The plant-based movement is not new. For centuries, prior to European colonization, African food was often meatless. “Our plant-based diet has been part of our lifestyle since the beginning of time,” says Tinece Payne, a leader in North Carolina’s growing community of Black vegans.

“Long before plant-based nuggets were a thing, there was Alvenia Fulton — one of the pioneers of plant-based for health,” says Nicole Centeno, Founder & Co-CEO of Splendid Spoon. “Alongside the civil rights activist Dick Gregor, she wrote the book (literally) about how to make vegetables the center of your diet — Cookin’ with Mother Nature."

"Alvenia was also an early advocate for intermittent fasting, early on the celebrity influencer game (Roberta Flack was one of her devotees), and embraced her role as a thought leader by hosting a regular radio show 'The Joy of Living' long before podcasts ruled the airwaves.”

The Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s, saw nutrition as a way to course-correct some of the ills plaguing the Black community, sparking their Free Breakfast for School Children Program. Many members adopted a vegan diet as part of their political and health consciousness, seeing the commercialization of animals for food as a symptom of a larger abusive system, instead promoting vegetarianism or veganism as a way to counteract systemic oppression and improve community health.

In the 1980s and 1990s, music and hip hop culture embraced veganism as a way to resist oppressive mainstream diets and reclaim control over their health and communities. Wu Tang Clan’s RZA has been one of hip-hop's most vocal advocates of veganism. Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Lizzo, and many more music icons eat meatless.

Today, many people of color continue to advocate for veganism as a way to challenge systemic inequalities in the food system and promote environmental justice. The intersection of veganism with social and environmental activism is a growing movement, with many progressive organizations working to center the experiences and leadership of people of color in this work.

“To associate veganism and vegetarianism with whiteness, you’re totally discounting our cultural heritage,” says Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, a food scholar at the University of Maryland in the film The Invisible Vegan.

The Invisible Vegan explores the problem of unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, foregrounding the health and wellness possibilities enabled by plant-based vegan diets and lifestyle choices.

"If we human beings are children of nature, then it is to nature we must look for our health..." - Alvenia Fulton

“Alvenia was ahead of her time,” says Nicole, “and just one of many examples of how the Black community has truly paved the way for the current movement to take health into your own hands with a plant-based diet.”