GirlTrek, described as “the largest health movement for Black women in America,” has announced via their email newsletter that a partnership with Focus Features regarding the film Harriet has fallen through after months of planning. GirlTrek alleged in their newsletter that Focus Features tried “to exploit Black genius” and failed to fulfill promises to “help save Black women.”

The health organization, founded by T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, has shared how influential Harriet Tubman was to the founding of this organization which seeks to help get Black women to prioritize health by walking every day as exercise for those who are able. The intended partnership with the Cynthia Erivo-starring film as a continuation of Gu #WeAreHarriet walking movement during the film’s opening weekend. However, the organization wrote that Focus Features “refused to guarantee that they would actually use their influence to help GirlTrek promote walking to Black women.”

“What had been a clear understanding that the film would help GirlTrek inspire Black women everywhere to walk by using star power from the movie and a powerful social media campaign, became a series of backtracking on commitments–well we can’t guarantee that this star will talk about Girltrek at the walk, or that that star will share a post…” wrote the GirlTrek team in the newsletter.

“Four months of building a campaign only to be given a contract hours before the press release was to go out that didn’t guarantee they would actually help save the lives of Black women, or that they would invest back into the community that they stood to profit the most from,” the GirlTrek team continued. “And–to add insult to injury–their team, followed the time old tradition of trying to exploit Black genius by insisting on contract terms that would have given them full ownership of OUR idea, our design concept and our work.”

While asking for forgiveness from their followers for being distracted by the potential partnership, even to the point that they “…wanted it so bad that when we saw an advance screening of the film and felt some kind of way about the quality and the story, we said it’s OK. Sheepishly,” the organization also reaffirmed the mission to help Black women take back their health.

“We don’t have time for boycotting movies. But with limited resources and only our good name to lean on, we decided to walk away from the Harriet film so we can focus on doing the work,” they wrote. “Our bottom line is to save the lives of Black women…We are inspired by Harriet’s legacy to never ask permission, to come back and get our sisters, to rally our allies and to find joy…We believe that #WEAREHARRIET and that her legacy continues through us.”

Focus Features has not yet responded to requests for comment.

You can review GirlTrek’s full open letter here.


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Photo credit: Greg Wilson/Focus Features

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