Being an African American, Leyva's documentary centered on the different aspects of being a vegan and being black. Most of what she tackled represented hindrances for the African American community and why is it quite challenging to pursue a vegan lifestyle.
Culture stands out the most. African Americans were taken into slavery from their lands where they were predominantly eating a plant-based, low-fat, low-meat diet. But because of their entrapment in America, they learned to turn scraps into what is now known as soul food.
Soul food or southern food elicit feelings of comfort. And in those days when they were either being enslaved or persecuted, a great home-cooked meal was a source of comfort. However, ingredients were very limited to what plantation or area they were located. Some have access to peppers while others foraged or fished. But the dishes shared this much in common - fried chicken or pork, cornbread, and pie or pudding.
One's psychology also affects veganism. Most African Americans have been familiarized with the term vegan albeit the first image that they conjure is that of a caucasian person. Even in the documentary, some of Leyva's friends were saying that her vegan salad is 'white people food' and they usually relate it to something bland. There is also a notion that being a vegan is effeminate. For most males, if they don't eat meat, it's not manly.
Access seems to be another issue. Not everyone has a grocery store near the place that they live in that sell healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables. But fast food isn't hard to find and within reach. So if you live in these areas, the question is, would you waste time and effort to buy healthy when there is fast food near you?
Veganism is not just about eating a plant-based diet but also about compassion for animals and protecting them from harm. But when a call to arms is given, you cannot expect people to answer because everyone has their burdens, their daily struggles. The African Americans learned to only care about their welfare, especially because they already have a lot going on. From Black Lives Matter to just watching behind their backs and the racism that they encounter daily, they feel like they have no time for anything else.
These are a few of the points that The Invisible Vegan grappled with, in the hopes of shedding light on veganism and its African roots.
Perhaps light isn't a great adjective to choose. But if you compare, as one should not do, The Invisible Vegan to other documentaries, this has a tone that seems to be playful and yet serious at the same time. It makes it effective in sending its message across.
It's not enough that we want to change the world, rehabilitate the planet, and prevent the animal slaughter. We need to open our eyes and try to see what others are seeing from theirs. And only then can we truly build a community of vegans, not separated by culture nor race. Just vegans.
About the Author, Jasmine Leyva
Activist, actress, and documentary filmmaker, Jasmine is passionate about veganism, social justice, and telling her own _stories. With a Bachelor of Arts in TV, Film and Media and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting, Jasmine is __unapologetically an artist. She has worked as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitledUnsung and __has written and produced forBeing, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music.
Jasmine ultimately decided to let go of her nine-to-five and focus on her goals with no boss except for her own creativity. She went on to produce her own feature length documentary,The Invisible Vegan, a film that chronicles her personal experience with plant-based eating. The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression.Soul On Fire podcast.
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