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Black Vegan Voices Echo Black Lives Matter

Updated on June 17, 2020
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Shelley is a vegan who has worked professionally and as a volunteer in animal welfare organizations for the past 30 years.

The civil rights movement continues today

The Civil Rights Movement did not end in 1968 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today in 2020, tens of thousands of African American’s along with a vast number of other ethnic groups here in the USA and countries around the world are marching together to protest police brutality against people of color. Side by side in this effort are vegan black activists advocating for a healthier, safer and thriving community by taking a hard look at dietary choices.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is the descriptive name used to fight for change and compassion for the black community. That these three words must be uttered, screamed and painted onto our city streets because killing and injustice continues on a daily basis, is heartbreaking and tragic. BLM is central to the black vegan movement, and through film, events and activism, many black voices with this message are being heard.

Jasmin Leyva, filmmaker

Jasmin Leyva, the producer of the documentary film The Invisible Vegan, (purchase the film here) says that she wanted to make this film as a way to showcase the many larger impacts a vegan lifestyle can have not only on individual black lives but also the civil rights movement. In fighting for a more compassionate society this must permeate in everything the black community does including how they eat. In the making of her film, Jasmin was pleasantly surprised to learn that the fastest-growing segment of the vegan community is in the African American community.

The US federal government subsidizes the animal agricultural industry. Jasmin notes that in many African-American neighborhoods there are dialysis centers every four blocks and the concentration of fast-food restaurants is significant. She sees a sick community “like the government is trying to kill you.” Add to that Jasmin notes that most fast food corporations support politicians and campaigns that oppose the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Invisible Vegan explores “the dietary patterns in the African-American community over the past three decades that has led to growing obesity, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. The intertwined histories of slavery, 20th-century socioeconomic inequalities, and the rise of Big Food have led to the increased consumption and dependence on meat, processed, junk and fast food. The film shows how this has resulted in a veritable epidemic of “nutricide,” or the insidious destruction of black bodies, minds, and souls through the marketing and consumption of unhealthy foodways.”

The film is optimistic in its message that veganism in the black community will become mainstream bringing about longevity and healthier lives. The early civil rights leaders who were vegan were fighting for a more loving and compassionate society. Jasmin believes that we cannot be compassionate in one area but cruel in others. Compassion must become habitual from the things we do, buy, and eat.

The Invisible Vegan trailer

The Black VegFest

The Black VegFest founded in 2018 by Omowale Adewale a champion boxer and social justice advocate, goes hand in hand with films like The Invisible Vegan. The event addresses the lack of plant-based food and nutrition information in communities of color. In recent months Adewale has focused on black liberation and ethical veganism through food justice. In addition, the Black VegFest is about the animals. The event is all about educating the audience about animal exploitation and how it ties into the oppression of people. The Black VegFest website says it is “about consciously supporting black people in every shape and form and using our voices to defend the voiceless animals!”

13 year old Genesis Butler

Genesis Butler is a 13-year-old African-American ethical vegan and animal rights activist. At the young age of four, Genesis had the insight and compassion of a much more mature person. She learned that chicken nuggets were made from the bodies of chickens who were killed on her behalf. She also learned that milk from cows that she drank from a glass meant that calves were denied their mother’s milk. Not caring that she would never eat ice cream again, Genesis suggested that her entire family go vegan. They agreed and have not consumed animal products since.

Genesis at ten years old was one of the youngest people to give a TEDx talk (see video below) where she shared her journey and vision for healing the planet. She gives talks across the country to improve the lives of animals and the planet and has won many awards including Animal Hero Kids’ Sir Paul McCartney Young Veg Advocate Award.

Today Genesis sees that black activism on behalf of global climate change and animal rights is growing. She recognizes environmental racism where minority communities are subjected to the pollution of animal agriculture corporations and how social justice will result in climate justice. Genesis is the lead organizer for Youth Climate Save meeting kids her age from all around the world who are raising awareness about veganism, animal rights, and climate change.

For Genesis, her activism is about giving her generation a compassionate and livable future for both humans and animals.

The black vegan movement envisions a society where civil rights are at long last baked into the culture of life in America. Police reforms will mean that young black men are no longer choked on city streets or shot in the back. Minority communities will no longer be subjected to environmental disasters. And ethical veganism will bring about food justice, access to quality healthcare, climate change and animal advocacy.

A 10-year old's vision for healing the planet | Genesis Butler | TEDx


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