Wonder of Women (WOW) International will honor, Seattle’s hometown girl, Vanessa Garrison, as their 1st National Crown Jewel recipient on Sunday, April 1st 2018.
This award is being bestowed during WOW’s Resurrection Wonder Community Celebration at the historical Langston Hughes Performing Arts Theater located at 104 17th Avenue South, Seattle, Washington from 5:00pm-7:30pm. Doors open at 4:30p.
WOW is a 501c3 organization birthed from a private retreat in the Greater Seattle area, during Resurrection Day weekend in March, 2016. This year alone, WOW has created sacred space for over 400 women and girls of color through workshops, and retreats in; Washington State. WOW also has 'pop' up events in District of Columbia, Maryland, and South Africa.
WOW founder, Veronica Very, said this will be their second inaugural community wide celebration. “When I founded Wonder of Women, I had a vision of infinite possibilities for black women and girls to find their voice; stand in their truth and celebrate their wonder by telling their story. In just two years, I can humbly say our work is reaching the world.”
“The National Crown Jewel Award acknowledges a woman who embodies the mission of WOW,” said Very. “She has a heart to do her life’s work with intention and passion. She has a genuine love for SISTAhood with action to back it up. She doesn’t apologize for who she is. Rather, she boldly takes off her mask and celebrates her royalty by making the mirror her best friend. She’s authentic, fierce, and fun. She is Love. She is Light. WOW--- she is ridiculously liberating! Her story is a WONDER.” SHE IS Vanessa Garrison, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Girltrek!
Girltrek is a nonprofit, national public health organization, helping black women and girls get healthy by walking!
“I was born and raised in Seattle,” said Garrison. “I didn’t leave until I attended college at the University of California in Los Angeles.”
Garrison explained that being exposed to new things and meeting people from different backgrounds prompted her to look deeper into who she was and who she wanted to become.
“My co-founder, Morgan Dixon, and I met at UCLA. We became quick and fast friends,” said Garrison. “We became an anchor of support for one another. After college we went on to have successful careers, get married and honestly, live the life of our dreams. But, something didn’t feel right. We felt like we were leaving our sistas behind.”
Garrison said she and Dixon’s flourishing lives were an exception to the norm. Black women weren’t thriving in life, they were dying- and rapidly!
“Black women are dying faster and at higher rates than any other population from preventable obesity related diseases,” said Garrison. “This crisis is about more than weight. A diet isn’t going to fix systemic racism, the divestment in schools, discriminatory housing practices or predatory lending. All these issues are contributing factors to the unhealthy state of the black woman. We, black women, are holding on to pain inside our bellies and our bones. There’s a crack cocaine epidemic and mass incarceration putting more black bodies behind bars than were owned at the height of slavery. The medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies aren’t addressing the real problems. But, Girltrek does!”
Garrison said she and Dixon initially began this journey by holding each other accountable to their own personal fitness goals. “I was training to run the Chicago half Marathon and she was training for a 50-mile backpacking trip in Washington State,” explained Garrison. “We were documenting our journey on social media. It was surprising to see the level of interest people had in what we were doing. They were cheering us on, and many of them began to inquire about how we got started. That got us thinking about how we could help them. Not everyone can run a 1/2 marathon or hike 50 miles, but anyone can walk.”
Garrison and Dixon launched Girltrek in 2010. “While still working our full time jobs, we formed an office in the middle of our mattress. With laptops in hand, we compiled a list and emailed 500 black women a 10 week walking regimen, and sent them daily inspirational messages to keep them motivated,” recalled Garrison. “Today that list has 125,000 names on it.”
“WOW is recognizing Vanessa for her energy, heart, passion and intention to create space that heals Black women and girls through the medicinal and magical power of sisterhood,” said Very.
Very and Garrison are both from Seattle, however, the two connected on social media before ever meeting in person.
“Several of my friends on social media were posting pictures and stories about having attended Wonder of Women retreats. They kept saying, ‘You have to go to one of these retreats!’,” recalled Garrison. “I was going to be in Seattle for a few days, so I sent Veronica a message. I wrote, ‘I know we’ve never met, but I really admire what you’re doing. I’m coming home for the weekend, maybe we can meet for lunch or coffee?’”
Garrison went on to say that meeting never took place in a coffee shop like she expected, Very invited her into her home.
“We had an instant connection. We sat on the floor, laughed and truly experienced each other. She’s a blessing. She’s doing the harder work. The wound closest to you is the hardest to heal. I was raised in a wonderful, loving home by family members that cared for me at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. A grandmother, and two aunts I loved dearly are deceased. I needed to leave Seattle to separate myself from the pain, so I could heal from it. Veronica returned. She’s there, helping the women in the community most dear to me. I love and respect her beyond measure for that!”
Both of these trailblazers have taken simple ideas, story time and walking, and launched a movement beyond themselves that’s helping black women all over the world.
Very concedes all the credit to her Creator. “Wonder of Women is a powerful spirit of her own. I just create the space that’s needed to provide love, light and liberation. I don’t have to carry the weight within the womb of the women that come, I just do what’s in my capacity. The space attracts those most in need and through love, light and liberation the healing begins.”
You can meet these ladies in person by attending Resurrection Wonder. April 1, 2018 at 5:00pm – 7:30pm at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Theater, 104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144. Get tickets by clicking here.To learn more about Girltrek visit www.girltrek.org
Claudia Parker is an Author, Freelance Journalist
Photo Credit: Lydia Kearney Carlis Eyemagination Imaging