RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California – For Gwenna Hunter, the embrace of veganism began with a soul awakening.
While still turning away from vegetarian, Hunter joined the more established and mostly white vegan activist community in 2015.
“I did an event with (animal rights organization) Anonymous for the Voiceless where we had videos showing what was going on in slaughterhouses. And there was a white man, he was homeless and young too. He walked past me and said, “White power.” That’s not for me. I was angry. And I felt too overwhelmed. I don’t want to feel that, ”said Hunter, founder of Vegans of LA, Vegan for Black Lives Matter and Community Leader for Vegan Outreach.
“That’s why I founded Vegans of LA. I created it on Meetup.com and then moved it to Facebook. Then I started publishing articles and finding my own voice. “
Gwenna Hunter shows samples of the food she and her colleagues hand out each week. (L’lia E. Thomas)
Despite her success in hosting vegan get-togethers, Hunter felt isolated from the 1,500 vegan “insiders” who followed her side. “They beat me up every step of the way because I didn’t know the language.”
Understanding little-known terms like “speciesism” is an expectation in the more rigid parts of the vegan community. Jäger’s vegan advocacy strategy was less complicated. Veganism is defined as any use and consumption of animal products as far as practicable.
“I want to feed people colored vegan food for free. I want you to try. If they knew how good it is, it might be a little easier for them to get involved, ”she said.
African Americans are the fastest growing vegan population, according to the Pew Research Center, which found 8 percent of African American adults were identified as vegan in 2016, compared with 3 percent of American adults as a whole.
While some members of traditional vegan advocacy groups like PETA have been accused of neglecting non-white cultural history, African-American vegan activists impact their communities – by orienting themselves towards the people they serve.
That’s why Hunter was hired by Vegan Outreach. She initially toured the south, focusing on historically black colleges and universities, handing out leaflets and speaking to people in one-on-one conversations.
“It humbled my energy because I think I turned into one of those judgmental vegans,” she said. “Then I went to a Taco Bell in the rural south and ordered a vegan taco … no dairy makes it vegan.”
The answer: “Sorry. Vegan? What’s this?”
“I was shocked. I was humbled by making sure I started talking to whoever they were right now,” she said. “I talk about diet and pain. Black people understand pain. They say,” I don’t want to cause pain. “That doesn’t mean they’ll take action right away, but they do.”
Many black vegans also see a compassionate lifestyle as an element of their struggle for justice and justice in America.
Angela Davis, longtime vegan and political activist, described veganism in 2016 as “one of the next great arenas”.
“Most people don’t think they are eating animals when they eat a steak or a chicken,” said Davis. “… The lack of a critical examination of the food we eat shows to what extent the form of goods has become the primary way in which we perceive the world.”
As the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic deepened food insecurity in Los Angeles, Hunter expanded her work with Vegan Outreach and partnered with Black Women for Wellness to provide groceries for Black, LGBTQ, homeless, single mothers, undocumented immigrants and the elderly To provide people. This year the collaboration was expanded to include Black Women Farmers of LA.
Amaechina, founder of Black Women Farmers of LA, in the garden where the collective produces hundreds of pounds of food for the community. (Courtesy Amaechina)
Amaechina, who lives with multiple sclerosis, founded Black Women Farmers of LA and continues her grandparents’ tradition of growing enough food to give away to neighbors and those in need in the heart of southern Los Angeles. Amaechina founded the collective in 2019 to unite black women she saw working in the community gardens.
“I realized that we can grow even more if we all work together as a collective. Right now, six black women are gardening together to maximize our ability to grow the kinds of plants we want to give to more people in the community, ”she said. “We turn an entire parcel into watermelons, an entire parcel – and do nothing but cantaloupes and so on.
“We produced so much last spring: 100 zucchini a week, 100 cucumbers a week, 100 squash, yellow squash, crookneck squash and butternut squash – between these three it was 100 a week. We had so much to eat that we could only give, give, give, give. That’s how we started. “
Amaechina’s next goal for the Black Women Farmers in LA is to acquire their own garden. Until then, she advocates that “people start where they are. Because your vision expands pretty quickly. You tell everyone about it. And once you get really nutritious, fresh, and nutritious food into people’s hands and mouths, it’s a game changer. We have people who are fanatics about our food. “
Black Women for Wellness, which was founded 23 years ago, provides additional information.
“Our Kitchen Divas program was created to bring whole plant foods to our communities, knowing that there is a direct correlation between how we feel in our bodies and how we appear in the world, depending on what we are in ours Body stuck, ”said Charity Faye, one of the program directors of Black Women for Wellness.
“Instead of turning all of South LA off by saying,” Join our vegan program, “we typically use ‘plant-based’. It allows people to step into our experience and receive the invitation that is not so closely tied to stereotypes that they often reject or make them feel that it is not affordable or sustainable for them. “
Together, Hunter, Vegan Outreach, and Black Women for Wellness served thousands of meals and handed out hundreds of pounds of fresh produce over the past year.
Hunter is preparing for her next big effort: a nonprofit called The Planetary Awakening Project, which deals with environmental justice issues.
(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel)