Guest Blog Post: Madera E. Rogers
Are African American & Afrikan Vegans Missing from the Vegan/Vegetarian Conversation?

Dear readers,

The following is a guest post from Ms. Madera E. Rogers, who recently relocated to New Orleans.  Many thanks to this guest blogger!  Please note that the words and ideas below belong to her and her guests alone.  Readers, enjoy!

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Madera E. Rogers recently moved to New Orleans from Brooklyn, New York. She is a textile artist, organic clothing designer, personal performance coach, Philanthropist, green conscious activist and vegan. Ms Rogers has introduced a conscious movement through The Green Journey Series which is a series of events that generates conscious discussions around the human experience, empowerment and change. Madera’s belief is that we need to celebrate, as a global community, the power of envisioning life, self, and the planet differently.

QUESTION: Are African American & Afrikan Vegans
Missing from the Vegan/Vegetarian Conversation?

The Benefits of Being Vegan/Vegetarian

The benefits are numerous. Some have chosen the vegan/vegetarian life style because the dietary choices contribute to improving their overall health. Within the African American/Afrikan community there is virtually no high blood pressure or diabetes reported among vegans/vegetarians. For others, avoiding meat and dairy helps to reduce direct negative effects on the environment. Others choose the vegan/vegetarian path in order to remove the direct emotional attachment they felt with eating animals. Last but not least there is a spiritual connection between food that comes directly from the earth and the human body.

Reports and Data

The following data are taken from a study conducted by Vegetarian Times which commissioned RRC Associates, a research firm in Boulder, Colo., to perform the data analysis. The report is entitled “Vegetarianism in America”. Published by Vegetarian Times (vegetariantimes.com). The study shows that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. The study continues with citing that 59 percent are female; 41% are male. 42.0 percent are 18 to 34 years of age; 40.7 percent are 35 to 54 years of age and 17. 4 percent are over 55. Continuing the study notes 57.1 percent have followed a vegetarian diet for more than 10 years; 18 percent for 5 to 10 years; 10.8 percent for 2 to 5 years, 14.1 percent for less than 2 years.

Here's another report found on the Food For The Soul web page, that celebrates and focuses solely on the presence of the missing African American/Afrikan vegan or vegetarian. There's a tag line on the Food For The Soul web page that notes Imhotep as the author of the famous saying “Let Food Be Thy Medicine”, not Hippocrates. The report continues to share information from The Vegetarian Resource Group detailing the findings from a 2012 telephone poll of 2,030 individuals age 18 and over. By the way, the data continues to state there's 2.5 million of Blacks and Afrikans embracing a plant based, vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. The report cites that 4% of Americans are vegans or vegetarians. 1% of this statistics are vegan. This simply means that there are 9 million vegetarians and 2 million of those are vegans. Another 43% report eating one or more vegetable meals per week. The statistics also show, that 6% of African Americans/Afrikans state they are vegan or vegetarian while 3% of Whites state they are.

Overall, this data indicates that African American /Afrikans, are more likely to be eating a plant based diet. My goal is to open dialogue around the question “Are African American/Afrikans missing in the dialogue around being vegans or vegetarians”? I'll take it a step further: Are we are missing in the conversation around sustainability, environment, recycling, and permaculture”… and the list continues. If we are missing… why are we missing in these conversations?

The Introduction

On a perfect New Orleans Sunday morning several weeks back, a new associate introduced me to a popular vegan-friendly restaurant named Bread on Oaks in the Carrollton area of New Orleans. My excitement - experiencing a new restaurant. I appreciate good food! It is a charming cafe with a friendly vibe, attentive service and delicious offerings of vegan and gluten free breads, pastries and conscious meals. However, I was disappointed.

My associate and I, seated ourselves in a narrow room with chairs lined up facing a window to outdoors. Our view was the main performance, i.e. the kitchen. This behind the scenes choreography could be viewed through a full floor to ceiling window allowing customers to see how the magic is created!

As my associate and I began eating a small group arrived. They were chatting about upcoming events and exchanging pleasantries. At some point my associate and I were invited to join the conversation. Within the group were Holly Feral, Editor in Chief of Portland, Oregon-based publication Driftwood Magazine, which is dedicated to travel and vegan lifestyle. Also present was Melissa Bastian Breedlove of New Orleans in Green blog. I pondered how to start the conversation around why the vegan scene is portrayed as a white only experience? And where’s the presence of African Americans/Afrikans and other cultures as vegans? Okay, loaded questions.

I presented the question and Melissa’s response was to offer me an opportunity to do the guest blog which you are reading now. Holly Feral’s response can be viewed here on the MERELYME.CO Facebook page videos section. I judge that both women felt somewhat awkward when I posed the question.

Taking this one step further I suggest that there are those who do not understand why this is a question or of any concern. There in lies the problem.

Why The Disconnect?

Here's an interesting thought. With all the emphasis in America on embracing the lifestyle of being a vegan, practicing yoga... from my perspective, there's a disconnect somewhere. If, we are taking actions that are supposed to enlighten us, why is the world still not enlightened? How can so much concern be voiced about the planet, caring for animals, protecting the land etc., and no action plan to address social injustices, and ethics? I just find it odd that those people, who are moving towards enlightenment, appear to have their eyes closed tight and see only what is comfortable to their view?

Please note that there are audio interviews in this post from individuals across the U.S. and from New Orleans. My hope is that each interview will provide a rich insight layering threads to create a fabric of life. There's no right or wrong answer to the question. What's imperative is to share in the exchange and bridge the generational, ethical, and cultural gaps and boundaries so we can enter into sacred dialogue.

Are We Missing?

My second audio interview is with Certified Nutritionist, Certified Colon Therapist, Iridologist and Herbologist Evelyn Gordon, better known in the African American community as "Nanana". She resides in Denver, Colorado. Nanana serves as an elder within her community, and is known for her passion about living life to the fullest. She's been a vegan for over 30 plus years. Her philosophy… "I do not subscribe to preaching to individuals about what they should be doing in their lives. You can only lead a horse to water, it's the horse that must drink. Not you!  View interview videos with Nanana on this topic here (part 1) and here (part 2).

I'd like to acknowledge Melissa with New Orleans in Green for being receptive to open up the discussion and providing me with a platform to share my first #TheGreenJourney Series blog. I encourage everyone who reads this to join in and listen to the upcoming audio conversations on the following social media:
Twitter: @TheGreenJourney
Instagram: Madera_e_rogers
Facebook: The Green Journey

The Green Journey Series

For the next five weeks on Mondays only access one of the three mediums listed above to listen to audio presentations from elders of the community, activists, young and bold sharing their perspective as we walk through a world that reminds us that it is our birthright to be happy. Have peace when you see chaos, and not allow the chaos take a piece of you!

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