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Go Girls! National walking program members trek their way to safer, healthier neighborhoods


 By Kenneth Powers, Neighborhood News Hub, TheWeigh

Pam Granberry of Pontiac has watched her health improve during the past three years. After receiving a kidney transplant and suffering from high blood pressure, she made the commitment to exercise more frequently.

ADnWBAK-I1tCR4Y_h3nF4XKFPa7tITNV277uups6LKAShe considers herself fortunate that she found GirlTrek. Like the cyclers, walkers and joggers who travel many suburban landscapes, this group of women, clad in uniform, light-blue t-shirts, take their combined energy into Detroit neighborhoods weekly. For 30 minutes on Saturdays, GirlTrek members, who include good friends, neighbors, mothers and daughters, walk for fitness and camaraderie.

“I joined GirlTrek because I wanted to live a healthier life,” says Granberry, who no longer needs blood pressure medication. “It was great because I didn’t have to join a gym. The only thing I had to do was get up and walk.”

GirlTrek, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was founded by friends Vanessa Garrison and Morgan Dixon in 2011 to address health issues among black women. The organization has grown from 570 women to 30,000 walkers throughout the nation.

GirlTrek also participates in historical initiatives, such as a walk celebrating the 50th anniversary of the civil right march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., earlier this year. First Lady Michelle Obama has supported the organization.

Chrysantha Norwood, an educator who serves as Detroit’s captain, is calling on women in the city to reclaim their health by walking with her and members like Granberry.

Chrysantha Norwood

Chrysantha Norwood

“Our city is changing,” she says. “You will find more bikers, joggers and runners as a movement for exercise has come to our city. But this movement has not reached the average African American in the city of Detroit.”

The shortage of community recreation centers and access to equipment are among contributing factors, according to some community experts.

Another big reason many Detroit residents don’t walk in their community is a concern about safety issues. Norwood argues walkers can deter criminals by serving as “eyes and ears” of the neighborhood.

“Walking builds community,” she says. “We, as Detroiters, have lost this over the years. In our organization we try to connect with the neighbors, and we feel safe when we walk.”

Granberry has formed many friendships since joining the group and noticed the Pontiac chapter has grown as it helps women with mobility issues to participate. The women also encourage each other by sharing photos of their outings on social media.

“Whenever I don’t feel like walking and I see many of my sisters on Facebook posting their pictures of their walks,” she says. “It motivates me to get up and go.”

– This blog originally appeared in a new publication, The WEIGH/Neighborhood News Hub. Detroit Unspun is a partner in that venture.

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