I was recently contacted by a reporter whose editor had heard about the #GirlTrek :Hello Haughville group that I started and wanted to interview me. Below is the very nicely written article that was the result.
Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 12:24 pm
HAUGHVILLE — Denise Smith has lived in the Haughville neighborhood for 21 years. She also walks at least 50 miles a week, belongs to the Speedway Running Club (as a walking member) and regularly meets friends in Avon for walking outings there.
As Smith checked message boards for one of her groups, she began seeing “#GirlTrek” more and more often. She did some research and decided to start her own Girl Trek group in the Haughville neighborhood.
“I heard about Girl Trek and at first I was just going to do it as a solo person,” Smith said. “But then I thought, ‘Let’s just create a team.’”
By May of 2015, more than 35,000 walkers across the United States had signed the Girl Trek Pledge: “To lace up our sneakers and walk each day as a declaration of self-care; To heal our bodies, inspire our daughters and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods; To re-establish walking as a healing tradition in black communities as tribute to the women who walked before us; and to create a health movement organized by volunteers across America to inspire one million by 2018.”
“I officially started the walks in January, so it’s still small,” Smith said. “And everyone and anyone is welcome.”
Smith walks from her home to the Haughville Library at 9 a.m. each Saturday to meet anyone who shows up for the 9:10 a.m. walk.
“I walk a lot anyway,” Smith said. “I walk different places different days, and I figured people might as well join me. I’m normally a solo person, so it was a big step for me to do something with a group. But I decided I like it. But then I don’t always walk with a group now either. I get my long walks in by myself. I get my fast walks in by myself.”
Smith has mapped out routes for her #GirlTrek Saturday mornings. There are four walks from which to choose that range from a half mile to two miles.
“I’ve walked each of these routes myself to make sure that the sidewalks are in good shape and that people will feel safe where they’re at,” she said. “I’ve also taken a safety class from the police department, and I like to stop and speak to people. For one thing I want to be friendly, and for another it’s a way to combat an issue — to look at somebody in the eye and speak to them.”
Girl Trek, a 3-year-old non-profit organization, was founded on the idea of pioneering a health movement for African-American women and girls based on civil rights history and principles built through walking campaigns, community leadership and health advocacy.
More than 400 neighborhood-based groups across the country are a part of Girl Trek, which is quickly becoming a go-to organization in the arena of public health. Girl Trek has been featured in Essence magazine, on the Steve Harvey Show and on networks such as BET, CNN and MSNBC. The First Lady has made mention of Girl Trek.
“I knew it would be slow starting this up in the winter,” Smith said. “Some will be thinking it’s too cold. But if they see that I’m consistent, then I figure more people will join by spring.”
Whether she’s walking solo or with a large group, Smith is going to continue her Saturday morning walks beginning at the Haughville Library.
For more information on Girl Trek, visit the website atGirlTrek.org.