There are many things that make us all unique (like fingerprints, bite marks, even brain waves) and yet we seek and are drawn to one another by the things that make us alike. We find comfort in the familiar, the similar, the things we're akin towards. We look for the footsteps of those who’ve traveled the hard lines we’ve been forced to walk, we seek rest with those who, too, are tired of being sick and tired, we feel validated by fists in the air that confirm our thoughts are “right on,” and we aspire to be the keepers for our brothers, sisters, and everything in between because, when we are for us, who can stand against us?
THIS is the gift of representation. It’s the opportunity for us to dismantle systemic barriers, the ability to share ideas and express opinions with other individuals, and the freedom to comfortably gather so we can feel validated and inspired to get involved. During the weekend of August 19-21, 2022, Baltimore hosted its 7th annual Vegan SoulFest, a safe space built to “[create] a platform for multicultural individuals who are not usually represented, while supporting a soul-centered movement that offers a new perspective on vegan living.” How’s that for representation??
The more we identify with a certain person or group, the more viability we allow to discover new things with or because of them. That’s why Black Vegan festivals like Vegan SoulFest are necessary and essential to our communities. The values upon which these festivals are built (community empowerment, restoration, and longevity through enrichment of the mind, body, and soul) are similar, if not exactly the same, as the audience they seek to serve. These festivals provide a space where people can feel comfortable approaching the unknown and/or unfamiliar with less apprehension than if they were presented these concepts by someone they cannot identify with.
As an attendee/volunteer for all six previous Vegan SoulFests and an employee of Afro-Vegan Society for this one, I can honestly say witnessing thousands of my people gather to learn how to incorporate more healthy and sustainable practices into their lives and the lives of their families, friends, and communities NEVER gets old. Add on the creative food vendors, talented musicians, beautiful artwork, clothing, and jewelry from local artisans/retailers, PLUS the many non-profit groups that support our communities, and it’s safe to say this year’s festival filled everyone’s cup (and plate) beyond overflow!
The end of Summer doesn’t mean the end of Black Vegan festival season. Check out Google, local Black Vegan Facebook groups, and, of course, your very own Afro-Vegan Society’s Instagram stories for announcements of Black Vegan festivals in your area. There’s more out there than you think, and we welcome you to tag us with the ones you find!
Cheers to all Black Vegan Festivals both existing and yet (but soon) to be discovered!
Fun Fact: One of the co-founders of Vegan SoulFest is our very own Executive Director and Black activist superhero, Brenda Sanders!