Vanessa Garrison & T. Morgan Dixon
Vanessa and Morgan are two friends who met in college nearly 20 years ago. Both have experienced the health crisis in the African-American community up close and personal. From humble roots, both also understand the sacrifice and determination required to overcome poverty and to reclaim a deep sense of health and happiness. As leaders of the largest health movement dedicated to African-American women and girls, Vanessa and Morgan work every day to reach women at their point of need by encouraging them to take a practical, inspiring first step forward.
Their work began as a simple conversation about improving their own health and the health of the women they loved. They knew that 2/3 of African-American women engaged in little or no leisure time physical activity and that 80 percent were over a healthy body weight. They also knew that African-American women were socialized to prioritize service over self-care and that the barriers to health extended to pressing issues around access, safety and environment.
In searching for a solution, Vanessa and Morgan turned to their history. What had been effective in mobilizing people for change? The examples were everywhere, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Harriet Tubman’s personal liberation story. Walking was a powerful tool for change. Walking also happened to be the single most powerful thing a woman could do for her personal health.
From that intersection, GirlTrek was born.
In just four years, GirlTrek has mobilized more than 75,000 African-American women to commit to and practice a daily habit of walking. Recently featured as a model of success by the U.S. Surgeon General and the Stanford Social Innovation Review, GirlTrek promotes walking as a low-cost, high-impact intervention that meets women at their point of need, engages stakeholders in solution-making and creates a pipeline of skilled volunteers to lead walks in neighborhoods and public parks, in addition to establishing new norms for physical activity through award-winning and culturally relevant marketing campaigns.
GirlTrek has positioned itself as the primary voice for walking and walkability with a focus on vulnerable communities and populations. As a thought-leader in the movement, GirlTrek is using its national platform to advance an advocacy agenda to promote safer, local infrastructure (more walkable streets and parks) in African-American communities. By the year 2018, GirlTrek’s mission is to mobilize 1 million African-American women and girls to power its walking revolution.
For Vanessa and Morgan, the success of GirlTrek is a testament to the historical power of walking to bring women together in common cause and the power women to be changemakers in their communities.
For more information, visit www.girltrek.org. Find GirlTrek on social media: @GirlTrek on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.