Although many people dread exercising, Cheryl Waters, a published author and 20-year educator, says that GirlTrek reminds her to think radically and outside of the box when it comes to taking care of her health first.
According to their website, GirlTrek is a movement that aims to advocate healthy actions within black women and girls’ lives. This movement is supported by civil rights acts, health advocacy, walking campaigns, and community leadership.
According to Waters, women and girls who are involved walk the streets of certain communities to heal their bodies, reclaim the neighborhoods and inspire the youth.
GirlTrek was founded in 2010 by two college women, Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, who shared a passion for “radical acts of self-care,” and the movement took off from there.
They began by getting their friends and relatives to join them on walks. Dixon than began to see a deeper meaning and vision for this movement.
“Something happened when I started to walk. The pace of the world slowed down. I started to heal. I became more aware of my body, more aware of the world around me. When I walked I felt transported,” Dixon said.
According to their website, 51 cities have a Facebook group page to fulfill the dreams of this movement.
According to Waters, GirlTrek is on a mission to have one million women walking by 2020.
“It’s a national movement and the largest public health nonprofit for African- American women and girls with more than 168,000 walkers,” Waters said.
Waters has been a GirlTrek Organizer for the community in Durham for a little over a year. Her group is called the Durham Sisters United.
It’s important to the ladies of Durham’s GirlTrek group that they advocate women being change agents in their lives. They have pledged to practice self-care, self-love and to walk at least 30 minutes every day.
“I believe that it is very important to practice self-care and self-love by taking care of ourselves first,” Waters said. “After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is very important to all of us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and nutritionally. We have to be mindful of what we are putting into our bodies.”
GirlTrek ladies also lead a civil rights-inspired movement. They honor African- American heroic women, such as Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer.
“We can’t fill their shoes but we walk in their footsteps,” Waters said.
Waters says that walking is beneficial because it helps combat illnesses that are consistent in black women such as diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
Although exercise is an activity that positively influences an individual’s physical, mental, emotional, and psychological health. In the black community, it is sometimes frowned upon.
“It was hard for me to work out in comfortable spaces and with a good support system nowdays. In the black community, being healthy isn’t as important as it should be,” said Diamond Sims, a NCED resident who has participated in the Charlotte GirlTrek group before.
“GirlTrek means this to me, sisterhood, sharing, caring, love, empowerment, activism, encouragement, and saving lives. Unapologetically,” Waters says.
“I chose to lead because I share Girltrek’s belief that African-American women should do everything possible to take better care of ourselves. I watch African- American women take care of so many other things, in various ways daily, but many times neglect to take care of themselves,” Waters said.
Waters is now not afraid to say No! Today GirlTrek has helped her freely use her voice to advocate for herself and her well-being.
Sims says that she believes GirlTrek has given her a lot more accountability and many more workout partners and life partners who eventually turn into sisterhood.
“It’s been an amazing,” she said.
GirlTrek is a movement that opens doors that don’t lead to just a healthy lifestyle.
Waters recalls being invited to speak at an event about GirlTrek. There she was able to emphasize the benefits of participating in events that shine a spotlight on healthy lifestyles.
“As we walk in our communities with our blue superhero GirlTrek shirts on, we are able to talk to women and girls that we meet along the way about the benefits of walking and joining,” Waters said.
If you’re interested in living a healthier lifestyle, building bonds with other women, practicing civil rights, and giving back to the community, then check out GirlTrek on their website, www.girltrek.org.
Facebook: Girltrek: Durham Sisters United https://www.facebook.com/GirlTrekDurhamSistersUnitedRidgefield/