This Organization is Helping Black Women Maintain Their Health

GirlTrek is making a difference 30 minutes at a time.
Image via GirlTrek Facebook

Sometimes we all need a reminder that a simple walk around the neighborhood is good for our health, and connects us with our community.

Walk it off

GirlTrek is the largest public health nonprofit that supports African-American women and girls in the United States.

GirlTrek was founded by T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison.

Dixon began thinking of a bare-bones version of the organization while teaching high school history in Atlanta, Georgia in the early 2000s, reports Glamour. While teaching, she discovered the following statistic:

“Half of all black girls in America born after the year 2000 would be diagnosed with Type II diabetes in their lifetime unless a change was made to activity levels,” reports Glamour.

Garrison liked the idea of the organization, but felt that the only way this particular health crisis could be addressed was if Garrison got the girls’ mothers involved on a national level.

Making an organization

When the duo first formed GirlTrek, the organization was essentially a “local hiking club,” reports Glamour. Now, though, the organization has “more than 100,000 participants” who pound “the pavement in chapters across the country,” adds Glamour.

The organization’s overall mission is the following.

“[We will] heal our bodies, inspire our daughters, and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods.”

Taking it to the TED level

Dixon and Garrison eventually transformed their grand idea into a TED talk. The Talk happened in April 2017. It focused on the fact that most healthy living programs are too focused on women getting the “perfect” beach-ready bikini body. In the Talk, the women also focused on how fitness solutions focus on “superficial solutions that ‘dont acknowledge systematic racism’,” explains Garrison.

It just takes 30 minutes

That’s right. The women of GirlTrek only ask that women and girls stick to one 30 minute walk a day.

This seemingly small amount of exercise can do wonders for people and the communities they live in.

“We knew 30 minutes of walking was radical for a woman with two jobs, who has kids, whose husband may or may not be in the home because he may or may not be affected by systemic or racial injustice and violence,” says Garrison.

Thankfully, GirlTrek is planning on expanding their organization’s reach; they’d like to get one million women walking.

“We want to create a new culture of healthy communities, and we need a critical mass,” says Garrison.

Glamour adds that the organization is “targeting the 50 most high-need communities in the rural South and Midwest”. This area is also known as “the obesity belt”; it’s acquired this name because it doesn’t have many healthy food options

The organization also is looking toward the future.

GirlTrek is launching Black Girl Healing; this program will “train women as fitness instructors and nutrition specialists,” adds Glamour. These women will then “lead free classes in parks, healing circles on college campuses, and grocery store walks”.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.