Exclusive Interview: Black VegFest Founder Explains How Non-Black Vegans Can Be Better Allies

Black VegFest founder Omowale Adewale is a social justice activist working to address socioeconomic and political issues of the Black and Latinx communities. We reached out to Omowale to see how Mercy For Animals and non-Black members of the animal rights community could become better allies to Black people.

Here’s what he had to say:

Black VegFest recently shared “7 Points of Allyship for the White Vegan Community in Defense of Black Lives.” What do you hope people take away from this document?

My hope is that white vegans pick up the work in an effective manner that radically differs from racists. The most effective way to do away with racism is to have white communities counteract racism themselves and use their privilege and access to dismantle oppressive conditions we have already pointed out. This is not new. 

However, what’s new is I am open to teaching white vegans who are ready to mobilize other white vegans. Black folks are dealing with being Black in white America, and with that comes constant emotional and physical abuse without repercussion. So no Black person is obligated to teach or remind white people how to not be racist or use their privilege for good.

I am providing tactics and strategies so white people don’t just pledge to uphold the “7 Points of Allyship” but describe what you can tangibly do—short term and long term. There are Black Lives Matter actions happening globally on a daily basis, and they are fast forming, intricate, and specific. So, I do believe white vegans need direction, education, and proper protocols so we have proper solutions. 

The most marginalized of the Black community are factored in, such as LGBTQ+, non-able-bodied, mentally ill, and those who are deprived of proper housing. Many Black vegans are still cognizant of the suffering of animals. This is vegan intersectionality. 

None of us have to teach white people, vegan or otherwise, but we believe the #7PointsofAllyship is our new terms and conditions for interacting with the Black community so we feel and are less burdened. 

It would be magnificent if white vegans could operate in the spirit of John Brown, who radically sacrificed his life to dismantle slavery, or Lisa Shapiro, who was an ethical vegan but also used her white privilege to support my works without any quid pro quo. She asked for nothing but thought my work was necessary enough to support it in her will.

Those are two strong examples, but without that work, institutionalized racism grows each year. The overwhelming majority of white people are not allies, even those who believe they are the most liberal. 

How can animal rights organizations, including Mercy For Animals, make the vegan community more inclusive and equitable? What should we stop doing? 

Animal organizations that are white-led are in a position to do something concrete:
  • Make sharing #7PointsofAllyship and #BlackVegFest a regular occurrence, not a phase. 
  • Publicize our social actions, even when they challenge white people, to reinforce vegan intersectionality. 
  • Actively engage white vegans to read, share, and commit to #7PointsofAllyship and its imaging. 
  • Support vegan entities that are not racist and work intersectionally. 
  • Stop emboldening or ignoring racists. Take the same chances as those on the front lines.
  • If you see a need to support, reach out and support. Don’t wait. We’re doing lots of support actions, like aiding organizations and coordinating vegan food to be distributed. This is our commitment to veganism and justice. 
  • Don’t use the excuse of making mistakes to retire vegan intersectionality. Our tiniest of mistakes are spotlighted as a group every single day. We’re seen as either too lazy or too aggressive.
  • Racists addressing speciesism is not OK anymore, and it needs to be treated as an act of violence. It only damages the larger and more long-term work. 
  • Stop comparing the abuse between humans to explain animal abuse. You don’t mean it if you’re racist or permit racists. 
  • Do not assume Black and indigenous POC are not vegan for ethical reasons. We must be more tactical than the mainstream target of white, able-bodied, cis-het folks. 
  • Read and understand the #7PointsofAllyship so we know who is potentially safe and who is not, because that has been getting us killed, and we are exhausted.
Tell us a little bit about the Black VegFest break-out sessions.

“Black VegFest Break-Out” is unapologetically Black. In all ways that are positively affirming for Black people’s mental health, we air our podcast. Our goal is to support Black people with a host of resources as we help guide our viewers to a vegan way of living with the highest commitment of integrity.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Support me on Patreon: Patreon.com/omowaleadewale.

The fact that I’m educating the white community and we are witnessing another civil rights movement means the U.S. broke its promise of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Black Lives Matter activist Kimberly Jones gave a poignant breakdown of how the U.S. broke its promise of civil rights and voting rights to the Black community.

Pay us reparations formally and informally, not in thank-yous. My work is often hidden amongst a conformist, ableist, speciesist, white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal society (invoking bell hooks), and those who challenge its power need to be supported like any other ground support infantry.

--
For more valuable insight, follow Omowale on Instagram. Looking for other inspiring Black voices? We’ve compiled a list of 14 vegan Black influencers who are spreading compassion, love, and strength during these difficult times. Be sure to follow them!