Girls Running Shit celebrates a year working to empower Black women in Pittsburgh | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Girls Running Shit celebrates a year working to empower Black women in Pittsburgh

click to enlarge Girls Running Shit celebrates a year working to empower Black women in Pittsburgh
Photo: Man-Like-Ray
L-R: Mia Marshall, Janita Kilgore, and Markeea “Keea” Hart of Girls Running Shit
In the life of any business or nonprofit, the first year usually sees little progress. But for Girls Running Shit, a local media platform dedicated to supporting Black women artists and entrepreneurs, it’s been pretty productive.

Founded by Markeea “Keea” Hart, Janita Kilgore, and Mia Marshall — all Pittsburgh-based Black women in their late 20s — Girls Running Shit has hosted events like Speak Your Truth, a spring networking benefit at Glitter Box Theater that raised money to create self-care kits for the city’s homeless population.

“That was one of our biggest and proudest events that we’ve done so far,” says Marshall.

Their podcast, released through Blog Or Die Radio, came in third for Best Local Podcast in the Pittsburgh City Paper’s Best Of readers’ poll.

On Fri., Aug. 30, Girls Running Shit will celebrate its one-year anniversary at Couch Brewery with its Let’s Link event. There’s also another Speak Your Truth event planned for the near future.

The three women, all Pittsburgh natives, met while attending Edinboro University near Erie, Pa., a school where the lack of diversity often led to them running in the same circles.

“To be quite honest, there weren’t a lot of Black people who went to Edinboro,” says Hart, who reconnected with Kilgore and Marshall after college.

With Girls Running Shit, they wanted to create a safe, welcoming space for women to promote themselves unapologetically, while also highlighting local women-owned or led businesses, projects, and events.

“I think we do a great job with promoting other businesses and other events on our platform,” says Marshall. “We’ve had a lot of people come up and say, ‘I would’ve never known that event was going on had I not seen it on your Instagram.’”

Their podcast has seen a number of local women representing a variety of fields, from local fashion blogger Ari Alex to musician INEZ, as well as a number of men and LGBTQ people.

While the three women have found it easy to connect and work together, they realize it’s not the same for other women, especially in a culture that pushes them to compete with each other.

“We just want to unite women, because I feel like they don’t want us to do that,” says Kilgore. “They want women to fight and beef with each other, especially Black women.”

Kilgore believes women can achieve more if they combine their powers and work together, especially in Pittsburgh, a city she says offers plenty of opportunities to start a business or host an event.

But with running a business, pursuing a career, or just living as a Black woman in Pittsburgh, comes anxiety, stress, depression, and often undiagnosed mental illness — all things Girls Running Shit works to address.

“To grow up Black with mental health problems, it’s either pray it away or just be happy,” says Hart. “It’s kind of taboo in the Black community. You always have to be strong because we have so many battles before we’re even born because of our Black skin.”

She recalls her own mental health struggles growing up, back when she says there weren’t many spaces for young Black people to go and talk about their feelings. However, she does believe some progress has been in made in encouraging Black people to talk about mental health, and that Girls Running Shit can add to that effort, especially in regards to the podcast.

“None of us are psychologists in any type of way, but we just want people to know that they can reach out, or that someone is feeling the same way that they’re feeling or going through the same things they’re going through,” says Hart. “We try to really bring it into the light and say, ‘We have these problems too, so let’s talk about them.’”

Kilgore adds that many of their podcast guests have been kind enough to share how they take care of themselves when they become overstressed, anxious, or are going through a depressive state.

Moving forward, the trio would like to see Girls Running Shit grow and expand. They plan to accomplish this by increasing their outreach to young people in Pittsburgh and by hosting more events. One goal they have it to create a self-care conference open to anyone in Pittsburgh looking for ways to heal themselves and their communities.

“I love Pittsburgh and I ride for this city,” says Hart. “We love everything about this city. We’re just trying to make a safe space and a safe platform for people to utilize and we want to bring awareness, not only to events and having fun, but awareness about self-care, mental health, and self-love.”