Vanessa Garrison didn’t set out to build a health movement. Growing up in Seattle’s Central District, a historically black neighborhood, Garrison just wanted her household and her community to be healthy.
“It was a challenge for me to develop solutions that work for the women I love,” Garrison said.
Those solutions, however, did set off a movement: GirlTrek, a community-based walking movement that has reached 250,000 black women and girls across the country. Garrison co-founded GirlTrek and serves as its chief operating officer.
“Seattle is one of the most active cities in the country, but my household was completely inactive,” Garrison said. “All the women in my family were really experiencing health challenges due to chronic disease.”
Those problems ran deeper than simply inactivity. Obesity and inactivity often have roots in concerns about safety and other community issues built on historical trauma and systemic racism. A fitness-only approach, Garrison reasoned, would fail to overcome these powerful forces.
With friend Morgan Dixon, who would become her GirlTrek co-...
Each year, the Ann Niles Active Transportation Lecture Endowment brings a guest speaker to Portland, Oregon. We seek people from all over the world who have made great strides in advocating for health, safety, and bicycle and pedestrian access, and bring them together with the Portland transportation community to share methods and inspiration. The annual forum furthers IBPI's mission to facilitate the exchange of knowledge among scholars, practitioners and community advocates focused on walking and biking.
Vanessa is a passionate advocate of social justice issues and has focused her work on improving health outcomes and quality of life for black women and girls. Prior to co-founding GirlTrek, a national health movement, Vanessa worked as a Program Coordinator for Our Place DC, a nonprofit organization that provides services to currently and formerly incarcerated women. Vanessa began her career working in digital...Read more