A health initiative that started 10 years ago with the goal of improving the wellbeing of Black women has now reached one million Black women who have pledged to make lifestyle changes, GirlTrek announced in a statement to Blavity on Thursday.
"GirlTrek, the largest health movement and nonprofit for Black women in the United States, is celebrating mobilizing one million Black women to use radical self-care and walking as the first practical step to leading healthier, more fulfilled lives," the organization said. "We have reached our landmark goal -- 10 years in the making."
Members have been proving their commitment to better health in the past decade, embarking on trips to national parks, exercising along trails and enjoying hikes in the mountains.
"That’s one million Black women saying 'yes' to healing -- one million Black women embracing joy, health and pleasure. That’s one million Black women leading change in their neighborhoods and communities," GirlTrek stated. "That’s 1 million Black women transforming the world into a place where Black Girl Magic reigns supreme and wellness is the standard."
Jaida Vaught, GirlTrek chief of marketing and strategic partnerships, said the one millionth Black woman took the pledge on Thursday. Vaught thanked the advocates who worked with the organization since it launched and helped in making it possible to reach its latest milestone.
“A special thank you goes out to the OGs -- to the women who rocked with GirlTrek from the very beginning -- when the shirts were teal instead of superhero blue," Vaught said. "They showed up with their clipboards, buttons and homemade posters to spread the word. They showed up outside of grocery stores, after Sunday services and set up tables at events from Seattle, Washington, to Jackson, Mississippi, and from Oakland, California, to Memphis, Tennessee."
Two friends, T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, started the organization as an email walking challenge among a few people. The initiative then expanded into a nationwide movement, inspiring health transformation for Black women.
According to the organization's data from 2019, 26% of the GirlTrek members reported taking less medication after committing to a daily walking practice. The data also showed that 61% of the women lost weight since the previous year after making the pledge and 40% of women continued to see improvement in symptoms from an existing health condition. In addition, 98% of those who have been diagnosed with depression said walking has improved their symptoms.
The free program, which starts with members taking the pledge at GirlTrek.org, asks the women to dedicate 30 minutes a day to self-care.
As Blavity previously reported, GirlTrek concluded its #BlackHistoryBootcamp last month, closing out the event with The Prayer Edition. According to the organization, the nine-day initiative aimed “to cover the streets of America in prayer and to celebrate 21 spiritual warriors who inspire us to keep the faith and act right in perilous times."
Prior to The Prayer Edition, GirlTrek hosted the Acts of Resistance edition, which honored iconic Black women such as Audre Lorde, Shirley Chisholm, Georgia Gilmore and Nina Simone. More than 100,000 people joined the #BlackHistoryBootcamp, which was the organization’s most successful walking event.
According to the Global Wellness Summit, Black women entrepreneurs have been transforming the wellness industry in recent years, reversing a market which often targets young and thin white women. Some Black women have organized yoga classes, while others have been leading wellness retreats or launching inclusive cosmetic lines and brands to reflect a wide spectrum of skin tones.
Black Girl In Om, a multidimensional wellness brand based in Chicago, has been one of the leaders in the wellness industry. The company aims to “create space for women of color to breathe easy," arranging self-care classes and health workshops, as well as an online publication and podcast to promote wellness.
As Blavity previously reported, there is also a program known as Black Girls Run, which coordinates running events all over the U.S.
“I really consider BGR to be the pioneer of getting African American women in the race, endurance events,” CEO Jay Ell Alexander said. “We want to continue trying to lower African American women from almost every chronic disease that you can think of, from breast cancer to heart disease and so forth. We just want to continue to lower those statistics and move the needle, in terms of making our community healthier.”
Vaught said organizations such as GirlTrek remind Black women that they are not alone.
“Too often, when Black women speak, we are hushed and made to feel like our words are inferior, like our dreams are intangible, like our lives are unworthy. Far too often, we go unseen, overlooked, unappreciated and unsupported -- our lives at risk,” she said. “GirlTrek has always been grassroots. Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and relying on one another. Reaching back to grab our sisters. Recognizing we have the solution. It happened. We made history.”