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After Vanessa Garrison saw her grandmother die at the age of 66, her aunt at 55, and another aunt at 63, she realized that her family’s experience wasn’t unusual: Black women have the highest obesity rates in the U.S. and die earlier than other groups from preventable, obesity-related diseases.
Government interventions and public health campaigns to encourage exercise haven’t worked well. But Garrison is attempting to get women moving through something that draws inspiration from the civil rights movement and earlier black history in America–walking.
Through the program, thousands of women have pledged to walk regularly. The organization reaches women “through the best practices of the civil rights movement,” Garrison says. “We huddled up in church basements, did grapevine sharing of information through beauty salons, we empowered mothers to stand on the front lines.”
“Once walking, women get to organizing–first their families, then their communities, to walk and solve problems together,” Garrison says. “They walk and notice the abandoned buildings. They walk and notice the lack of sidewalks, the lack of green space, and they say, ‘No more.'”