Veganism is on the rise in African American communities. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that while 3 percent of American adults overall identified as vegan, the number jumped to 8 percent among African American adults. The Washington Post recently discussed how a growing number of hip-hop artists were expanding the plant-based movement.
From promoting plant-based meats to rocking cruelty-free fashion, these celebrities are teaching people about the urgent need to move away from animal products. Snoop Dogg is a brand ambassador for Beyond Meat. Jay Z and Beyoncé partnered with trainer Matt Borges to launch 22 Days Nutrition, a plant-based meal-planning and delivery service. RZA, GZA, and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan promoted Beyond Meat. Questlove from The Roots partnered with Impossible Foods to launch a cheesesteak. Jaden Smith started a vegan food truck. Cardi B’s fashion line with Fashion Nova features vegan leather and faux fur.
But their message isn’t new. Before these contemporary influencers, Dick Gregory, an actor and pioneering activist for human and civil rights, highlighted the connection between the philosophy of nonviolence in the civil rights movement and the food choices we make. In fact, many leaders in the African American community have shared the importance of plant-based eating, including Dexter King, Angela Davis, Erykah Badu, and Carl Lewis.
Reasons for the rise in vegan eating among African Americans go deeper than celebrity influence. Some reduce or stop their consumption of animal products to address the health disparities afflicting Black Americans. Choosing plant-based foods can decrease reliance on medical professionals and help people avoid the effects of systemic bias in the medical industry, giving them control of their health and well-being.
Others recognize similarities between systems of oppression, between the violence inflicted on farmed animals and the violence we see perpetrated against people of color in this country. Author and decolonial theorist Aph Ko conveyed this best: “The position that non-human animals occupy in our cultural imagination is proof for how easy it is to accept the lower status of some beings without even a second thought.”