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How GirlTrek Inspired a Love Letter to Black Women

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My interview with GirlTrek is one that has been in the making for a while now—I just didn’t realize it.  My first encounter with them was last year. I was in New Orleans, spending Christmas and ushering in 2016 at the home of my future parents in-law.  I came across GirlTrek’s website while doing research for a health-related post. At the time, I didn’t really pay much attention.

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In New Orleans with Shantrelle

Next, Shoppe Black content contributor extraordinaire, Mavis Gragg, mentioned GirlTrek in one of her recent posts. Then, a few months ago, my fiancées childhood BFF, Jewel, was in town for work. During one of our conversations, I found out that she is actually GirlTrek’s National Director of Communications.

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Jewel

We spoke more about the organization and I was immediately impressed by the impact they are having on the lives of thousands of women across the country. I asked her to please set up an interview with the co-founders, Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison.

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Morgan and Vanessa

Fast forward to my scheduled conference call that took place the day before yesterday. When I called Vanessa, she was grabbing a bite to eat at a Peruvian food spot in DC. We chatted briefly about the difference between DC and Philly before Morgan hopped on the call.

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I began the interview by asking how GirlTrek started. Morgan explained that it started 20 years ago. That’s how long she and Vanessa have been friends. They started walking together and eventually grew a following of 10,000 women.

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Since then, GirlTrek has grown to over 75,00 members. According to Vanessa, the more accurate number is most likely double that since they weren’t really keeping an accurate count in the beginning and several unofficial chapters have since sprung up across the country.

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Both women are deeply concerned with the fact that of the over 20 million Black women in America, 57% are obese and are leading in every obesity-related disease across the country.  According to Morgan, the root cause of obesity and the related diseases is connected to a history of racism and poverty.

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Black women have historically had to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and put everyone before themselves, sometimes neglecting their own health. Now, she says, it’s time for Black women to take that power back and reclaim their health, starting with making the commitment to walk for at least 30 minutes a day.

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I let Morgan and Vanessa know that as a Black man, I feel it’s my responsibility and the responsibility of other Black men to do what we can to ensure the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of Black women.

I asked what ways they feel Black men can support their wives, partners, or relatives who are GirlTrek members. How can we support Black women in general?

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That question seemed to catch them off guard. It was pretty obvious they weren’t expecting to hear that. They thanked me for asking and explained that it is vital that Black women receive support from the Black men in their lives.

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According to Morgan, the best way to be supportive is to create an environment that allows Black women the time for self-care. Another way to be supportive is for Black men to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and financially so that the women in their lives don’t have to do so while trying to figure themselves out.

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Vanessa and Morgan are troubled by the narrative that is being told about Black women. We’ve all heard the negative stereotypes, so no need to get into all that. However, what concerned me was that based on our conversation, there seemed to be a sense that Black men just aren’t here for Black women.

That we are the ones perpetuating a negative narrative associated with Black women. Morgan said that from what she sees in the majority of cases, the only time love or appreciation for one’s partner is expressed, particularly online, is between a Black man and a non-Black woman or a Black woman and her non-Black partner.

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I explained that this is far from the truth. First, I am surrounded by far too many loving, caring, funny and brilliant Black women to subscribe to any type of negative stereotype or narrative about them. Second, my woman and I have absolutely no qualms about expressing our love for each other verbally, physically, or digitally. In fact, we do so regularly and often get playfully teased about it by our friends.

I also explained that I have conversations with my closest friends about how amazing and beautiful Black women are ALL. THE. TIME. Especially about the women that we are dating, engaged to, or are married to. I think one issue is that the negative minority are way louder than the majority of Black men that adore Black women. Maybe they have more time on their hands to be on social media talking nonsense, who knows.

But to be clear:

Dear Black Women,

We see you. We see you in all your glory and greatness. In your high and low moments. We see you because you stand out amongst the crowd. Your magic is undeniable. We see you because we are looking for you wherever we go. Wherever you are is where we want to be. You are our complement and we are yours. Not in a sexual or romantic sense, but universally. We know you were made by the hands of the Creator, and that alone imbues you with a power and a grace unmatched on this Earth.
 

Love,

Black Men

(by TJ Dean)

Click here to watch GirlTrek’s mini-documentary that highlights what happens when women walk. 

 

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

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