What are you leading?
Morgan founded GirlTrek with her friend Vanessa Garrison in 2010. GirlTrek is now the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. GirlTrek inspires and supports African American women and girls to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives - simply by coming together to walk together regularly. Through grassroots organizing and award-winning social media campaigns, GirlTrek has supported over 100,000 walkers, 300 volunteers and inspires an ever-growing network of supporters.
As important as walking is, for Morgan and Vanessa, GirlTrek represents something much bigger. It is not simply a weight loss or exercise program, but by bringing together and empowering black women together, it is facilitating a movement for change which is rooted in the history of black women and civil rights. Walking is the practical first step to inspire healthy living, families, and communities.
GirlTrek's health movement relies on inspirational stories, street organizers, active role models, authentic partnerships, smart advocacy and a whole lot of hustle! It is quickly becoming a “go-to” organization in the public health space. They have built partnerships with such companies as Kaiser Permanente, National Park Service, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign.
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Morgan began her career with Teach For America as a high school history teacher in Atlanta, GA. It was during this time that she learnt about the statistical probability of chronic disease and early death among her students. These statistics motivated her to take action. She knew that walking was a powerful antidote to many of the health challenges faced by those in her community so she began by walking with her students. As satisfying as those walks were, she knew that in order to truly end the public health crisis, the solution needed to acknowledge and address the historical, systemic discrimination of black women.
She drew inspiration from the philosophies of women like Ella Baker and Septima Clark, which led her to move beyond the simple hiking club with her students, and become more ambitious setting the bigger goal to bring together the girls with their parents and communities, to use the practice of coming together collectively as walkers to improve fitness, but also to mobilize a movement of empowered female change-makers across the U.S.A.
In 2012, Morgan was awarded Teach For America's 2012 Social Innovation Award. The prizes included significant grant funding, mentoring and profile for GirlTrek which supported the development of the organization.
By 2018, GirlTrek aims to mobilize one million supporters to lead a "walking revolution for better health" in high-need communities across the USA. Morgan is also interested to learn whether the model can be adapted to support women in other international contexts.