Name: Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka
Occupation: Educator, Natural Living Advocate, Doula, Aspiring Midwife
Location: We live in Brooklyn, baby.
Website: SoulVegMama and SoulVegFolk
How long have you been vegetarian? And what inspired your journey?
Long story short, I was raised in a vegan household. At the time, my parents were part of a religious community that promoted veganism. Eventually, we began eating meats and dairy. But as I got close to ending high school, I felt a serious need to take it back to my upbringing. I just knew that my body could feel better: lighter, mucous-free, and end the symptoms commonly labeled as PMS. When I traveled to Ghana in 2001, my decision was solidified. There, I ate fresh chicken and fish, and it tasted nothing like what I was used to eating. While I liked the flavors and sauces on meat, I did not like the taste of meat itself. I also met the man who is now my husband during that trip. He encouraged me to consider the affect that cheese was having on my body and menses in particular.
Has vegetarianism enhanced your health? Why or why not?
My health definitely has benefited from a plant-based diet, particularly after I ended my unrequited lovethang with cheese in ’02. When even my dentist encouraged me to refrain from dairy, I figured it was time to listen. I’d never suffered any health problems growing up, but with my vegetarian diet, I had a shorter menstrual cycle, fewer incidences of cramps (which were pretty debilitating) and no more unnecessary mucous!
In retrospect, how do you feel about meat? Or do you have any thoughts on America’s meat industry?
Well, I believe in everyone’s right to choose what they consume and don’t hold up vegetarianism as the ideal diet for everyone. I think that conscious eating that considers the cost on our planet, our bodies, and our fellow earth creatures is really critical though. That being said, the current state of meat production in this country is atrocious and shameful. The completely inconsiderate suffering and slaughtering of animals, severe contamination of our soil, air, and waterways, AND introduction of chemicals and synthetic hormones to our children’s bodies just seems a perpetual price to pay for flavor.
Was there a community of black women that helped you along your meatless journey? And if not, what are you doing to change this for others?
I have found and created community along the way. In 2008, my husband and I launched SoulVegFolk, a social network where African folks of the Diaspora support our plant-based diets and healthy living lifestyles. There’s also a group on the site where women can chat and share resources amongst ourselves. I moderate it. It has a modest amount of activity in comparison to the greater community, but I’d love to see it increase. I also share recipes and vegetarian-related writings on my blog. Lastly, living in NYC is great for vegetarianism because there are so many diverse restaurants, markets, and people who support our food choices.
Are you a vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian? Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be featured in the Black Female Vegetarian Series. Check back every Tuesday and Friday for a new profile! Click to read past profiles here.