Black Vegans Rock: Giving Visibility To Black People In The Vegan Movement

Aph Ko wants to change the way people look at veganism.

Black Vegans Rock Logo

“Going vegan” is a lifestyle change that’s been especially popular recently, though it is not a new trend. The vegan lifestyle consists of excluding all products made from animals or using meat. Black vegans are not new either, but there is a shortage of black representation in the veganism movement beyond the occasionally spotlighted celebrity.

Aph Ko, who has been a vegan for two years now, established a community of like-minded individuals who want to change the portrayal of black vegans in the veganism movement. Though black vegans have been ignored in the movement, she created a list showcasing 100 black vegans in 2015, which has now evolved into the Black Vegans Rock platform. Ko told The Huffington Post that “A lot of black people wanna become vegan [but] when you go online and you look around, you’re kind of confronted with this really white-centered version of veganism,” leading Black Vegans Rock to educate black people interested in veganism and connect them with other black vegans.

In trying to change the popular narrative for veganism, Ko has identified the racially challenging aspect of veganism for black people: because white people feel that they have a racial stake in animal rights they are quick to correct black people, while failing to recognize that there is a different path to animal rights and veganism for black people. Fortunately, Ko is not alone in her mission, as organizations like PETA have also tried to put well-known black vegans in the spotlight.

Despite this, the racial tension underlying veganism has persisted, as slaves have been compared to slaughtered animals and complaints that “Black lives matter… more than Chickens or Cows lives… apparently.” With Black Vegans Rock, Ko seeks to remove this kind of colorism from veganism and welcome black people and other people of color to educate themselves both on animal rights and the benefits of the vegan lifestyle.

Twitter Screenshot

This tweet exemplifies the unhealthy link made between veganism and race. (source)

Working with a group of prominent vegan scholars and activists, Black Vegans Rock plans to “re-articulate black people’s relationship to animals” and remove the hierarchal oppression. Ko commented that “In our cultural imagination, being an animal is the worst thing you can be. And no one knows that more than black people who for generations have been called animals by white people and have been brutalized and tortured. When you are white and you want to bring attention to animals — who occupy a really low position in society — and then you borrow imagery from an oppressed group without meaningfully analyzing that oppression, you have to expect backlash… As black vegans, this is where we step in.”

The vegan lifestyle, in its whitewashed social presence, can be seen as a privileged way to live. Black Vegans Rock wants to dismantle thinking, sharing tips about gardening and bulk vegetable buying. Like anything in our society, it is virulent stereotypes that alarm and dissuade people, and Ko wants to change that in the most objective way she can. She and her organization vouch for veganism as a compassionate, healthy lifestyle, rather than keeping it on the “holier than thou” platform some vegans take. Ultimately, veganism isn’t a black choice or a white choice: it’s a lifestyle choice that anyone who’s willing is welcome to partake of.

Photo source.

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