GirlTrek is building the largest movement of Black women this country has ever seen. Through this report, we invite you to take a look behind the scenes at what it took to scale this movement in 2019â€”the incredible highs and a few soul-crushing lows. In these pages, we will reflect on what we are learning as we grow and what we see on the horizon. We invite you to really experience this report. Find a quiet place, take a 15-minute self-care break and dive in. See the faces. Read the names. Then take a walk afterward and as you walk, imagine the new world of possibilities that is opening up for women and their families with each step that is taken. Know that this is a revolution and you have a front-row seat.
THE HEALTH CRISIS
GIRLTREK IS A SOLUTION
GIRLTREK IN SELMA
2019 YEAR IN REVIEW GirlTrek’s membership more than doubled
on the ground in Selma. GirlTrek’s movement
in size in just one year! It’s official, with 126%
of everyday women continues to do what no
growth in 2019, we are scaling and well on
billionaire-dollar weight loss company or public
our way to one million women walking. Each
health campaign has done. Black women are
week gets better, and in the month of October,
walking and saving their lives. In 2019, more
we averaged 15,000 new members per week-
women started walking at life-saving levels,
-that’s 60,000 Black women who committed
more women lost weight, more women got
to walking 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day
off meds. This is why we work so hard. Black
in just one month. We expect to continue
women need this sacred sisterhood. This
the current trajectory and meet MISSION
movement is changing the health trajectories
ACCOMPLISHED by the end of 2020 thanks
of hundreds of thousands of Black women who
to GirlTrek’s investments in infrastructure and
suffer from preventable diseases and we are
just getting started.
2019 was necessary for scale. We spent the
In the pages that follow you will experience the
first quarter of the year conducting a national
highs and lows of building a movement. We
search for the brightest minds. We were
will walk you through the sometimes tough
intentional about the process and invested
decisions we had to make, take you inside the
hundreds of hours building a talented, world-
big wins highlighted above and share the hard
class team. We hired experts in marketing, in
losses. Throughout, we reflect on the lessons
training, and in organizing, nearly doubling
learned as we scale this movement and build
our staff in four months. With a larger, more
the capacity to support one million women. We
specialized team, we are able to provide the
chose to organize this report based on how we
support needed to sustain engagement and
spent our time and resources. That is, building
deepen our impact beyond 2020.
an infrastructure, brokering partnerships,
This work is not done alone. In 2019 we spent a considerable amount of our time building the right partnerships, raising additional funds to support this work, and cultivating relationships
fundraising, anchoring our work in Selma, and expanding programming. You will still find bright, vibrant photos and compelling stories that put faces and names to this health crisis. Thank you for taking this journey with us.
LOOK AT WHAT WE ACCOMPLISHED TOGETHER The writing of this report cannot keep up with the fire and pace of this movement. By the time you read this, 20,000 more women will have joined the movement.
WOMEN IN THE MOVEMENT
THE HEALTH CRISIS
THE HEALTH CRISIS FACING BLACK WOMEN BODIES TELL STORIES. THEY TELL STORIES OF TRAUMA, STORIES OF TOO MUCH WORK AND NOT ENOUGH REST. THEY CARRY THE WEIGHT OF POVERTY AND ABUSE AND LACK OF OPPORTUNITY.
The Health Crisis
BLACK WOMEN ARE DYING EARLIER AND MORE OFTEN THAN ANY OTHER DEMOGRAPHIC FROM PREVENTABLE DISEASES.
We learned that Black women experience
We’ve shared the statistics with you. But those
common among those with chronic conditions
numbers only tell part of the story. This year we learned that stress was a bigger factor in early death than we ever knew before. We listened to the stories of women in the movement. We read the news stories and the research articles. Black women are exhausted. We’re overworked and undervalued. We’re tired from holding down our household on one income. We’re weary from carrying the weight of unprocessed trauma and other people’s problems. This stress is showing up in our bodies. It shows up as high blood pressure. It shows up as heart disease. A recent study found that Black women are at increased risk
higher rates of depression compared to other groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control, depressive disorders are more such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, conditions that disproportionately affect Black women. Two out of three women in GirlTrek have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition and one out of four have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder. GirlTrek’s programs and campaigns are intentionally focused on Black women’s total well-being—their
1 IN 4
physical health (body) and
WOMEN IN GIRLTREK HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH A DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
led to deep and meaningful
REPORTED WALKING IMPROVED THEIR SYMPTOMS
because we are more likely to experience stressful life events including the death of a loved one, losing a job, and racial discrimination.1 Black women also have limited access to health care, healthy food options and safe green spaces, barriers that contribute to everyday stressors.
Prioritizing well-being over aesthetics or beauty has
for cardiovascular disease
their mental health (mind).
changes in women’s lives. These changes are improving health outcomes for them
and their families. Two thirds of the women in GirlTrek saw an improvement in symptoms from a pre-existing health condition once they started walking and more than half are no longer taking medications. This adds up to fewer doctors’ visits, and nationally, lower health care costs, saving the country billions of dollars annually.
1 Felix, A.S., Lehman, A., Nolan, T.S., Sealy-Jefferson, S., Breathett, K., Hood, D.B., Addison, D., Anderson, C.M., Cené, C.W., Warren, B.J., Jackson, R.D., Williams, K.P. Stress, Resilience, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Among Black Women. Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2019;12: 1-14.
OF WOMEN IN GIRLTREK HAVE EXPERIENCED SOME KIND OF TRAUMA
OF WOMEN NEW TO THE MOVEMENT SAID THEY FELT DOWN, DEPRESSED OR HOPELESS IN THE LAST YEAR
OF WOMEN NEW TO THE MOVEMENT SAID THAT THEY WERE UNUSUALLY TIRED OR HAD LITTLE ENERGY DURING THE DAY IN THE PREVIOUS TWO WEEKS
GIRLTREK IS A SOLUTION
GIRLTREK IS A SOLUTION TO THIS CRISIS WALKING IS A LOW-COST,HIGH-IMPACT INTERVENTION.
GirlTrek is a Solution
TAKING 30 MINUTES A DAY TO WALK GREATLY LOWERS THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE, STROKE, DIABETES AND DEPRESSION. We have created a change model that is
Gwen and Andrea have been testifying about
disrupting the pattern of disease among Black
the benefits of walking. They’re testifying on
women. Using award-winning, culturally
trails, on sidewalks, in churches, at meetings,
relevant marketing campaigns, programming
on the mountaintop. They’re telling the stories
tailored for Black women, online and on the
of weight loss and more mobility, stories of
ground support, and trained walk leaders,
healing and sisterhood.
GirlTrek helps women establish a daily habit of walking. We encourage women to walk 30
Walking is saving their lives.
minutes a day, 5 days a week. Some women
Once women create a habit of walking 30
walk every day. Like Andrea McEachron in
minutes a day, 5 days a week they start doing
Atlanta who has walked every day for the past
yoga and Zumba. They enter 5ks and run
three years and Gwen Ingram from Denver
marathons. They are dancing for fitness and
who has been walking every day since having
jumping rope. They’re becoming certified
a heart attack then stroke last year.
fitness trainers and hike leaders.
When Charlotte Robinson from Mississippi
We are not just measuring results in terms of
joined GirlTrek, the state-wide mortality
weight loss or savings in health care costs.
rate for heart disease was 221.1 per 100,000,
We are seeing a shift in the culture of health-
significantly higher than the national average
-the way Black women see themselves and
mortality rate for all Black women (177.7 per
how they think about health and fitness.
100,000). But Charlotte walked. Day in and day out. Rain. Cold. Sick. And sometimes so late and so dark that her husband walked with her. Charlotte lost 40 pounds, reducing her risk for heart disease. Black women like Charlotte and
Historically, public health campaigns haven’t resonated with Black women. However, GirlTrek has identified what Black women need to start walking, continue walking, and lead their healthiest, most fulfilled lives.
A MOTHER’S WORST FEAR COME TRUE
Arnetta Burrell of St. Louis, Missouri couldn’t
have imagined that just months after
winning a scholarship to attend GirlTrek’s
#StressProtest in Colorado that her 21-year-
to be a
old son Samuel would be murdered in cold
statistic, but in her own words, she was able
blood. Arnetta had already been under
to “walk through the pain” and find purpose
immense stress. She wrote to GirlTrek in
in her tragedy. One year after burying her
2018: “I am a single mother of two teenage
son, Arnetta, empowered by her work as
boys who works two jobs. I lost my father
a GirlTrek organizer, coordinated a walk
in June. My mother attempted suicide three
through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri
weeks later. I lost my brother two years ago.
that included mothers from around the region
I am drowning in work…” Arnetta’s letter
who’d also lost their sons to murder. Arnetta,
came, along with thousands of others from across the country, in response to GirlTrek’s search for the most stressed out woman in America. We’d decided to award ten scholarships to the women with the
St. Louis leads the nation
wearing a GirlTrek skully
in murders per capita (66.1
on an uncharacteristically
murders per 100,000 people
cold day in October, stood
in 2017, according to the FBI) followed by Baltimore,
before the crowd of women
Detroit and New Orleans–all
and told them that they had
cities where GirlTrek has
found their tribe in GirlTrek.
significant presence and growing activity.
That through GirlTrek they could come together to
most compelling stories to join us for the
walk and talk about their grief, and about
#StressProtest. Arnetta was one of the women
the powerful ways that they could unite
chosen. She came to Colorado exhausted
and work together to bring healing to the
but excited and left for home renewed and
streets of their neighborhoods. Arnetta’s
ready to organize on behalf of the movement.
story is not unique. In cities like St. Louis and
Nearly three months later Arnetta would
Baltimore and Detroit, where high crime and
receive the call that her first born son had
murder rates are leaving people hopeless,
been the victim of a homicide. Black women
GirlTrek is bringing hope and real solutions,
are disproportionately impacted by trauma,
giving mother’s tools to talk with each other,
resulting in higher rates of mental and
connect with their children, and make their
physical illnesses and early death. It would
GirlTrek is a Solution
It’s not easy for even the best of scientists to figure out how to get thousands of people to form a habit that could change the course of their health—and especially their cardiovascular health. But Morgan and Vanessa have found a way.
Gary Gibbons, Director of the National Lung and Blood Institute
EDUCATE WOMEN ABOUT THE HEALTH CRISIS Black women are dying earlier and at higher rates than any other group of women. And no
one has been talking about it. Until now. We share the statistics. We tell the stories. We make this movement urgent.
PROGRAMMING TAILORED FOR BLACK WOMEN Walking is the solution. It dramatically reduces the risk of chronic disease and
ACTIVATE A PIPELINE OF HEALTH ACTIVISTS We train women to lead walks in their
improves mental health. And we know what Black women need to get moving, and stay moving.
community and advocate for changes. We draw inspiration from Black history to remind women of the power they hold to change their communities.
SOCIAL COHESION The GirlTrek sisterhood inspires and supports women on their journey, cheering each other on and showing up when a sister is in need. Each woman has made a commitment to her own health and becomes a healthy role model, and accountability partner, for other women.
INFRASTRUCTURE BUILDING THE RIGHT TEAM
WE’VE ALWAYS KNOWN WE COULD MOBILIZE ONE MILLION WOMEN TO WALK.
creating high impact, visually compelling
We knew the health crisis facing Black women
over resumes and screening applicants,
demanded this level of vision. In the years since we started GirlTrek, we’ve experienced tremendous success but we knew in order to scale this movement we needed more boots on the ground. We needed a world-class team of experts who specialize in marketing, in training, in building partnerships, in organizing. In August 2018 we started thinking about the skill sets we needed to get us to one million women by the end of 2020. We held design sessions and spoke with talent experts and trusted advisors like Arbor Brothers in New York City who helped us drill down on the type of staff we needed. We audited our current team’s skill sets to determine where there were gaps and opportunities. We thought about what we wanted our organization to look like and how we would create a cohesive, high functioning team. No one knew what we needed better than we did, so we chose to lead the search ourselves instead of hiring an outside firm. This decision required a major shift in focus in the first quarter of the year. In January, when we returned from our annual sabbatical, we launched a search for the brightest minds in the country. We developed a marketing campaign to find the right people, drawing on our experience
content. As a result, qualified candidates came flooding in. We spent hours pouring designing interview questions and developing a schema of the ideal candidate for each position. Candidates were assessed in oneon-one and group interviews with Morgan and Vanessa, followed by interviews with subject matter experts and members of our board for those we were considering for C-level positions. We made the tough decision to focus the first three months of the year on building our capacity to do this work. We brought thoughtfulness and intention to this process, and in the end, hired the brightest, most skilled team we could find. We hired experts— exceptional women who are smart, passionate and committed to GirlTrek’s mission. Three PhDs, two marketing experts, a tech genius, a labor organizer, three authors of books, two major producers, a former principal, and most powerful, one of our original volunteers (an OG, or Original GirlTrekker) who fought for fair housing in her former day job. With this expanded staff we were able to double our membership and support our members more effectively with engaging walking challenges and on the ground staff support.
OUR TRUE COMPETITORS ARE THE CORPORATE GIANTS MAKING BLACK WOMEN SICK, NOT OTHER HEALTH OR FITNESS ORGANIZATIONS. We knew if we were going to disrupt disease and improve health outcomes for Black women, we needed the same kind of marketing might as the corporate giants. We conducted a non-traditional search, looking mainly outside of the nonprofit sector to attract talent that could make GirlTrek competitive with major corporations and big media entities that are competing for the hearts and minds of Black women. We had to start thinking like a for-profit, and that meant hiring like one. Our first leadership hire came from Big Pharma and two of our leadership hires had strong marketing backgrounds.
THE TALENT NEEDED TO RUN A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME TALENT NEEDED TO BUILD A MOVEMENT. We are movement building, not institution building. We learned that a less traditional management structure and a deeply skilled team of self-starters is required to build a movement. This year we made the mistake of forming internal teams with hierarchical leadership. This resulted in slower performance and dependencies. In the third quarter, we adjusted our model and required every team member to perform in the field. We held each individual accountable to key performance indicators and kept structures for peer support in place. We learned that we needed national staff members who could function in a â€œfrontline formation.â€? This required that each member of the team was qualified to lead all aspects of goals tasked. This is not an organization that grows leaders. With urgency, we find, hire and deploy the most talented to a life-saving mission.
PARTNERSHIPS THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF CORPORATE INVOLVEMENT IN MOVEMENT BUILDING
THIS YEAR WE SPENT A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TIME AND ENERGY BUILDING NEW PARTNERSHIPS THAT SUPPORT GIRLTREK’S MISSION AND DEEPENING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR CURRENT PARTNERS. Over the years GirlTrek has partnered with major outdoor brands like Columbia and REI and worked with training partners like the American Council on Exercise and Sierra Club. Next year Columbia will be a lead partner for our outdoor trip leader training, and REI will sponsor our hike series during the Summer of Selma. We are now brokering partnerships with the retail clothing chain Ashley Stewart and the superstore Walmart. These are big wins, but you should also know that we worked for months on two major partnerships that didn’t work out. We have a strong brand with a membership of more than 370,000 Black women. We understand this demographic and know how
to speak directly to them. Major corporations wanting to market to Black women know this. This year we had five Fortune 500 companies come to us in partnership and we spent no less than three months engaged with them. Two of these partnerships would have been especially huge wins for GirlTrek, helping us quickly get to one million, but we made the decision not to move forward. There were a number of factors that played into our decision in both cases and we share some of the lessons learned.
KNOW YOUR VALUE IN THE MARKET
DETERMINE WHETHER THE POTENTIAL PARTNERSHIP IS VALUES AND BRAND ALIGNED
GET THE CONTRACT SIGNED EARLY
HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE AROUND THE TABLE WHEN YOU’RE NEGOTIATING
KNOW YOUR ROI
HAVE THE END IN MIND
ASSESS THE RESOURCES AND WORKLOAD REQUIRED TO ENGAGE WITH A PARTNER
HAVE A LEGAL TEAM… DETAILS MATTER!
GIRLTREK IN SELMA
GIRLTREK IN SELMA DUE DILIGENCE: LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR 2020
GirlTrek in Selma
IN MAY, AFTER OUR 50-CITY NATIONAL TOUR “ROAD TO SELMA,” WE WENT ON THE GROUND IN SELMA TO CULTIVATE THE RELATIONSHIPS WE’D BUILT LAST YEAR.
community walk and old school block party.
We brought our new team to get rooted in the
Selma we knew has changed, but the people
work and spent time with local changemakers like Ainka Jackson, Executive Director of the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation. We visited The Legacy Museum and walked the land where our ancestors fought and marched and died. We were reminded why we do this work. Why it is urgent. Why it is our
The economic crisis in Selma was palpable as our new team went door-to-door. The city’s majority Black residents are disproportionately affected by poverty and structural racism. The remain resilient and grounded in hope. We now have a groundswell of support in Selma— local politicians, historic Black churches, community leaders, media and everyday Black women from Selma to Montgomery. This visit laid the groundwork for Summer of Selma, the largest mass teach-
in and organizing
Over the three-
Freedom Summer in
day Memorial Day weekend, we hosted a virtual town hall, broadcast from the historic Tabernacle Baptist Church via Facebook LIVE. We shared our plans for the year and discussed the future of Selma on a panel that featured Ainka Jackson, Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas and community organizer Callie Greer. The following day our team, along with volunteers from the community, went canvassing doorto-door, inviting families to join us for a
campaign since 1964. Summer of Selma is a 3-month campaign to mobilize a million women and reclaim the streets of every Black neighborhood in America. We will activate GirlTrek’s energized base of women and train thousands more. We will launch this campaign across the country on March 7, 2020, the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the moment when unarmed freedom fighters marching from Selma to Montgomery were met with billy clubs and tear gas on
the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We will bring Nikki Giovanni and Diane Nash and modern day organizers Tarana Burke, Alicia Garza and Bree Newsome for a panel on the roles Black women have played in resistance movements and the toll that has taken on our physical health. This one-day teach-in and organizer training is designed to inspire a new generation of activists and will be held at Harvard University and broadcast across 100 U.S. college campuses. The day will conclude
There are organizations in Selma who have been doing the work and we wanted to be sure to get the blessing of the community— the elders, the changemakers, the influencers. Historically cities like Selma have been used for PR and marketing opportunities for the benefit of other people. We didn’t want to be perceived that way so we worked on the ground with the people of Selma.
do community organizing and lead advocacy
02 THE OPPORTUNITY WAS GREATER THAN THE FOOTPRINT OF SELMA.
projects throughout the summer of 2020.
Upon visiting Selma, building relationships
with a training that prepares Black women to
After three full months of community organizing, Summer of Selma will conclude in Selma with an epic Woodstock-like celebration that will include a 54-mile relay on the historic freedom trail from Selma to Montgomery and a massive civil rightsinspired concert. GirlTrek and a host of powerful allies is bringing together stakeholders across different sectors to contribute to this mass organizing effort. Imagine the power of a million Black women in their communities leading into the 2020 elections.
together civil rights legends Angela Davis,
01 YOU NEED ALLIES ON THE GROUND.
with local officials and piloting a wellness event on the river underneath the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge, we were deeply inspired—by the story, the people, the need, the legacy. We now understand just how big next summer’s organizing must be. We were compelled to expand the vision. From ground zero in Selma, with significant on the ground service and celebration, we will broadcast the largest teach-in since Freedom Summer. With the help of new partner Ragnar races, will also host a delegation of influential walkers to trace the historic 54-mile trail while giving every American the opportunity to complete their own “Freedom Trek” using Ragnar’s mobile app. As we are having a more feasiblysized concert in Selma, GirlTrek organizers will host block parties countrywide to celebrate MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
SAVING LIVES SAVING LIVES
GIRLTREK IS CHANGING THE HEALTH TRAJECTORIES OF HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF BLACK WOMEN WHO SUFFER FROM PREVENTABLE DISEASES. This movement of everyday women has done what no billionaire-dollar weight loss company or public health campaign has done. Black women are walking and saving their lives. This year we collected key program data
so that when the national team focused on building the organizationâ€™s infrastructure, the movement kept going. Women kept walking. They challenged themselves. They inspired each other and held each other accountable. We saw women lose weight like Courtney Brown in Atlanta who lost 48 pounds and Iresha Picot from Philadelphia who lost 100 pounds. We saw women walk themselves out of depression.
OF WOMEN ARE WALKING MORE THAN THEY WERE IN 2018
OF WOMEN ARE WALKING AT A FASTER PACE THAN THEY WERE IN 2018
OF WOMEN ARE STILL WALKING 5 DAYS/WEEK OR MORE
from new members and surveyed women following each walking challenge to measure behavior change. We also circled back to the women who participated in our 2018 national survey to determine if women had sustained reported activity levels and health outcomes. There were some compelling trends in the data we collected. These trends are the cumulative effect of deep, consistent programming. The groundwork had been laid
OF THOSE TAKING MEDICATION HAVE A LOWER DOSAGE SINCE LAST YEAR
61% OF WOMEN HAVE LOST WEIGHT SINCE LAST YEAR
Weâ€™re seeing positive and consistent progress across all indicators of health including diet changes, increased exercise levels and reduction in prescribed meds. In a survey of women who participated in our national survey last year, we learned that women are still walking at life saving levels.
In addition to reducing or eliminating risk for chronic diseases, many women walking with GirlTrek say walking has improved their mental health, providing greater clarity and peace.
OF WOMEN CONTINUED TO SEE IMPROVEMENT IN SYMPTOMS FROM A PREVIOUS HEALTH CONDITION
This peace has made them sleep better, and the regular physical activity has improved their breathing and given them greater endurance. They can walk longer and faster without getting winded. The sisterhood has provided them with accountability partners and daily motivation to walk, rain or shine. Others report increased self-esteem and selfconfidence since they started walking, and
a greater sense of Black pride seeing Black women walking together and supporting each other. They love feeling connected to something greater than themselves. GirlTrek has shown that when we invest
OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH DEPRESSION SAID WALKING HAS IMPROVED THEIR SYMPTOMS
in holistic interventions that are culturally relevant Black women walk.
CONTINUING TO DO WHAT THEY SAID COULDNâ€™T BE DONE. Our challenges keep women walking. We
Frankye Boone who teamed up with a theatre
announced our first challenge of the season
in Whiteville, North Carolina to promote her
in April, a 10-week walking challenge, the
7:30am Superhero Saturday walks on their
exact challenge Morgan and Vanessa gave
marquis. And women like Kimberly McGinnis
to their friends seven years ago, before
Bonner who had more than a hundred women
there was GirlTrek. Walk 10 weeks straight,
register for her first walk in just two days.
5 days a week, for 30 minutes a day. This year because of our engagement campaigns, women increased their activity levels and saw continued improvement in their health. While we were building our capacity for the work ahead, women across the country rose up. They didnâ€™t wait for us. They continued to organize walks. They organized in church basements. They partnered with local organizations and businesses. They continued to recruit new women to the movement. They see the vision. They know GirlTrek is for them. They know if GirlTrek wins, we all win. This is the way we wanted to build this
movement, the only way movements live
SUPERHERO SATURDAYS ORGANIZER
beyond the moments that created them. We are co-creating the future with women like Maleika Walker in Los Angeles who has already gotten 75 women (and counting) to take the pledge and walk. Women like
PARTICIPATION IN THE
GIRLTREK CHALLENGE BEFORE CHALLENGE
WALKING 5 DAYS/WEEK
WALKING 5 DAYS/WEEK
THATâ€™S 97% GROWTH IN BEHAVIOR CHANGE
OF WOMEN REPORTED THAT THEY WOULD MAINTAIN OR INCREASE THEIR WALKING LEVELS ONCE THE CHALLENGE ENDED
2 OUT OF 3 WOMEN PARTICIPATED IN MORE THAN ONE CHALLENGE
ACTIVATING NEW MEMBERS NEARLY HALF OF THE WOMEN HAD BEEN WALKING WITH GIRLTREK FOR LESS THAN A YEAR
GirlTrekâ€™s model recognizes that Black women are highly effective influencers, leaders, breadwinners, and advocates for themselves and their communities.
IT WAS DIVINE TIMING KIMBERLY MCGINNIS BONNER SAYS ABOUT ORGANIZING HER FIRST GIRLTREK WALK. She’d watched the TED talk, saw the CNN
International Friendship Park. “Cincinnati
story, and put GirlTrek on her list of things to
was ready. They’ve been waiting,” Kimberly
do. Then she waited for somebody to organize
says of the response to the walk. “I created
a walk in her hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio.
a GirlTrek Cincinnati page, shared the page
No one did. Then one day, after talking to
with my people and asked my people to keep
a woman who had her own walking group
sharing it. And that’s how we got there. It was
but was having trouble building momentum,
all Facebook. I hadn’t created a Twitter or
yet… I said, if you
can’t come, share
needs to get on
the information, if
the map and get
you’d like to come in
started,” Carla, our
the future, like the
page and become a
Manager, told her.
member of the group.
That was it. That’s
If you know Black
all Kimberly needed
women and girls,
to hear. When she got off the phone, she
share the message. I had my white friends
went straight to GirlTrek’s website, took the
sharing the message, I had male friends
pledge and picked a date for Cincinnati’s
sharing the message. It got to the point where
first organized walk—June 29. Kimberly got
they were like here’s Kim again with that
to work immediately spreading the word on
message.” This is what civil rights activist
Facebook, posting about the walk 2-3 times
Ella Baker meant when she used the word
a day on average. Within two days, more
“leaderfull.” Movements are not sustained
than 100 women had registered for the walk
solely by a charismatic leader, but by a
in Downtown Cincinnati at the Ted M. Barry
powerful and collaborative network of leaders.
01 THE REVOLUTION WON’T WAIT. While the national team was focused on building infrastructure, volunteers in the field kept programming going. They stood in the gap. They continued to lead. This is what a movement for the people, by the people looks like. No one needs permission. Because we all own the movement. This has meant rethinking how we approach programming. What do women need from us? How do we engage women in solution-making?
02 YOU CAN’T SACRIFICE INSPIRATION FOR SYSTEMS This year one of our goals was to takeover 1,000 neighborhoods with weekly walks led by trained walk leaders. In July, we piloted the curriculum and implementation model for our Neighborhood Captain program. While the content was there, the training did not have the signature GirlTrek feel. Vanessa and Morgan weren’t directly involved and they bring the energy and inspiration that members know and love. “We were still focused on building infrastructure and raising money and we should have been the faces of the training, so we don’t lose that feel,” says Morgan. Where we had started to build stronger systems, we lost
some of the GirlTrek experience. The question is, how do we scale and keep that signature feel. We realized that we cannot take our eye off the ball on what matters— relationships. The heart of GirlTrek is the sisterhood and we became too transactional in our training process. Morgan and Vanessa have since started “Walk and Talks” with organizers every week because it’s important that they stay close to the field.
03 TOP-DOWN NEVER WORKS IN MOVEMENTS We tried a different approach to training this year. We created tough criteria for the ideal organizer, conducted a direct recruitment and selection process, and conducted a rigorous multi-week training. It didn’t work and was not scalable. We needed 1,000 new parks programmed and we only succeeded at taking 253 women through this laborious process, and only 105 of them succeeded at programming their local park. We reflected as a team and remembered that movement building requires that we trust the expertise of the women we serve. We should have identified stars in the field, and elevated and crowned those stars with authority, providing every resource they needed— supplies, open-sources training, technical support. This distributed leadership model is classic—it’s what made GirlTrek thrive in early years.
CHANGING THE FACE OF THE OUTDOORS GirlTrek is writing Black women into narratives
“that was it! I was hooked!” This year she
that have ignored or outright excluded us.
decided to challenge herself even more—
Because we didn’t see Black faces hiking or
she hiked the mountains in Juneau, Alaska,
camping, many Black women didn’t think
an experience she referred to as the best
we belonged in those spaces—that the
adventure of her life. This year, in partnership
outdoors was for white people. But GirlTrek
with the Sierra Club, REI and Outdoor Voices,
is reclaiming the great outdoors, a space
we trained 28 hike leaders who have led
that our ancestors have always used for our
hikes with Black women and girls all over the
healing. Our hike series and annual three-day
country. On Labor Day weekend, we brought
self-care retreat in the Rocky Mountains, the
the largest group of Black women ever to
#StressProtest, introduces Black women to
any national park with our annual self-care
the adventure and beauty of the outdoors.
retreat #StressProtest. In November, our new
Like 64-year-old Cynthia Griffin Jackson of
Adventure Squad led hikes on National Take
Mississippi who hiked for the first time at
a Hike Day and will do so again next year on
#StressProtest two years ago. “I remember
National Trails Day in June. Siobhan Ollivierre,
hiking up Bible Point. The views that I saw
an organizer in Harlem and a new member of
were breathtaking… There were emotions
the Adventure Squad, led a hike on the John
that I remember to this day.” Last year Cynthia
Muir Nature Trail in the Bronx for National
hiked an even more challenging trail, and
Take a Hike Day.
SIOBHAN FROM HARLEM Two women, strangers, showed up to the first walk Siobhan Ollivierre organized. “It was freezing,” she remembers of that cold March morning, but the three women walked two miles. Siobhan never thought to organize more walks, but as they finished up their last lap around the track, the women told Siobhan, “If you organize these walks, we’ll come.” That was three years ago. Siobhan is now one of GirlTrek’s most active organizers and this summer became a Neighborhood Captain, leading walks every Saturday at Central Park North, not far from her Harlem apartment. When she learned about GirlTrek’s hike leader training, she was excited. “I want
HARLEM, NEW YORK
to do it all. I love GirlTrek.” After an “intense” two-month training this summer, Siobhan became a certified hike leader, leading her first hike during GirlTrek’s three-day selfcare retreat in the Rocky Mountains. Before her first hike, she completed a practice hike in Central Park. “That was an exhilarating experience to lead four women to this hidden treasure in New York City. We slowed down and literally smelled the flowers.” The training ignited a love of nature, Siobhan says. She is excited to share the beauty of New York’s parks with the women of GirlTrek. “This year I really wanted to become a hike leader, and that accomplishment makes me feel so good… it has changed how I see myself… that
FOR MANY WOMEN IN GIRLTREK WALKING IS THEIR SANCTUARY. IT IS WHERE THEY CONNECT WITH NATURE, WHERE THEY GET GROUNDED. HIKING ON A TRAIL, THEY TAKE A MOMENT TO BE QUIET AND TAKE IT ALL IN.
what I’m doing is making a difference in my community.”
REACH REACHING THE MASSES: A NARRATIVE OF BLACK JOY AND RESISTANCE
THIS YEAR WE INNOVATED.
We piloted GirlTrek TV, a weekly live talk show that streamed across GirlTrek’s social media channels, reached a new demographic, and took our message to the world stage, all in an effort to continue spreading the news of Black joy and rest as resistance.
38M SOCIAL MEDIA READ OF #GIRLTREK IN 2019
58+ NATIONAL AND REGIONAL NEWS STORIES
8.7M IMPRESSIONS OF THE EVENT HASHTAG #STRESSPROTEST ON TWITTER
LEADING THE CONVERSATION ON BLACK WOMEN’S HEALTH. GirlTrek is taking our inspiring narrative and incredible stories to spaces across the United States and internationally that have traditionally been closed to Black women and their voices.
THEY ARE CLAIMING BACK WHAT THE WOMEN BEFORE THEM SACRIFICED. “Everything about today’s world is telling us we have to go to war using tools men have taught us,” Morgan said. “No. They must be tools of our own divine feminine power.” Their message was clear: let your bones talk; connect to something greater than you; pray without ceasing; call the greatest part of you love.
Omega’s Women & Power Conference Rhinebeck, NY
2019 Featured Appearances
Skoll World Forum Oxford, England
Ashoka: Global Arab World Summit - Egypt
Nationswell Summit New York, NY
OUR PARTNERS TRAINING PARTNERS American Council on Exercise Stanford University
American Diabetes Association Susan G. Komen Orrick
National Council for Behavioral Health
National Philanthropic Trust
National Park Service Luvo
STRATEGIC PARTNERS Echoing Green Aspen Institute Arbor Brothers Teach for America
TED BET CNN Essence SELF Magazine Outside Magazine Womenâ€™s Magazine
O, Oprah Winfrey Magazine
Xavier University Duke University Global Digital Health Science Center Neighbor Works America Bridgespan Group REI Columbia Sportswear Lane Bryant Ascena Retail Group
Clanell Foundation Hope and Grace Dalio Foundation Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
FELLOWSHIPS Harvard University Kennedy School Social Innovation + Change Initiative, Beck Visiting Social Innovators
Philosophy Patagonia Kaiser Permanente American Heart Association
LOOKING AHEAD GIRLTREK BEYOND ONE MILLION
GIRLTREK GOES GLOBAL The movement has gone global! We are also mobilizing women in other countries. There are millions of Black women in the African diaspora who face many of the same health issues as Black women in the United States, and for many of the same reasons. This year we trained women in Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, and Rwanda how to organize GirlTrek teams
GIRLTREK MOVES INTO CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MASS INCARCERATION
in their cities and they are thriving.
One third of the 231,000 women and girls incarcerated in Americaâ€™s prisons and jails are Black. Research has found that contact with the criminal justice system increases
GIRLTREK DIVERSIFIES THE OUTDOORS
womenâ€™s stress levels and chronic stress is
We will continue to scale our hike leader
linked to higher incidences of heart disease in
training, doubling the number of certified hike
Black women. GirlTrek addresses the distinct
leaders in 2020. We will launch a hike series
stressors Black women face. We will leave no
as part of Summer of Selma where our new
woman behind in this movement. This year we
hike leaders will lead hikes across the country.
visited women in a Washington, DC jail. This
More hike leaders will increase access to the
visit is the first of many in our effort to engage
great outdoors for Black women and girls and
and mobilize women in prisons and jails
diversify a space that has long been white and
across the country.
GIRLTREK BUILDS AN ADVOCACY AGENDA Black women are the most civically engaged constituency in the United States and yet are rarely consulted on issues that impact their lives. GirlTrek plans to change that. We are building an advocacy agenda informed by the work that we are doing with hundreds of thousands of Black women on the ground. That advocacy agenda will eliminate barriers to health for Black women and generations of their families to come. 2020 will be a powerful political year and a pivotal first year of this advocacy work. Our goal is to mobilize our active base to go to the polls and vote their interests. This work will include mobilizing college-age women on campuses across America through our Summer of Selma organizing efforts. Weâ€™ve done it before with our Black Girl Justice League where Black women led walking caravans to the polls and weâ€™ll do it again bigger and better.
Dear supporters, friends and sisters on the frontlines, Thank you. There are some years that ask questions, some that answer, and this one, that deeply challenged us. And through it all--the public failures, wacky partnerships, weeks of staffing interviews, door-todoor canvassing in the high-noon heat of the south, the awkward news stories and clunky tech rollouts-you were there, sneakers on. Ready to push through. Sending “you got this!” emails, forgiving deadlines, doubling down on support--extending grace. And when we were tired, you got in the trenches with us this year. Like our friends at Arbor Brothers who rolled up their sleeves to help with the talent search, like Councilwoman Jannie Thompson of Selma who refereed a BINGO game at the GirlTrek block party or Rita Johnson-Greene, our board treasurer who organized her own family to do a holiday 5K. The moment we dared let up, all we had to do was look on WhatsApp, where a trailblazing new cohort of organizers in Africa, trained directly by us, were sending photos, victory dance videos and lessons to one another. This movement is so much brighter and impactful than we ever dreamed. From teaching breathing techniques to women in the DC Correctional facilities this year to leading a Civil Rights era-inspired sing-a-long at the Women and Power Summit at Omega, one thing is certain--GirlTrek is inspiring women and changing America. And that can’t happen--it won’t--without your love, your continued support, your absolute faith that community still matters, that everyday people can move mountains, that we have everything we’ve ever needed and that there’s no such thing as an intractable problem. Thank you for continuing to believe everyone… and get your 2020 party hat ready for a million walking!!! Sincerely, Morgan and Vanessa