I was doing a little research on Tracey McQuirter’s new book By Any Greens Necessary, which I am hoping to buy, read, and review for the blog when her site sent me to GirlTrek. Both book and Trek are targeted to African American women/Girls and health but are separate people and/or organizations.
(for those worried abt fatphobia scroll to minute 5:24 but then watch whole thing)
The GirlTrek Challenge is an online community which requires a minimum commitment but offers any number of ways to become involved with other African American women around the United States who are participating in the challenge. The basic idea is to encourage African American women to reclaim public spaces and control over their bodies as healthy spaces by:
- walking 30 minutes a day for 3 months starting on Easter Sunday (April 4)
- The challenge can be completed on your own, with a group of friends, or by establishing a GirlTrek group in your community (which can be made up of young women or women of any age)
- uploading pictures of your treks and/or your troupes to the website
The flexibility of the challenge is perfect for both people new to exercise or walking and those who have much more active lives. Many of the people featured and/or participating in the challenge have weight issues and from what I can see, the discourse of health on the site is body positive versus fatphobic. In other words, while the focus is on getting out and getting healthy, there are no judgments about body size or which bodies are healthy bodies. And while most people talking health these days are coming at it from a place of harsh judgment and stereotype (Susan Powter I am talking to you, espec since you tied your fatphobia up in a big racist bow w/ your NAFUAA madness) and their talk has created a lasting discourse of blame and shame, we can talk about being healthy without buying into that discourse.
More than that, the challenge also focuses on the mind, encouraging participants to see their commitment as “mini-adventures” or “mini-travels” in which they:
- discover new areas of their town, new green spaces, or reclaim their own right to walk in their own neighborhoods
- see mobility as a first step to activism – inspiring by doing & hopefully building the confidence to engage others as they walk
- pool knowledge and triumphs with the online community and/or their own communities
For the more competitive among you, GirlTrek also has some competitions including:
- $100 spa gift certificate for most minutes walked (requires syncing you ipod to Nike fit – which I personally have major concerns about b/c information about your physical activity and health are digitized and sent across a network beyond your control)
- T-shirts for most dedicated Trekkers
- $100 spa certificate for best victory story (the tale of your trek)
- itunes gift certificates for best photos and/or trekking play lists
In many ways, GirlTrek is another basic fitness initiative that just wants to encourage people to get moving, like those you may have at work or your place of worship (if you have a communal place of worship). At the same time, unlike those initiatives, this one was created by and for women of color to address our specific needs. Its emphasis on black women and girls also provides a culturally specific supportive environment that is often lacking in other exercise efforts and may be particularly wanted and needed by black women living outside of cities with large black communities. It’s celebration of black female bodies in all their forms, through pics and stories, while focused on health and losing weight, is also encouraging to thick women who are often inundated with images of slovenly fat girls vs. happy thin ones. Not only is this fatphobia that impacts all women but it is especially out of touch with the visions of beauty and health that exist within communities of color. So, having a place that includes encouraging and positive images of thick women in the discourse of health seems like a great thing.
Once you sign up, there are several ways to keep connected with others online:
- facebook (no I am not linking there)
- twitter: @GirlTrek (no you don’t have to join twitter to follow them)
- Girl Trek Blog (which focuses specifically on GirlTrek stories)
- Our Health Blog (which talks about black female centered health news)
I am participating in the challenge myself and will be including my stories of walking on the blog each Friday as part of my new commitment to featuring “healthy Info” on Fridays, which will include my walking recaps, food porn (pics of veg recipes), and spiritual talk (yes that’s right I’m Catholic, you know this, and you still like me and read the feminist and social justice talk on this blog, don’t stop now).
My excitement about this project is mostly about how it seems to be the right thing at the right moment for me, and how it may inspire black women who want to get outside and get active with minimal or more interaction with others. Please feel free to weigh in here in the comments regardless of what you think about the project. And hear is to living healthy and happy lives in your own bodies and knowing that both they and you are beautiful no matter what size you are.