T. Morgan Dixon promotes health improvement, empowerment with GirlTrek
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As part of the NewDay speaker series hosted by the Taylor Center, co-founder and chief of programs for GirlTrek T. Morgan Dixon spoke on Feb. 6 about the underlying psychological causes of the black female health crisis in the U.S.
In the Freeman Auditorium in Woldenberg Art Center, Dixon delivered an engaging presentation on GirlTrek’s effort to tackle the root causes of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other major health issues facing American black women. Yet Dixon describes GirlTrek not as a fitness organization but instead as an initiative that introduces a new lifestyle to its participants.
GirlTrek is the largest black female-dedicated public health nonprofit in the U.S. It allows black women nationwide to create walking groups, and provides them with motivation to walk through its monthly challenges and easy-involvement structure. There are more than 100,000 neighborhood walkers today. GirlTrek aims to have 1 million members within two years. New Orleans is home to 2,314 members and 24 trained organizers, making it a model city for the organization.
During the discussion portion of the event, one white female audience member asked about ways for non-black, non-female Americans to advocate for GirlTrek. Dixon responded saying that at this stage in GirlTrek’s progress, involvement from other social groups may be more destructive than productive.
“Once black women are able to get to a place of rejuvenation, that’s when it becomes productive to collaborate, because everyone is on the same playing field and [can] talk from a place of power and enlightenment, rather than exhaustion [from] the world that has treated us with disrespect and disregard at many points in history and in the present moment,” senior and Black Arts Festival Chair Jaelyn Edwards said.
137 American black women die every day from heart issues, a fact Dixon claimed to be disproportionate when compared to other demographics.
Grounded in research-based solutions, Dixon emphasized little changes that can cause vast improvements. A 30-minute walk each day five times a week, can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety by 50 percent.
Dixon attributes the health crisis to the cumulative trauma the black community has experienced through its history. GirlTrek is therefore grounded in the philosophy of healing and radical love. By encouraging black females to walk, GirlTrek aims to yield greater community engagement, create safer neighborhoods and empower its members, all while naturally improving health.
“[Dixon] inspired me to look at the subtle problems and irritants in my own life,” Edwards said. “She explained so clearly that the problems that are closest to you make you [the] most equipped to find bold, innovative solutions to fix them.”