Civil rights education and women’s health intersect in GirlTrek’s latest initiative

GirlTrek, an organization that’s focused on improving the health of African American women, is introducing a new initiative to reflect on the activism of those leaders.

The 600,000-member movement encourages black women to walk 30 minutes a day, five times a week, per CDC guidelines, as a way to improve physical and mental health.

And years before the death of George Floyd, GirlTrek was addressing the need for healing and strength within communities, with women at the center.

Starting June 1, GirlTrek kicked off an initiative it’s calling “Black History Boot Camp,” with daily reflections on the activism of African American women throughout history.

“It’s just one of many campaigns that we do to inspire and rally our communities. It’s not going to stop after 21 days,” said Vanessa Garrison, GirlTrek’s co-founder.

The effort may seem prescient, as black women on social media express their fears and frustrations over the treatment of African Americans, not just by police, but by the broader society.

Garrison said there’s strength in what she calls “courageous conversations” and the community that GirlTrek creates.

“Let me tell you, in this time, when the 24-hour news cycle is crushing, it’s just crushing, and our streets feel unsafe, the power of women coming together, you just can’t underestimate that,” Garrison said.

While the coronavirus pandemic — which disproportionately affects African-Americans — halted a number of in-person events, the sharing on social media of virtual walk-alongs has given women a much-needed outlet.

“We’re also talking practically and honestly about our emotions, our feelings, what we’re going through, and we’re sharing tips,” Garrison said.

Despite the headlines of the past week, Garrison said, “there is hope. I am not discouraged in this moment. I am not discouraged by what I see. I do believe that a change is coming and I believe that everybody has a position to play in helping our communities to heal.”

For those who don’t share that sense of hope, who feel alone or isolated, Garrison offered an invitation.

“I would invite people to just lean in. Lean into what is inspiring you right now, and if you don’t have that, come to GirlTrek.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up