There’s no question that consistent physical activity serves as a pre-cursor to good health. In the African-American community, two women, T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, founders of GirlTrek, were on a mission that African-American women take serious charge of their health.
From girltrek.org, “GirlTrek, is the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. With over 100,000 neighborhood walkers, GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families, and communities. As women organize walking teams, they mobilize community members to support monthly advocacy efforts and lead a civil rights-inspired health movement.”
Ivery Arie met with LaShonda Malrey-Horne, the official GirlTrek Team Leader for Tyler, Texas, known as the Rose City Trekkers. Malrey-Horne discussed how she discovered GirlTrek:
“In 2014, I became interested in starting a running club here in the Tyler area. I launched a Facebook group with efforts to encourage Black women around me to run and jog. Well, that was meet with a big fat HECK NO! A few of my friends would show up and walk while I ran and I kept pushing them. I would send them links to the couch-to-5k program and no one was interested in running. Two years went by, I had my second child, and at night while up with the baby I would browse Facebook and see a post about GirlTrek. I finally looked into it and realized that this is what everyone around me needed. It was simple… walk for 30 minutes, but I soon found out that GirlTrek is so much more than a walking club or a fitness group. On March 31, 2016, I answered the call to become a Team Leader and an official part of the GirlTrek movement. My first walk was the first Saturday in April at the Glass Recreation Center. It was freezing cold and only one woman showed up, my dear friend and Sorority Sister Tonia Bickham.”
With the help of another friend LaTasha Portley, Ms. Malrey-Horne organizes weekly walks during the trek season. The trek season goes from Martin Luther King Day to Black Friday. Trekkers take December and January off to enjoy friends and family and reenergize for the upcoming trek season.
In June, Ms. Malrey-Horne and her team organized an event called the 2018 Wellness Manifesto. The event brought Black women together from all walks of life to make an assertive commitment to their health. Attendees performed yoga, learned about stress management, mental and sexual health, and saw how to incorporate more fruits and veggies in their diet through smoothie recipe demonstrations. One of the headline speakers was Onika Jervis, a major organizer for the national GirlTrek organization. The event was successful and according to Ms. Malrey-Horne, participant feedback from the event was encouraging.
What LaShonda most loves about the GirlTrek movement is that it’s free and that one doesn’t have to have any special skills to be a part of it. She also loves the movement’s passionate leadership. LaShonda says the vision is to see Black Women in the United States become healthy and well.
From the GirlTrek website “Beyond walking, GirlTrek’s active members support local and national policy to increase physical activity through walking, improve access to safe places to walk, protect and reclaim green spaces, and improve the walkability and built environments of 50 high-need communities across the United States.”
To learn more about GirlTrek or become a part of the movement text “TUBMAN” to 22828 or visit http://www.girltrek.org. On the website you can enter your zip code to find the team closest to you, and even the walk happening in your neighborhood. If there isn’t a team nearby you can be a Solo Trekker. Walking and posting on social media using the hashtags #GirlTrek and #SoloTrekker. To see more of the work of LaShonda and her team visit: https://www.facebook.com/RoseCityTrekkers/. According to Malrey-Horne, “We can’t save our families if we don’t save ourselves. If you haven’t taken a walk, make today the day you do!”
-Dr. Chisom Unegbu