If there’s anything I know about expanding people’s knowledge of veganism, it’s this:
- Documentaries are a critical tool for spreading information. In a 2014 study conducted by Humane League Labs, 43% of vegans said that documentaries were the most influential tool to persuade them to decrease their consumption of animal products.
- Anything Aph Ko (highly prolific author, founder of Black Vegans Rock, and overall badass vegan woman) posts is usually critically important and useful to the vegan movement as a whole.
So when Aph Ko shared a Facebook post yesterday of a documentary focused on the importance of black vegans, I immediately stopped everything I was doing and tuned into the trailer. Now I’m imploring everyone around me to do the same.
The Invisible Vegan is an upcoming 90-minute documentary that addresses the dietary inequality, subsequent unhealthy eating patterns, and historic meaning of food in African-American communities. The film highlights black vegans that use a plant-based diet as a solution to these issues, and as a means to reclaim control and cultural identity for black Americans.
We’re talking food justice, racial oppression, and veganism all in one, which is exactly the type of diverse content that the vegan movement needs to encompass.
When African people were torn from their original homes and enslaved by white Americans, they were forced to sustain themselves on the literal scraps of food thrown out by the slave owners. Their ability to make fulfilling meals from almost nothing, (which later became known as soul food), became a legacy and source of pride for generations to come.
Soul food in African American communities served as a way to create and claim a source of culture for a population of people who were stripped of all identity. Typically, soul food includes large amounts of oil, meat, and dairy, which makes the initial idea of veganism seem contradictory to the pride and identity of African American people. In many black communities, veganism is therefore seen as a ‘white thing’. The problem is, without elevating black vegan voices, trying to argue against ‘veganism as a white thing’ just ends in chaos and misunderstanding on all ends.
By amplifying black vegan voices, we recognize our food system in the US as not only a speciesist construct, but also a weapon used to maintain systemic, racial oppression and discrimination against black Americans.
In the US, white neighborhoods contain an average of four times the amount of supermarkets as predominantly black neighborhoods. In black neighborhoods, access to food outside of packaged convenience store food or fast food is extremely limited, making the rate of otherwise preventable, diet-related diseases exorbitantly higher than in white communities.
With both culture and modern food systems playing a major role in how veganism is perceived within black communities, The Invisible Vegan will shine a much-needed light on how a plant based diet can empower black Americans to take control of their health and reclaim a portion of their rightful heritage.
Boosting the voices of marginalized vegans from all communities needs to be a top priority if we want widely accepted veganism across diverse populations of people. Because veganism is, at least, a moral baseline vested in compassion and empathy, we want it to succeed as a social justice movement instead of being written off as a trendy diet for upper-middle class white populations.
Supporting diverse communities of people as they implement veganism in their own ways — fitting of their various cultures and backgrounds — will propel the vegan movement to previously unseen levels, saving human lives, providing communities with healthier food, and stopping the reliance on animal bodies for sustenance.