National Minority Health Month is celebrated during the month of April and Black America, health disparities and COVID-19 are at the forefront of pandemic news. An April 7, 2020 headline in the Washington Post read, “The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate.”
The article goes on to share that an analysis of available data and census demographics illustrates that counties where majority-Blacks have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.
In brief, more Blacks are testing positive for the infection, dying faster and in larger numbers. It is a sad commentary, but a health dilemma that has seemingly weaved its own unforeseen outcome.
Black diet and culture
The lifestyle and poor eating habits Blacks have indulged for more than 200-years is well-documented. Our cultural history and circumstances laid a weak foundation and the results of that acculturation are higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, all of which are health problems that make them more vulnerable to the new coronavirus. respiratory disease.
According to The Washington Post, “African Americans’ higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and lung disease are well-documented, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) noted that those health problems make people more vulnerable to the new respiratory disease. But there never has been a pandemic that brought the disparities so vividly into focus.”
One of the best example of the latter rests in a Black American who is the country’s foremost ambassador for health.
“I’ve shared myself personally that I have high blood pressure,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is a 45-year-old Black male. “That I have heart disease and spent a week in the [intensive care unit] due to a heart condition, that I actually have asthma and I’m pre-diabetic, and so I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black in America.”
Black vegans change the narrative
The surgeon general’s legacy is familiar to the Black community’s landscape, but is being changed by five Black vegans who are at the forefront of good health and vegan eating. The Miami Times introduces these individuals who help comprise and contribute to a much more vast list of individuals who are making a difference. Referenced from Blackhealth.org, this quintet makes the 2020 cut as standouts leading the Black community toward healthy eating habits and altered lifestyles.
Black veganism is a movement often overlooked and underscored as emphasis Blacks and disease statistics. Black veganism aims to empower and improve the health of vulnerable communities through plant-based nutrition.
There is a growing number of individuals who are adding value to this very mission—from activists who are fighting for access to healthy vegan food, to professional athletes proving that you don’t need animal protein to be strong. Though this list could be much longer (and should be celebrated at all times every year) here are five Black vegan activists who have dedicated their lives and careers to building a more inclusive and compassionate world.
Meet the five who thrive .
1. Eric Adams
The Borough President of Brooklyn, NY, 59-year-old Adams has been a vocal proponent of a plant-based lifestyle since eschewing animal products in 2016 to improve his health after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (which has since been completely reversed). His city-wide advocacy includes holding public discussions on the value of veganism, championing a Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program at New York City hospitals, and supporting initiatives that offer vegan lunch options at all New York City public schools and Meatless Monday menus in jails. Adams is admired for using his political platform to encourage and support his community to improve their health the same way he did.
2. LaRayia Gaston
An inspiring actress and activist, Gaston is the founder and executive director of Los Angeles-based nonprofit Lunch on Me, which aims to end starvation by redistributing food that would otherwise be discarded, using it to make meals for 10,000 people on Skid Row each month. Through Lunch on Me, Gaston works to provide enriching opportunities to LA’s homeless population through community parties, yoga classes, and healing gatherings for women. Gaston also recently opened LaRayia’s Bodega in Westlake, CA to give vulnerable communities access to affordable and healthy vegan food. She has clearly made it her life mission to help those who are less fortunate.
3. David Carter
A former NFL football defensive lineman, Carter was one of the first professional football players to openly tout the benefits of a vegan diet after realizing the negative impact his own carnivorous eating habits were having on his health, athletic performance, and recovery. With the moniker the “300-pound vegan,” Carter is a powerhouse in strength and activism. He now tours the country as a vegan activist to raise awareness of animal rights, human health, and the planet—and to prove that athletes don’t need animal protein to be at the top of their game. From playing football to fighting for animal justice, Carter’s dedication demonstrates how ultimate strength can be celebrated both on and off the field.
4. Genesis Butler
Thirteen-year-old Butler went vegan at the age of six after discovering the milk she was drinking came from exploited mother cows. The young activist speaks regularly at events across the United States and Canada and has won numerous awards—including the Animal Hero Kids’ Sir Paul McCartney Young Veg Advocate Award and PETA’s Youth Activist of the Year Award—for advocating on behalf of the animals. In 2017, Butler became one of the youngest people to participate in lecture series TEDx, and in 2019, she challenged Pope Francis to go vegan for $1 million on behalf of a Million Dollar Vegan global campaign. Butler is among the new generation of changemakers and, understandably, she’s focusing her role on improving the lives of animals and the planet.
5. Omowale Adewale
Champion boxer and social justice advocate Adewale founded Black VegFest in Brooklyn, NY in 2018 to primarily address food sovereignty and the lack of plant-based nutrition information and food options in communities of color. The event has since expanded to the Bronx borough of New York, bringing together vegan presenters, restaurants, and catering businesses to advance the conversation around healthier solutions within the community. Adewale’s community-minded prowess has made a significant impact on those around him as he continues to share his important message of intersectionality and accessibility.
The Washington Post, Nicole Axworthy/VegNews and Blackhealth.org contributed to this report