Sandria M. Washington is a proud Chicago-born South Side-raised writer, wellness-preneur, media personality, and philanthropist. As the owner and Chief Exploration Officer of She Field Trips LLC, Sandria chaperones women through the meantime and in-between-time pursuit of making what they do for a living and what makes them come alive one and the same. Alongside her professional career in communications, Sandria continues to nurture her passions for personal development, community volunteerism, and empowering Black women and girls through wellness and the arts. As a certified yoga teacher Sandria combines the science and healing of yoga with the art and healing of writing to help people live their most authentic and inspired lives. She has taught yoga and journaling workshops for Chicago Public Schools and nonprofits throughout the city. Sandria is an organizer, ambassador, and Girl Trek’s first Chicago Team Captain. Founders of Girl Trek are T. Morgan Dixon Co-founder & CEO and Vanessa Garrison Founder & COO.
Girl Trek is a health movement for African-American women and girls grounded in civil rights history and principles through walking campaigns, community leadership, and health advocacy. “In the footsteps of a civil rights legacy, GirlTrek is a national health movement that activates thousands of Black women to be the change-makers in their lives and communities — through walking. GirlTrek, the largest health movement for Black women in America.”
GirlTrek is now 10 years old celebrating walking and wellness with the sisterhood of 1 million Black Women.
What is your role in Girl Trek currently and in the past? Who are the major players of this organization?
SW: I’ve had the honor of being an organizer with GirlTrek since 2012, and a part of GirlTrek’s national staff in 2018. One of the beautiful things about GirlTrek is that every woman who joins GirlTrek has her own “GirlTrek story” – a story of how she learned about GirlTrek and why she walks as a part of the Movement.
I discovered GirlTrek for myself in 2012 while reading an article in Heart & Soul Magazine. I’d never heard of GirlTrek before or seen women walking in Chicago, but I immediately knew I had to learn more. I’ve always loved walking, so GirlTrek sounded just like my speed.
I did a little research on their website and at that time GirlTrek was just about to launch a 10-week spring walking challenge. I signed up for the challenge and decided to put a team together and be a Team Leader. I sent an email to a group of girlfriends and invited them to join my Pow(her) Walkers team and walk with me for 10 weeks.
Of course, GirlTrek was completely new to them, too, but thankfully some of them stepped out on faith with me. For 10 weeks, we met on Saturday mornings and walked in different neighborhoods around Chicago – South Shore, Morgan Park; I wanted to keep it fun and interesting every week.
After starting a team I became Chicago’s first City Captain, and I organized city-wide walk meetups. As the Movement began to grow in Chicago (and surrounding suburbs) and nationally I was able to help recruit others to later become Neighborhood Captains.
Beyond and without the titles, I’ve truly been an ambassador of GirlTrek since Day 1. Once an Organizer always an Organizer. So nearly nine years later, I’m still evangelizing the power and importance of GirlTrek to nearly every Black woman I meet. GirlTrek isn’t an organization for me, it’s a lifestyle.
How has it impacted your life?
SW: I learned about GirlTrek during what could have been one of the most crippling years of my life. My mother passed two days after Christmas in 2011 and when I read about GirlTrek in early 2012, it was right in alignment with my desire to live a healthier lifestyle. Both of my parents lived with various types of ailments and health complications and passed away fairly young. After I lost my mom, I felt like the last woman standing and I wanted to write a different health story for myself and generations ahead.
I was grieving in 2012 (and still), but walking with GirlTrek made that first year after my mom’s death so much easier. GirlTrek is about inspiring women to ‘live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives’ and I was focused on that and tapping into my joy; not my sadness.
Through GirlTrek I’ve made friendships with women all over the country and abroad. When you read about or hear about the GirlTrek sisterhood, that is a real thing.
GirlTrek developed me as a leader and community organizer. GirlTrek invested in training me to lead and empower Black women. GirlTrek invested in my personal health goals, such as becoming a certified yoga teacher and later a certified group fitness instructor through ACE.
One of the greatest ways GirlTrek has impacted my life is inspiring me to dream and live bigger, bolder. I can’t swim, but somehow GirlTrek got me to kayak. GirlTrek had me out riding a horse in the mountains. I’ve traveled solo all over the world and part of that confidence definitely came from GirlTrek. I was part of the national team that walked 100 miles in 5 days along the Underground Railroad in 2018 and re-traced the footsteps of Harriet Tubman. This was one of the most challenging and painful things I’ve ever done. But I did it. I learned so much about myself in those five days. The journey to one million Black women walking has been a vision 10 years in the making, and Morgan and Vanessa never gave up. This shows me the impossible is always possible when you believe!
Where do you see this movement going in the future and how does it impact Chicagoans? Why important?
SW: GirlTrek may be 10 years old, but we are just getting started! One million Black women walking is the beginning, not the end. GirlTrek and the women behind it have accomplished so much already, but I see even greater happening. There is now an entire generation that has grown up seeing Black women walking in their families, in their neighborhoods. They’ve grown up seeing Black women practicing radical self-care. There are one million superheroes rocking superhero blue and our work continues. Chicago is one of GirlTrek’s key cities. The world is always watching Chicago, for the positive and the negative. When Black women in Chicago become healthier inside and out, it’s a ripple effect across the nation. Walking in Chicago – like anywhere else – isn’t just “walking.” It’s not just about exercise. Walking is a political act; always has been. The Black women of Chicago will continue to rise up and stand on the front lines to take back our communities, to take back our families, to take back our health and a health system that continues to fail us. I see EVERY Black woman walking with GirlTrek in the future.