By Yhanni Guadalupe-Butcher, A Bohemian Vegan
This August, I had the opportunity to visit the Black Vegfest in Brooklyn, New York. This two-day event celebrates intersectional veganism, by highlighting liberation for all people of color through adding vegan representation, jam packed with great speakers, artists and vendors. Event organizer Omowale Adewale, saw a need for more representation in the Black community for other multicultural Vegan leaders to raise awareness about veganism to other people of color. So, he created the Black VegFest to break the narrative of what the average vegan looks like. In its first year, the turn out was estimated as 2,000 attendees. Though this event celebrates people of color, the event is open to all and all are encouraged to attend.
This event was extra special for me, because in the last 10 years of being plant-based, there have not been many festivals dedicated to highlighting vegans of color. It was a refreshing experience to go to a festival and meet people who look like me, share similar moral values, and eat like I do. Events like these also encourage me to teach others in my family and community to eat more plant-based foods for their health and our environment. It was also inspiring to hear from vegans of color and listen to them tell their individual journey to veganism and explain why they eat this way, as growing up I wasn’t exposed to vegan role models that looked like me.
For this year’s Black VegFest, Omowale and the volunteers hosted the event at the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn with dozens of amazing speakers, artists and vendors. Some recognizable names in attendance were artists such as Stic of Dead Prez, Plantbased Drippin Grey, popular for his Vegan Thanksgiving video and many local New York artists. This event also featured many speakers such as Tracye McQuiter writer of By Any Greens Necessary, Dr. Milton Mills who spoke on the documentary “What the Health, and Jasmine Leyva creator of the documentary The Invisible Vegan. There were also thousands of smiling local and out-of-state attendees who came to celebrate liberation, as people of color, and the wonderful joys of adopting a vegan lifestyle.
At the event, outside and inside vendors sold awesome items, from apparel to natural body products and oh, so many vegan food options from soul food to vegan empandas. I also had the chance to listen to a few wonderful speakers. Tracye McQuirter shared her unique journey to veganism in college and wrapped up with an informative Q&A, to help give tips to others that were interested in being vegan. I enjoyed learning how she has been vegan for over 30 years and that she was one of the first black vegan bloggers in the beginning stages of the internet. Aysha Aktar gave a talk on how we are all innately compassionate to all animals, whether we are vegan or not. There was also a “Black Vegan Men’s Panel”, which featured vegan influencers Torre Washington, Dr. Milton Mills, Stic and Grey. Helping to inspire men of color to adopt and add more vegan options into their plates. Besides having these speakers present, there were also many food demos and classes on the introductions to veganism to give any veg-curious attendees the tools to add meatless options and ideas into their lives.
Throughout the day the party was still going on outside of the Weeksville Heritage Center with performances by local artists and a jam-packed performance by Stic Of Dead Prez. There was also an exercise session with fitness instructor Scott Bernard of Body By Burnhard, to get everyone’s heart rate pumping and leaving the crowd with fitness moves to try out at home.
The Black VegFest also made a point to highlight mind and body wellness. Many yoga sessions held throughout the event. Attendees also had the chance to attend a daily Mental Health Workshop, just another way to help highlight health within the community and encourage attendees to consider all aspects of their wellness, inside and out.
Going to Black Vegfest was a great way for me to directly see and meet many wonderful vegan voices. I’m really glad that events similar to Black Vegfest are popping up so that every community can feel included and learn about veganism. This event is a great opportunity to connect and hear from many other Vegans of Color and to celebrate our culture and help encourage our peers to go vegan for our health, our environment and the animals. We hope that next year, Black VegFest will be on a part of your summer plans, because this important event is welcome to all and it’s a wonderful way to support vegans of color. Follow Black VegFest on instagram @blackvegfest and check out their website for the next event line up and more information at Blackvegan.org.
Hope to see you there!