The women, who are part of black health and wellness advocacy organization GirlTrek, began their journey in eastern Maryland on Tuesday and will end after crossing the Mason-Dixon Line into Delaware on Saturday.
The group includes the 10-woman GirlTrek national team, whose members come from cities like Sacramento and New Orleans. Other women have also been joining in and sharing photos of the journey on social media. In just the first day, they walked more than 22 miles.
GirlTrek co-founder T. Morgan Dixon hopes the walk will inspire all black women to put themselves and their health first. The women are documenting their journey with the hashtag #HarrietsGreatEscape.
“We will show and prove that 2018 is about radical courage and unshakeable sisterhood,” Dixon said in a statement. “Harriet Tubman saved her own life first and then went back time after time to save the lives of others giving us the blueprint for the work GirlTrek does today.”
Each year since the 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death in 2013, GirlTrek has honored Tubman through the hashtag #WeAreHarriet. As part of the group’s mission to improve black women’s health, the tribute encourages black women to get active by simply walking.
According to the 2017 Institute for Women’s Policy Research report “The Status of Black Women in United States,” 1 in 7 black women has diabetes. Black women also have the highest heart disease mortality rate of any ethnic group in the U.S. These statistics reflect a history of American society neglecting and devaluing black women’s health.
“We’ve learned to be invisible even to ourselves,” said GirlTrek member Theresa Thames in a video. “We’ll take care of everyone else, but we will neglect ourselves because that is the trauma. It’s the trauma of history and it’s the trauma of life.”
GirlTrek co-founders Dixon and Vanessa Garrison formed the group in 2010, with the goal of learning from this history lesson and empowering black women to get healthy. Eight years later, thousands of women have taken the pledge to improve their health, leading walking groups in their own neighborhoods.
“We believe that, as women, we are going to have to also liberate, one, ourselves and then come back and be examples and liberate our family,” said Garrison in a press release. “If Harriet Tubman could walk herself to freedom, we can certainly walk ourselves to better health.”