This Saturday in Bed-Stuy, the first ever black-led vegan festival in Brooklyn will take place. Black Vegfest is a celebration of multicultural veganism and highlights the work of the black community, women of color, Latinx, LGBTQ and indigenous peoples within and beyond veganism.
Organized by the nonprofit Grassroots Artists MovEment (G.A.ME) and founded by author and activist Omowale Adewale, Saturday’s event promises a family-friendly day of delicious vegan food from local vendors, live music and scheduled talks by experts and activists. But unlike most vegan festivals where ticket prices exclude poor and working class people, admission to Black Vegfest is free to the public and accepts only donations. An online RSVP is required for adults and the venue is handicap accessible.
The festival will kick off with a welcome from Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, who is a vegan and community health advocate. Presentations throughout the day range from community organizing and intersectional frameworks for animal liberation and black liberation to holistic healthcare and Latinx queer perspectives about animal rights. Among the roster of chefs, authors, activists and athletes presenting are Sala Cyril, a Bed-Stuy native, veteran vegan and organizer with Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Aph Ko of Black Vegans Rock and queer Latinx activist KR Vargas of La Raza for Liberation. Grey, a rapper whose freestyle on vegan Thanksgiving went viral in 2016, will close out the event.
This isn’t another consumerist event with white vegans touting Buddha bowls, #VeganForTheAnimals cotton tees and meaty plant-based burgers purporting to save the planet. Black Vegfest is about creating a platform big enough for every kind of vegan to feel seen and heard in an inclusive environment where no one has to choose between their own welfare and the treatment of nonhuman animals. Rather than pitting issues of injustice against each other, the organizers of Black Vegfest are working to connect the dots between them.
In a short video interview with Mercy for Animals this year, Adewale talks about his desire to show his kids how to “not just treat humans in the best way possible but animals as well.” Black Vegfest is part of a broader movement of vegans of color pushing for intersectional justice who are finally receiving recognition for using their own foodways as a conduit to challenge speciesist, ableist, racist and colonialist systems that affect their daily lives. Mainstream vegan events typically do not lead discussions on resistance to socioeconomic and political inequality and, more often than not, portray veganism as a single-issue struggle, but as Audre Lorde famously corrected, “We do not live single-issue lives.”
“Are you critical of how women of color are treated throughout the world and of how farm animals are mutilated to look like food?” Black Vegfest’s website asks. The festival’s platform promises to cultivate “a way of expanding the dialogue around veganism and energizing residents of Brooklyn around a multitude of issues we face every day.” According to the site, the festival pays homage to Black August, the month dedicated to freedom fighters, the birthday of Marcus Garvey and “our collective fight against oppression.”
At Black Vegfest, entertainment, enrichment and amazing vegan food go hand in hand with critical thought and community engagement. Intersectional justice for humans and animals alike pairs nicely with a plate of Ital veggie jerk chicken, pulled jackfruit tacos and a tall green juice.
Black Vegfest will be held on Saturday, August 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Grassroots Artists MovEment (G.A.ME) located at 1958 Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy.