Published on March 9th, 2018 | by Inspirations with Liz Black

Woman’s History Month – Harriet Tubman Honored by Black Women with 100-Mile trek

Harriet Tubman’s great escapes and numerous comebacks have been reimagined, as the path she set is being fortified by Black women this weekend. Harriet Tubman’s mission of freedom still reverberates in 2018 with GirlTrek, an organization dedicated to the health of Black women and girls. During a 5 day, 100-mile trek that retraces Tubman’s course to freedom, the 10-woman GirlTrek national team have been documenting their journey through social media with the hashtag #HarrietsGreatEscape. The journey began on March 6th along Tubman Byway in Dorchester County Maryland. On their first day, they trekked more than 22 miles.

Founded in 2010 by friends and co-founders T. Morris Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, the group advocates and provides a space for Black women and girls to engage in a simple, yet radical act of healing – walking. In March of 1990, Congress designated March 10th as “Harriet Tubman Day” and although it was not widely celebrated, Dixon and Garrison sought to change that. Across the U.S. each spring, branches of the organization engage in a 10 week walking campaign which has had dynamic effects on both the women and the communities they walk in. With a goal of walking for 30 minutes per session, the results have been a spiritual, physical and social transformation. Along the way they have found a lack of greenspaces and abandoned building to which the group has both advocated for via local governments and purchased.

The organization supports a collective, a sisterhood that is about liberation through walking for better health outcomes. “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,” adds GirlTrek cofounder, Vanessa Garrison. “Now, it is even more important that GirlTrek works to reestablish 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.”

Just as Tubman let purpose inform her movements, Dixon and Garrison do the same with Girltrek. “We knew 30 minutes of walking was radical for a woman with two jobs, who has kids, whose husband may or may not be in the home because he may or may not be affected by systemic or racial injustice and violence,” Garrison says.

Serving as a mode to healing, the walks help Black women to gain the physical and spiritual strength to cross life’s bridges. Dixon says “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.”

“Thirty minutes in the sun feels like a recharging,” Dixon says. “It’s reclaiming your time, like Maxine Waters says. You can create your own rhythm and connect with your community in an no-pressure way.” Dixon and Garrison both cite the Civil Rights Movement and the march from Selma to Montgomery as inspirations. Because, as they say, “When black women walk, things change.”

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