GirlTrek to walk 100 miles along Underground Railroad March 6-10

March 3, 2018

In honor of Harriet Tubman, the greatest freedom fighter ever, GirlTrek, the largest national public health nonprofit and movement for black women and girls, will follow in her footsteps – literally. The entire national team will start off from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where Harriet Tubman made her first escape, and walk the path she took to freedom.

The team of 10 black women will follow Harriet's Great Escape, the ultimate 100-mile trek along the Underground Railroad. The journey will begin Tuesday, March 6, and culminate with GirlTrek crossing the Mason-Dixon Line into Delaware Saturday, March 10, Harriet Tubman Day. A public celebration will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Tubman Garrett Riverfront Park, 815 Justison St. in Wilmington.

The GirlTrek national team includes co-founders Vanessa Garrison of Seattle, currently living in Washington, D.C.; and T. Morgan Dixon of Sacramento, Calif.; as well as Jewel Bush of New Orleans; Onika Jervis, originally of Guyana, currently living in New Orleans; Chyna Johnson of Columbus, Ohio; Carla Harris of Atlanta; Sandria Washington of Chicago; Nicole Hubb of Prince George's County, Md.; Opa Johnson of Miami; and Edisha Brandy from Haven, Conn., by way of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"We realized that we can't just talk the talk. We will show and prove that 2018 is about radical courage and unshakeable sisterhood," said Dixon. "We're walking the Underground Railroad. To reach 1 million black women by 2020, we knew we needed to be even bolder and hold this unprecedented trek. Harriet Tubman saved her own life first and then went back time after time to save the lives of others, giving us the blueprint for the work GirlTrek does today. This is radical self-care at its core."

Since 2013, the 100-year anniversary of Harriet Tubman's passing, GirlTrek has recognized Tubman each year by mobilizing thousands of black women from across the country to walk in her honor in the largest moving tribute, #WeAreHarriet.

Coming on the heels of Black History Month and squarely in the middle of Women's History Month, this Underground Railroad crossing is monumental. There is a health crisis in America, and black women and girls are among the hardest hit. Every day, 137 black women die from heart disease. This is more than gun violence, HIV/AIDS and smoking combined. And the effects of chronic stress are wearing on black women mentally, physically and spiritually. Black women die younger and at higher rates than any other group of women in the country: 82 percent of black women are currently overweight, 53 percent are morbidly obese (CDC, 2014), and 95 percent of black girls ages 6-11 will be overweight or obese women by 2034 unless diet and levels of activity change. (Garko, Michael, The Journal of Obesity, 2013).

"The reality is black women and girls are living under trying circumstances. Many of us live in communities that are under extreme stress, whether it be from crime, lack of a living wage, blight or gentrification, and the current political climate is only making matters worse," said Garrison. "Now, it is even more important that GirlTrek works to re-establish walking as a healing tradition. We believe that, as women, we are going to have to also liberate, one, ourselves, and then come back and be examples and liberate our family. And one of the things we say is that, if Harriet Tubman could walk herself to freedom, we can certainly walk ourselves to better health."

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