Where two or more Black women are gathered together—-there is revolution. When a Black woman prioritizes herself—-the atmosphere shifts. Self-care is not new to us. We first did it in secret, leaning on one another through the most inhumane conditions known to man when we traced intricate messages and maps into the hair of our sisters and children to lead them to freedom.
We continued it in churches coming together to praise, fellowship, and to break free of the chains that bind us. You can catch Black women revolting against systems of oppression everywhere from boardrooms to hair salons and back porches. Yet nothing is more powerful than when we decide to put our feet on the ground…and walk. Whether it be the Civil Rights Era where we saw great grandmothers walking 54 miles, arms linked on the front lines, or the women of the Black Lives Matter movement mobilizing protests all over the country, when we show up armed with the power of our ebony legs revolution is imminent.
No doubt, we find the roots for this in the journey of our ancestor, Harriet Tubman, whose 100-mile journey to freedom gave us the blueprint for liberation through walking. It is well documented that she retraced her steps several times to free as many of her enslaved brothers and sisters as she could. Her legacy shows up today in organizations like GirlTrek, a non-profit of over 100,000 strong whose mission is to encourage African-American women and girls to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families, and communities.
GirlTrek founders T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison are sure to drive home that this is not about fitness but about healing. About Black women coming together and sharing their journeys, supporting each other and uplifting their neighborhoods. In the process, they reap the benefits of walking through weight loss, renewed sense of self and healthier life choices.
Similar things can be said about Black Girls Hike whose founder Jessica Newton has made it her mission to “diversify outdoors” by introducing Black women into spaces that are far too often universally white because of prejudice or financial barriers that make having the correct gear for outdoor activities difficult. Supportive sisterhood is how BGH defines its globally recognized movement. In a country where, far too often, it is dangerous to simply exist in our beautiful bodies, galvanizing groups of us to do what seems so simple to others is an act of rebellion and strength that gives us permission to take up space. And, because we are all descendants of the most powerful women in the world’s history—-sometimes, we go at it alone. Patricia Cameron, backpacked 486 miles on the Colorado Trail last summer to bring attention to this very same issue. 486 miles.
The amazing thing about us as a people, is that we have the uncanny ability to turn things that are thrust upon us through injustice and systematic oppression into ways of life that ground us. I think of my own grandmother, Christine Williams, who never owned a car. She walked and took the bus everywhere making her the Queen of her Eastside Detroit neighborhood. Because she was royalty, we, her grandchildren, moved through those same streets always protected. Always looked out for.
I remember tracing my age and independence by how far away from her home she allowed me to walk. When she gave me money to buy snacks for my cousins and I giving us the green light to walk to the furthest corner store in her food desert, we walked upright and proud. We let the weight of our legs, pumping with our grandmother’s blood, carry us to the store where we knew better than to act up. And when we’d tire of one another’s company and didn’t want to risk the chance of being told to “stop running in and out” of the Queen’s house, we took walks to cool off. To exercise our freedom from one another. To take care of ourselves.
When I’d see my grandmother walking back from work, in her pristine white nurse’s uniform, I would smile at her strength and marvel at her beauty. I didn’t know then that I was learning the power of walking. Not only for transportation, to get from point A to point B, but for sustaining and persevering. For communing and learning about the people I come from. For being part of the universal collective of Black women who know how to lace up our shoes and handle whatever comes our way. Oh, the devil shakes when a Black woman’s feet hit the ground in the morning. As he should.