Name: Steven Oliver
Location: Lexington, KY
How long have you been vegan? And what inspired your journey?
I’ve just started on this journey and I’ve been Vegan now going on 3 months. I’ve been surprised by how easy it has been to move away from eating meat and dairy. I’ve had a lot of fun discovering new foods and destroying my kitchen attempting to learn how to cook. Becomming vegan was something that I always wanted to do initially for health reasons. Passing the age of 40 forced me to think about how I might establish a framework for eating that could sustain me during the second half of my life. I’ve been very inspired by the work of Bryant Terry on food justice issues in the Bay Area. Terry’s book, Vegan Soul Kitchen, has been an invaluble tool for me as I’ve endeavored to become someone who cooks every night rather than eating out all the time. Living in Lexington, Kentucky I’ve found a community of people who are concened about local produce, food systems, sustainability and addressing health disparities within the Black community.
Has veganism enhanced your health? Why or why not?
My health is certainly improving. I’ve lost 17 pounds and the weight continues to come off. I have more energy and clarity of mind. My blood pressure is lower, and my digestive health seems to be better as well. My skin is clearer and I even smell better. I’m still learning about how to make healthy choices even as a vegan. For instance I still need to be careful not to overload on carbs. I think that for my constitution being vegan is best possible choice.
In retrospect, how do you feel about meat? Or do you have any thoughts on America’s meat industry?
As I mentioned earlier I became vegan initially for health reasons i.e. wanting to reach and maintain a healthy weight. I was watching a clip of Ellen Degeneres talking about why she became vegan and she mentioned having seen a film called Earthlings which is about the meat industry. I decided to watch the film and I was horrified by the way that the animals are treated. The amount of cruelty and suffering is immense and unneccessary. I never made the connection between the meat industry and environmental issues as well. I would encourage people to watch the film online at earthlings.com. Once you see something like you realize that you’ve been drinking from a poisened well and its very hard to continue to particpate by being a consumer of animal products.
Was there a community of black men that helped you along your meatless journey? And if not, what are you doing to change this for others?
I can’t say that I’ve found a community as yet. In fact I found out about this series while searching for such a community online. Again I can’t say enough about the work of Bryant Terry as a catalyst for my journey as he really opened up for me the possibility of a different way of being. I was inspired by his innovate strategies educating people i.e. hosting Organic Soul Parties in the Black Community. I’ve been trying to think of how I might do something similar in Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve corresponded with Bryant via e-mail and he’s been extremely approachable and helpful which I’ve greatly appreciated. Breeze Harper’s work and her book, Sistah Vegan, focusing on Black women started me thinking about how a similar dialogue could be started among Black men i.e. utilizing plant based diets to counter hyper-tension, diabetes, prostate cancer and obesity. I wrote to Breeze and she was kind enough to point me in the direction of some Black male vegan hip hop activists doing interesting works. Perhaps I could develop a blog documenting my journey that would encourage other Black men to consider a plant based diet for their individual health and the health of our families and communities. In becomming vegan it seems I’ve stumbled upon a new aspect of my life’s work as an educator and activist. I’m looking forward to the journey and expecting great things.
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