Veganism – A Discussion About Inclusivity.
Plant-based lifestyles are often associated with hippie cultures, whilst people’s presumptions about black vegans may be associated with barbecue meats and fried chicken.
In reality, things are rather different. There is a long history of plant-based diets in black communities and only relatively recently have numerous animal products been introduced to various non-white diets.
However, slowly but surely, veganism in these communities are starting to thrive again, particularly in countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom – according to some polls among black communities and other ethnic groups.
This resurgence is exciting for anyone who’s into food for the sake of taste, as we are currently seeing a golden age of African and Caribbean inspired vegan dishes being shared on platforms like Tok Tok and Instagram.
This resurgence is also good news for anyone who is interested in health equality.
Whilst adverts are never keen to mention such topics, different populations on average digest different foods better.
In fact, studies suggest that outside Europe and European-descendent countries, much of the world is lactose intolerant.
Diet may not initially seem like a far-reaching topic but once you get into all of the interesting aspects of it, you end up discussing things such as culture, history, diversity and even things like inequality and colonialism.
In this piece, we are going to look at some of the fascinating aspects of black veganism, from the role that it plays in black rights movements today to the waves that different exciting flavours are making on social media.
Why does the stereotype of vegans in the West, as middle-class white, people exist?
As a named movement in modern history veganism was seemingly made up of white people.
Unfortunately, black communities tend to have less money than other communities and therefore less choices when it comes to food and sometimes a worse education.
More affluent communities are more likely to have access to a wide range of shops that use compelling marketing terms such as “organic”, “plant-based” or “healthy”.
On the other hand, fast food shops often try to exploit the lack of time and education that poor communities have, by setting up stores in the poorest areas in the hopes of the track as many customers and repeat customers as possible.
People working long hours at jobs that pay poorly, are far less likely to have the time and energy to research healthy dishes and put in all of the time needed to shop for them and prepare them.
This makes people in poorer communities more likely to pop into a fast-food store to get a cheap burger or something similar, much more likely.
During recent decades, more affluent communities are less likely to have fast food and all its addictive qualities ingrained into their culture.
Instead, the extra hours in the day and available cash mean more time for learning about the benefits of plant-based diets and some of the great ways and recipes that can be used at home.
This is also where a lot of the ‘hippie stereotype’ comes from. Some people can afford the luxury of exploring alternative lifestyles and how best to express them.
Even if ideally, everyone was afforded the chance for such exploration, many communities are still deprived of this opportunity.
What these socio-economic circumstances have ended up in, is different tendencies for different communities. However, this post-modern world that peaked in the 1990s is beginning to fade away and we are starting to see a resurgence of some of the cultural roots that have been mainly subdued and kept out of public knowledge in modern times.
Of all Western countries, there are more statistics for veganism in the United States than there are in other countries.
The 2021 research by Gallup, shows that black people were among the fastest-growing demographics of vegans in the United States.
Some research has shown that 80% of black Americans identifies vegan compared to only around 3% of the US population as a whole. This makes the stereotypes more outdated than most and shows that veganism is actually thriving among black communities.
This isn’t just a modern link though. Rastafarianism, for example, usually emphasises the importance of producing food naturally. This means growing it organically and locally. The extent to which this means excluding animal products from one’s diet varies.
Most Rastafarians at a minimum, avoid eating pork or crustaceans as outlined in the book of Leviticus. Many others follow a vegetarian or vegan diet completely.
This has been one of the inspiring sources for resurgent veganism and plant-based lifestyles in black communities in the West.
Other groups have also played a crucial role in veganism becoming popular again outside of white communities.
One example is the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, which has advocated for Street veganism since the 1960s.
The Nation of Islam also made clear its interpretation that choosing a plant-based diet was strongly linked to fighting racist oppression.
American Civil Rights
The American Civil Rights movement also had its own vegan stars.
Dick Gregory, who is widely known for marching with Rev Martin Luther King Jr. made the point that; “Because I’m a civil rights activist, I am also an animal rights activist”. Animals and humans suffer and die alike.”
There are also sources which are less political and more cultural, that have had a significant impact on veganism in some communities.
The 1990 hip-hop song beef by KRS-One (of “Sound Of Da Police” fame), is a fantastic track that lays out all the problems that go into the production and consumption of cows and other animals and is often cited as an important influence on black veganism in the 1990s.
Black veganism is in many respects evolving past being just a diet, into becoming a social and political philosophy too.
Social justice concerns are increasingly becoming connected to the use of non-human animals, with subjects such as racism and the long-lasting effects of slavery on shaping people’s diets and familial and cultural food traditions.
The legacy of the Great Migration is also a factor. It resulted in many former farmers who were previously able to forage or grow their own vegetables becoming more reliant on processed foods instead.
A myriad of historical factors has resulted in diets among black communities that have proven to be extremely detrimental to people’s health.
In many Western countries, black people are more likely to suffer from diabetes-related conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Some currents of black veganism such as that discussed by Syl Ko draw strong links between racism and speciesism, with some people even arguing that they are in fact the same thing.
Black veganism for some of the movement’s leaders including Ashell Eldridge, says that the focus should be on food sovereignty. The prevalent diets from which many black people in Western countries suffer are the results of colonised culture. Food sovereignty, it is argued can only be achieved through decolonising the black diet.
Whereas veganism may initially seem like a cause that people of all races can unite behind, activists such as Khushbu Shah argue that there is a racial rift within it.
Mainstream veganism rarely recognises the intersectionality the vegan cause shares, with other important social justice issues, such as food access. Poorer communities and non-white communities often feel the effects of disadvantage in regard to food access just as they do in many other areas.
Author, critical race feminist and diversity strategist; Dr A. Breeze Harper, has argued that “the overwhelmingly white U.S. vegan movement, guides the assumption that serious dialogue around race, racism, whiteness and racialized colonialism are unrelated to its goals.”
People who aren’t used to these areas of thought, may see such points as bringing divisiveness into what should be a unifying issue. However, once these ideas are inspected more closely, it becomes clear they offer greater possibilities on how to advance veganism, by getting more people involved and linking it to other causes that people are active in.
Those who have a history in the vegan movement but not around social issues, should jump at the opportunity to support one another’s causes as they are linked in so many ways and both stand to benefit greatly from this realisation.
Whilst veganism in the past has been primarily focussed on the wellbeing of animals, which will always be a key component of the movement, there are other avenues in which interest has grown in recent years.
The environmental impact of the meat industry has seen a massive introduction to the public discourse over the last decade or so, thanks to the impact of films such as Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy.
Those who care about the environment but didn’t know about the role meat and dairy industries played in it, now share a cause with all of those people who previously believed in the sanctity of animal life but didn’t realise there were even more reasons to follow a vegan lifestyle.
Health enthusiasts are now getting on board too, with some of the world’s strongest people and most elite outfits switching to plant-based diets.
In the 1980s, many people would’ve seen Mr Olympia and vegans as opposite ends of the spectrum. Now, with the branching out of the vegan movement to being an umbrella cause with many compelling reasons,
Arnold Schwarzenegger has allegedly become a vegan! His, and other top athletes work in promoting the health benefits of such a lifestyle, have been crucial in expanding the vegan cause.
It has only been in the last few years that this discussion has expanded to include important related issues such as diversity and race.
Films like Milked, made the important point how in New Zealand, native people such as the Māori had next to no dairy in their diet before settlers arrived on their land. Now, with a thriving New Zealand dairy industry that aims to ensnare everybody into any diet that makes them money,
Māori people are at much higher risk of numerous chronic diseases that science seems to indicate, are closely linked to their diet.
People throughout South Asia who also tend to be lactose intolerant, are also increasingly targeted by the dairy industry with no room for discussion with regard to potential health complications.
It looks set to be the case that in coming years, the vital racial aspect of plant-based healthy diets will be integrated into part of the vegan movement.
This has the potential to widen the appeal of veganism hugely as well as benefit many disadvantaged communities, many animals and the environment.
Rather than looking at the introduction of these topics as a threat, vegans should embrace and explore them as another crucial step for pushing human, animal and environmental causes forward.
If someone completely new to veganism were to have a quick glance through social media, they’d have to be forgiven for believing that compassion towards animals is closely synchronised with health and wealth.
They’d likely see vegan influencers who are predominantly white. This is just a very recent way for plant-based lifestyles to be seen, as veganism and similar lifestyles go back much further, to cultures in ancient India, West Asia and Africa.
Until relatively recently, it was a movement that held very little influence in the West. Veganism was mainly seen as a fringe lifestyle but has in the last decade or two become a rapidly growing, earth-saving movement.
Mainstream modern-day “white veganism” has often focussed on environmentalism and physical health, as well as the traditional animal welfare concern. These are undoubtedly important topics and no one should be chastised for promoting them.
However, there are important intersections within the areas that have consistently been ignored or under-discussed.
This includes issues such as accessibility, big business and the profit system, indigenous sovereignty and rights, racism, and human rights themselves.
These are all also crucial issues that should be key components of mainstream veganism. Currently, it is the black vegan movement that is leading the push to make the discussion around veganism more inclusive of these inextricably linked topics.
In fact, vegan restaurants that often advertise themselves as “organic”, “raw” or “healthy” could potentially benefit these communities, but their price ranges keep them out of reach.
They often attempt to create an environment of clean eating and self-care, but if a meal requires two days of someone’s food budget, then it’s hard to call it self-care.
Emphasis is often given to using locally-grown produce and organic ingredients. There is nothing inherently wrong with these practices, which are a crucial part of many cultures such as most Rastafarian diets.
However, they often result in huge price increases and in this way can be seen as part of the gentrification that disproportionately impacts black communities.
There is still an unfortunate habit in mainstream veganism to recognise these classist and racist barriers to adhering to a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. By denying these realities the opportunity to progress on social issues and animal rights issues is hindered.
It is wondered if Government programmes have a habit of ‘strategically placing’ Intensive Livestock Operations, more commonly known as factory farms, near black communities.
This makes those food products more readily accessible than if they were dedicated to other food products, which may not necessarily be as profitable to the businesses hoping to exploit the situation.
This also makes it more likely for people from these communities to end up working on factory farms, which further reduces the likelihood of health in both physical and mental terms.
For veganism to push forward as a movement it will be essential that these considerations are taken into account. There is the opportunity to liberate many animals and people by spreading awareness of disparities in accessibility and affordability between races.
Organisations like the community trust This Is Africa make the point that African and African descendant vegans are a return to tradition. There is an, at times, esoteric modern vernacular that obscures the diverse roots of veganism which come from all parts of the world.
Plant-based and paleo diets are fads that slide in and out of Instagram tags as people try to keep up with the latest trends.
The truth is, though, that pre-colonial Africans did, in fact, rely predominantly on a plant-based diet. Prior to widespread farming, most people on the continent would be hunters and gatherers, which is what has gone on to form the basis of the paleo diet.
Whilst the modern take on the paleo diet is often advertised with a lot of red meat as part of some strong caveman fantasy, this is far from what the original diet consisted of.
It is believed that hunter-gatherers in Africa would gather seeds, corns, tubers, roots leave and fruits and vegetables in general. Every now and then, they would hunt game. This would be a tiny amount of meat compared to the heavily carnistic diet prevalent in Western countries today. (Carnistic meaning centred on meat).
The larger-scale use of the (increasingly) brutal practice of domesticated and then farmed animals only spread across the continent with the arrival of European adventurers and slave traders five centuries ago.
Whilst people ate meat, it was at a much more infrequent rate than is done now and farming for commercial consumption and export was basically unheard of.
During the colonial era, there was a huge reduction in the farming of indigenous crops and an enormous influx of more profitable alternatives, which has had a profound impact on the diets of African people ever since.
Plantain and rice are two examples of less harmful foods that were introduced during the period of colonisation which are not indigenous to Africa but are now associated with many communities descending from that continent.
Some aspects of the changes and diversity that history gives us can be enjoyed and embraced.
Simultaneously, there are many unhealthy historical impositions such as excessively meat and dairy-focussed diets and widespread commercial food production in general that are arguably pushed upon black communities due to disparities in wealth, access to alternatives, and other important areas.
Diet and biological differences
Lactose intolerance is someone’s inability to consume milk products containing the sugar lactose comfortably. This lack of comfort may not be obviously related to the ingestion of dairy products and for many people, it takes years for the link to be made.
Other lactose intolerant people may never realise this their digestive distress is coming from dairy.
It is most often caused by having too little of a particular intestinal enzyme, named lactase.
Whilst the condition has until recently been considered harmless, its unpleasant effects such as abdominal cramping and pain, bloating, excess gas and diarrhoea are side effects most people would rather live life without.
Most people are able to fully digest lactose as infants but as you get older that ability recedes. It is estimated that around two-thirds of people have an impaired ability to digest lactose after infancy. That’s right, two thirds!
As milk is advertised for healthy growth and bones and cheese is promoted as a healthy means of increasing protein and calcium intake, the majority of the world isn’t cut out to digest it!
This inability isn’t something that randomly pops up in many people, but has a genetic component, as it’s related to LCT, also known as the lactase gene.
Ethnicity is a large factor in someone’s likelihood to be lactose intolerant. In East and South Asia, which contains a majority of the world’s population, 70 to 100 per cent of people are lactose intolerant.
African populations tend to have a similar rate of lactose intolerance. Northern Europeans, on the other hand, have a lactose intolerance rate of only 5 to 15 per cent.
This clearly makes specific health recommendations a lot more viable for some populations than others.
Even among the declared progress of increasingly diverse Western countries, guidelines and advertisements are still laid out with the presumption that people’s bodies are able to healthily consume high amounts of dairy.
Vegan and plant-based advocacy groups that consider the racial components of these issues, are increasingly speaking out against such biased practices.
Predictably, the USDA claims that 90% of Americans do not get enough dairy, but thanks to pushes by advocacy groups, that now includes dairy alternatives, such as soya milk, can contribute to increasing the recommended intake.
In the UK, there have also been relative successes. The famous Eat Well plate which is taught in many schools recently cut its recommendation for dairy from 15 per cent of the recommended diet down to 8 per cent.
Whilst this is only a small step in the right direction, the British dairy industry still expressed outrage at the threat to their profits.
Dairy UK, which is the industry’s trade association, said that the change was “both baffling and disappointing” – despite modern science increasingly pointing out how unnecessary dairy is.
The industry makes the argument made the argument that “dairy products are used in 98% of homes around the UK” as reasoning for why the guidelines shouldn’t have been adjusted.
When there is a health pandemic, especially among those not of Northern European ancestry, saying that your product is widely used is not a good argument. Many communities in countries like the UK, such as black communities, have high rates of lactose intolerance.
The use of dairy in these communities isn’t because it is necessarily healthy, but because of an imposing history that continues today with manipulative marketing that doesn’t seem to address important diet nuances.
The dairy industry in some countries is having more success in subduing pushbacks against the imposition of unhealthy and ahistorical dietary habits.
In New Zealand, for example, the indigenous Māori population also have no history of widespread dairy production and consumption but suffers disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases now that a Western/European diet has become widespread.
In 2021, Dairy NZ managed to have three of four alterations to dairy recommendations scrapped from nutrition guidelines after the trade association pressured the government. See: Milked Documentary
In the US, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which has more than 12,000 doctor members, called out the hypocrisy of the dairy industry-influenced government guidelines.
The DGAC (Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee) called for decreased consumption of saturated fats, which contributes to type 2 diabetes and heart disease among other illnesses and health complications.
Black Americans are more likely to suffer from these illnesses than the average population. However, the DGAC failed to emphasise that dairy is in fact the top source of saturated fat in the American diet.
The PCRM pointed out the inadequacy of the advice, saying “The DGAC also failed to indicate that scientific evidence shows that milk and other dairy products increase the risk of asthma, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, cognitive decline, and early death, and offer little if any protection for bone health.”
As with the Native Maori people of New Zealand, Native Americans have higher rates of lactose intolerance and similarly suffer from the imposition of a diet that is packaged with numerous health risks.
The PCRM’s letter to the DGAC pointed out that there is “substantial evidence linking cow’s milk consumption to prostate cancer risk” whilst “African American men have the highest prostate cancer risk of any American demographic group”.
Asthma is another condition that affects black people more than others. Even if it is not a condition that people would typically relate to diet, evidence is mounting that it is closely related to the consumption of dairy.
The PCRM wrote “A review published earlier this year included studies that show that dairy consumption can raise the risk for asthma and worsen symptoms.
One 2015 study found that children who consumed the most dairy had higher odds of developing asthma, compared with the children consuming the least.”
African Americans are three times more likely to die from Asthma-related causes than the white population according to PCRM’s cited research.
What seems to be happening in predominantly white countries is that dietary advice is consistently influenced by dairy and meat industry profiteers.
Whilst the evidence mounts that the consumption of certain foods is negatively affecting black people, little attempt is seeming to be made to shape this advice for a diverse or non-white audience.
Whilst there have been small successes here and there for advocacy groups hoping to improve the health crisis (that’s especially prevalent among black communities), there has been just as much pushback from the powers that be.
Here we’ve mainly looked at the dairy industry’s considerable influence and the links being found between its high rate of consumption and chronic illnesses in the black community.
However, there is mounting evidence that there is a similar problem with meat too. This is especially true of the heavily-processed and red meat that is common in Western diets and often at the front of the queue when it comes to making itself available to poorer communities and black people.
What is indisputable is that different populations have different biological relations to their food. What is also clear is that some populations are being more negatively affected by the current guidelines and setup of food access than others.
What many people consider a modern diet, but is yet to be imposed on many populations where chronic illnesses remain relatively low, is one that has been shaped with two things in mind. First of all, profit.
The meat and dairy industry are happy to chase this at disadvantaged communities’ expense and has done so for decades.
Second of all, the white populations from which it stems and who first exported it.
Shocking statistics reveal that this is the demographic that currently has the most money and is therefore marketed to most, both in terms of dairy recommendations and expensive inaccessible vegan foods.
Dairy recommendations can be attuned to fit other populations just as vegan foods can and should be made more accessible to black and other ethnic minority people.
Famous black vegans
Colin Kaepernick has become one of the world’s most-known American football players over the last decade. Whilst many sports stars enjoy universal praise as they rise to fame, Colin Kaepernick is one of the most controversial and polarising figures in the United States today.
In 2016, Kaepernick sparked a fiery debate in the United States when he stayed seated during the US national anthem prior to the San Francisco 49er’s third preseason game.
It is customary to stand. He did this in protest against racial injustice, police brutality and oppression in the United States.
Whilst many viewers saw his actions as brave and inspiring, others took it as an insult to the country of which Kaepernick was pointing out some of the flaws.
He continued to kneel during the anthem at subsequent games and this became a global protest symbol against police brutality and racism.
For his brave actions, Kaepernick was harshly punished by the National Football League. That same season was to be his last after President Donald Trump said that NFL owners should “fire” players who protest during the national anthem.
Whilst other players did follow suit, Kaepernick remained the clear leader of the protest symbol whilst he still played and he got hit hardest by the reaction. He became a free agent after the 2016/17 season and remained unsigned. It is widely suspected that this was for political reasons.
Kaepernick filed a grievance with the NFL that was later withdrawn after a confidential settlement was reached. His symbol of protest continued to inspire the world, however, and it was still a prominent part of resistance culture during the 2020 George Floyd murder protests.
Predictably, Kaepernick remains unsigned by any professional football team.
In the year he began the protest, 2016, he also confirmed in a locker room discussion with reporters from NBC sports that he was a vegan. He said that ethics and health were both key reasons for his switch to a plant-based diet and that he felt much healthier after the changeover.
Kaepernick may not make as many waves for his veganism as he has with his social justice protests, but we’ve seen in this piece the close link between the two and it’s no surprise someone who cares so much about one is also an adherent of the other.
That’s not to say he’s shy about his veganism, though. Impressive pictures of his elite athlete’s physique on his social media are coupled with tags like #NotBadForAVegan. Kaepernick is one of the many examples that physical excellence can be achieved with a plant-based diet.
He’s part of making the vegan lifestyle taste good too. On December 10th 2010, the beloved ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s announced a new ice cream flavour created in partnership with Kaepernick.
The vegan Change the Whirled flavour has been hugely popular and is made with graham cracker swirls, chocolate cookie swirls, fudge chips and a caramel sunflower butter base.
The great flavour is just one of the many reasons it’s a fantastic food choice. As well as being a party for your taste buds, it’s also a top pick for helping the planet and animals. Kaepernick’s proceeds from the ice cream’s sales go to the Oakland branch of the Know Your Rights Camp.
Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement that the vegan flavour “celebrates Kaepernick’s courageous work to confront systemic oppression and to stop police violence against Black and Brown people”.
Both Kaepernick and the ice cream brand have consistently spoken out against racial injustice and hopefully, this will be just one of many steps in coming years that aims to bring the vital causes of veganism and social justice together.
Serena Williams is not just one of the most legendary tennis stars of all time, but one of the most legendary sports stars of all time.
It could be argued that no individual has ever dominated a sport in the same manner that Williams has. She has spent a total of 319 weeks at the single’s world number 1 ranking for the Women’s Tennis Association.
Serena has won a staggering 23 Grand Slam singles titles and even at forty years old today is still one of the best in her sport.
She didn’t become so good at what she does by chance, though. It takes many years of dedication and consistency. To be able to be at the top of her game for so long it’s been important for Serena to stay in great shape.
This goes further than just her muscles but also her overall wellness, meaning her mind and her body.
She was inspired by her sister to turn to a plant-based diet, which she follows strictly during the sports season to make sure her physical condition and recovery are always as good as they can be.
She does sometimes slip in the offseason when her physical demands are lower and there isn’t the same requirement for her on-season strictness.
As well as being great for her wellbeing, the environment and countless animals, she also adopted the diet to support her sister, who utilised the diet as part of her successful battle against Sjogren’s syndrome
To dominate a sport for so long then you have to get everything right, and you’ll likely struggle to find better evidence than Serena Williams, that a vegan lifestyle can take you to the top of your game.
Again, one of the most dominant sports and tennis stars of all time, Venus has utilised a plant-based diet to consistently rank among the top of women’s tennis for almost thirty years and jump over significant hurdles along the way.
In 2011, as Venus was competing to win yet another Grand Slam, she was forced to withdraw due to illness. She was later diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease which causes fatigue and muscle and joint pain.
Amazingly, this was the first time in her career that she did not reach the quarterfinals or better in any of the Grand Slam tournaments in a season.
These symptoms are difficult for anyone to deal with but especially for someone who is used to dominating their sport so consistently. As part of her recovery process, she turned to a plant-based diet.
This helped her come roaring back next season and Venus has continued to play at the top level ever since.
A crucial part of her again getting back to top shape after such a significant hurdle was following a vegan diet, although she admits to slipping on rare occasions. Her diet very much is focused on plant-based foods, though.
When she began her vegan journey, she initially focussed on eating raw foods, which initially made up about 80 per cent of her diet. She realised that this wasn’t sustainable for her lifestyle though, with her sports career demanding she sticks to tough schedules that involve lots of travelling and training in between matches.
She also finds that supplements help her to maintain her elite vegan health. Serena suggests that those looking to switch to a plant-based diet take things slowly.
A lot of people find the idea intimidating, and diving in headfirst overzealously can be counterproductive. She suggests starting by making just one meal a day plant-based.
By making the transition manageable and taking it at a pace that suits you, you may be more likely to find that it can be a full-time transition rather than a week-long attempt.
Serena says that the support of the people around her was crucial in making the transition. She received this from her family who have now mostly switched to plant-based diets too.
She emphasises the importance of finding an individual learning process that works for you.
Working out how your cravings play out and what ways you can overcome and satisfy them, isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight and making the transition long-lasting is only likely to happen, if you come to terms with the fact that becoming vegan is a constant process.
Legendary musician Stevie Wonder is a pioneer and influence across a vast range of genres including jazz, funk, soul, gospel, rhythm & blues and jazz.
His ability to play numerous instruments means that he’s spent much of his career essentially being a one-man-band.
His influence has been especially profound on R&B, which changed forever thanks to his innovative use of synthesizers and other electronic musical instruments.
There are few people who personify longevity as Stevie Wonder does, having signed for Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11 and continuing to make music to this day aged 72.
He had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 at the age of 13! This makes him the youngest ever artist to top the chart.
As Wonder’s career went on, he became increasingly spiritual. He attributes a lot of this evolution to his introduction to transcendental meditation through his marriage to Syreeta Wright in the 1980s.
As his spirituality progressed, he turned initially to being a vegetarian and then to veganism.
He famously sang about his healthy diet change during a Carpool Karaoke session with James Corden on The Late Late Show in 2015.
As is increasingly common, Stevie Wonder’s beliefs see him supporting both social justice causes and veganism, which are increasingly seen as overlapping issues.
In a 2016 interview with AOL, he joked “I’ve been a vegan for two years, so that’s helped my already good-looking self”. He then added that “I think eating healthy is important”.
Later on, in the interview, he discussed his beliefs that such dietary changes are an important part of the pressing task to promote environmentally-friendly living.
Our list of top black vegan musicians is just getting started and it doesn’t get much more soulful and funkier than Erykah Badu.
Her music took inspirations from 1970s soul, 1980s hip hop and R&B to culminate in one of the defining and pioneering sounds in the neo-soul subgenre of the 1990s and 2000s. This influence has earned her the title of the “Queen of Neo-Soul”.
She’s also a best-selling author and entrepreneur, as well as acting in films.
Badu’s veganism is consistent and she can be attributed with contributing to the growing popularity of veganism amongst black entertainers and the black population in general.
The practise goes back a long way for her too, initially beginning as a vegetarian when she was in high school in 1989. She says the health benefits of her dietary choices are clear, and often starts her day with a wheatgrass shot and some green juice.
Badu said that she mostly enjoys eating raw kales salads as well as fruits and fresh vegetables. Avocados are a particular favourite.
She told VegNews that she believes “Vegan food is soul food in its truest form. Soul food means to feed the soul. And to me, your soul is your intent. If your intent is pure, you are pure.”
Badu epitomises the holistic approach to well-being that sees diet as a crucial part of one’s spiritual health as well as physical and mental health.
We currently are seeing an influx of science-based content which advocates the environmental and physical reasons to turn to veganism.
These are important but keeping the spiritual side of the journey alive can make the transition even more rewarding and play a crucial part of many people’s dietary journeys.
Angela Davis is one of the leading modern figures of important black social justice movements and this passion for her includes her dietary choices.
Whilst she’s mostly known for her activism around human rights, she’s also a staunchly committed vegan. In her more recent speeches, she’s made a point of emphasising the connection between human rights and animal rights.
In one speech during a lecture in South Africa she made one particularly resonant point:
“Sentient beings … endure pain and torture as they are transformed into food for profit, food that generates disease in humans whose poverty compels them to rely on McDonald’s and KFC for nourishment.”
This link is a crucial part of understanding the intersection between important human-based social justice movements and vegan causes.
There are few figures better positioned to take a stance on social justice movements and so if you are new to veganism but interested in activism, it is well worth taking the time to read up on why veganism is also so important for human reasons.
She also expresses empathy for the countless murdered animals that are consumed as part of meat and dairy-centric Western diets.
In a 2012 interview, she emphasised “Most people don’t think about the fact that they’re eating animals. When they’re eating a steak or eating chicken, most people don’t think about the tremendous suffering that those animals endure simply to become food products to be consumed by human beings.”
If veganism is still something that is often considered a primarily white, middle-class fad, then there’s no better character than the firebrand, class-conscious, black empowerment truth that Angela Davis represents to help people realise that plant-based lifestyles can and should be accessible to everyone.
Just like the Williams twins, Lewis Hamilton has dominated his sport like few others and for an impressive stretch of time. He’s now won six Formula One titles and is far from finishing.
Alongside his passion for Formula One is his passion for veganism, animal rights and environmentalism.
As has been the case for many vegans and vegetarians over the last decade or so, it was a documentary that first set Hamilton on a plant-based path.
It was What the Health (which is essential viewing for anyone who cares about health, diets or animal welfare) which changed his dietary lane in 2017 when it was released.
The acclaimed documentary investigates important topics such as the damage caused by the meat industry and the negative impact to people’s health, has taken from unknowingly succumbing, to aggressive marketing tactics that encourage people to eat frankly obscene amounts of meat.
Whilst, as a sportsman, his diet is a crucial part of his life for performance reasons, he is compelled by a multitude of reasons to be vegan.
At the beginning of his transition, he sent out a message on social media that exclaimed “animal cruelty, global warming, and our personal health is at stake.”
He never regretted the choice and later that year gave an interview with CNN in which he heaped praises on the plant-based diet and what it had done for him.
It wasn’t always a smooth change for Hamilton, who had previously been criticised by animal rights groups for posing with an endangered tiger at the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation in Mexico.
He has completely switched lanes now and is one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken vegan advocates.
It is not just in regards to food in which Hamilton plays an active role. He has addressed animal cruelty in various forms such as leather production, the trophy hunting industry and dolphin shows.
His voice is heard more than most and with over 13 million followers on Instagram, there’s no doubt that veganism can continue to be pushed forwards.
Black vegan recipes
As more black people adopt vegan and vegetarian diets, we’re also seeing a growth in the number of black influencers and content creators who contribute to the constant public discussion about what constitutes the best vegan food.
People find all sorts of ways to keep up with the new ideas that people are coming out with. Luckily in the age of the internet, people are always keen to share and so it’s easy for anyone with an internet connection to go out there and find culinary inspiration.
One particularly popular area for experimentation is with vegan mac and cheese. With the ever-expanding range of cheese and dairy alternatives out there, it’s becoming easier and easier to come up with inventive ways to recreate this traditionally cheesy dish.
Nowadays it’s possible to recreate the satisfying and gloriously cheesy experience of classic mac and cheese using great vegan ingredients like silken tofu.
We recommend searching for vegan mac and cheese on your favourite social media site to find black vegan creators who’ve already come up with loads of great ways to make the dish.
If you’re new to veganism, experimentation can be a fun way to develop a culinary profile that suits you.
When starting out, you may feel a bit lost, and that’s ok.
Start by browsing for some basic recipes and inspiration that you can work with. Master the essentials and get a couple of your favourite dishes down to a science.
This gives you a great springboard to then explore and bring your own tastes and preferences to the dishes other people are sharing and enjoying.
As veganism grows there are only going to be more and more recipe ideas out there. Find a cooking mate and one day a week try out one another’s new vegan dish.
This way you can have a social side to the learning experience, get someone’s insight on what you’re getting right and wrong, and hopefully enjoy sharing some great new food with a friend.
If you can master a group of vegan recipes that you really enjoy then you’ll be setting yourself up for years of feeling healthy both physically and spiritually.
You’ll also be saving countless animals’ lives, reducing your environmental footprint and not giving your money to a predatory industry.
Black Vegan Influencers
Here are a few of our favourite black vegan influencers to keep an eye out for:
Abby from @veganbrownting
RG from @rgveganfood
Karis from @kariswithlove
Rebekah-Sarah from @londonveganquest
… And Finally
There’s a good reason for our tagline at the bottom of our logo!