By A.K. Collier, Health Power Editor; Freelance Journalist and Author, www.andrea king collier.com
Although it was still winter in much of the country, 20,000 Black women and girls took it to the streets, the parks and their neighborhoods, to walk for health as a part of GirlTrek, a national movement to get them walking and moving.
GirlTrekkers who have signed the pledge have agreed to walk five days a week, but this particular weekend’s festivities were tied around the March 10th birthday of freedom fighter and former slave, Harriet Tubman. The participants had a lofty goal: to log in 100 minutes of walking. But the founders saw a deeper goal as one that would help Black girls and women reclaim their power, health, lives and neighborhoods. “Harriet Tubman weekend is important, but the commitment that comes after, day after day, week after week can change lives.” “We like to say if Harriet Tubman can walk thousands of slaves to freedom, we can walk to health and healing,” Vanessa Garrison, GirlTrek co-founder says. “We know that this walking movement has caught on because the healing has been inspirational and contagious.”
GirlTrek co-founder, T. Morgan Dixon, got inspired when she found her stride through walking. “I suffered from depression, like many of the women in my family,” Dixon says.“Mine was made worse by pushing myself too hard, and working too hard in my professional life.” It was the depression that made Dixon isolate herself from friends, community and shy away from intimacy, she says. “But it was when I started walking, one step at a time, that I noticed that my world started to slow down. I started to feel transported,” Dixon says. “I felt that I could finally just let my shoulders down and heal.”
Garrison and Dixon say that as more Black women sign on and start walking they keep hearing inspirational personal stories of healing and health all around the country. “It is true that there are many health disparities that stem from the lack of physical activity among Black women in our communities. We do have the highest rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and overweight and obesity. And yes walking a minimum of 30 minutes at least five days a week will help reduce our risks,” Garrison says. “We have many GirlTrekkers who have lost significant amounts of weight and some who report being able to manage their high blood pressure and diabetes better through that commitment to physical exercise.” But, Dixon says that the power of the movement goes beyond the long running story of Black women and girls weight issues. “We are all real women with real needs that are both physical, emotional and social that coming together to walk is helping us meet,” Dixon says.
The GirlTrekkers have also found synergy and inspiration through linking up on social media. “It’s exciting to learn more about what your peers are doing in Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, all over the place by signing in to Facebook or Twitter.” Garrison says. “You may be walking with your best friend in Los Angeles, but it is powerful to know that at that same time, there are women walking on their jobs, around the block at their churches, and out on the high school tracks—following the lessons set by Harriet Tubman.”
More information about GirlTrekkers can be found at www.girltrek.org, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
By Andrea King Collier, Health Power Editor, Freelance Journalist and Author, www.andrea king collier.com