UK Vegans of Colour: Black History Month edit Hits London
Esme Carr, known online as London Afro Vegan, started the UK Vegans of Colour page after feeling frustrated at the lack of diversity and representation in the vegan movement. The page showcases and celebrates people of colour within veganism - from business owners to bloggers to downright normal people - and provides a space for people to network and learn.
Aware of the clear lack of diversity at vegan events Esme knew that a UK Vegans of Colour event was the next step so teamed up with Betty and Michealla to put on the Black History Edit event which took place on 5-6 October 2019 in Peckham, South London.
Street food vendors including Livity, Veg’an Love, Bettylicious Cooks and Esme’s Deserted Cactus kept everyone’s bellies full and there were beautiful crafts from traders such as Little Sister vintage clothing, K&R London candles and Earth to Earth organics body butters.
Whilst we obviously loved every bite of each dish we tasted (so much love for that Livity bowl and OMG the Nika’s Kitchen rum cake!) what really stood out for us - and what sets this event well apart from other vegan events - was the panels and talks, particularly those that went beyond the typical vegan-specific area of food and nutrition and widened the dialogue to discuss black history and intersectionality. This is so important as to understand the lack of diversity within the vegan movement it is vital to understand issues around race, identity and intersectionality.
One particular highlight was Christopher Sebastian who spoke about radical veganism and animal liberation. Sebastian highlighted how people want to divorce speciesism from other forms of oppression and the discomfort that many feel when made aware that the roots of animal agriculture are an outcome of the European-led Industrial Revolution. The focus of radical veganism is not diet or health. Sebastian says is to “elevate the perspectives of marginalised persons because we [as vegans, and specifically as vegans of colour] are natural architects of the liberation movements”. He stressed the importance of taking the power back from white, middle class influencers who are the face of the movement as such a focus can be damaging and distracting to the real goal of animal liberation. Veganism as a political movement was a clear message from Christopher Sebastian’s talk and one that we at BRIGHT believe should be more central across the movement.
The connectivity of the first UK Vegans of Colour event between what some people see as a lifestyle and where others embed veganism in their principles and values is so important. For veganism to be a successful movement it must embrace all people in the same way that it wants to liberate all animals. We should all be supporting businesses and events run by vegans of colour and also looking round the room to see if there is diversity and representation and questioning it if there is not.