left alone for 20 minutes without any medical attention or assistance. She was pronounced dead on the scene. If you aren’t safe in your own home, then where can we be? We want justice knowing she should still be here along with all the other victims.