My mom raised me vegetarian. It was all about health and I didn’t even consider the ethical implications until I was an adult and started meditating.
Vipassana is a Buddhist practice that takes 10 days in silence to learn. You commit to five precepts during your stay and one is not to kill or support killing. Every Vipassana center is traditionally vegetarian because cows’ milk and unfertilized eggs probably didn’t involve killing during Buddha’s lifetime, but I had a vague understanding of the modern-day egg and dairy industries and knew I had to go vegan to stay in line with my practice.
I had a bumpy start with lots of mishaps. I slipped up and ate non-vegan food when I was drunk, so I gave up alcohol after my first Vipassana retreat and finally went vegan after my second. Midway through 2015, I was fully committed to a vegan lifestyle.
I started freelance writing for vegan businesses and contributing articles to HuffPost so I’d have the flexibility to attend vegan conferences all over the world. My goal has always been to increase the prevalence of plant-based eating in African American communities--I just didn’t know how. Since animal activists want people eating plants as much as I do, I figured learning their best practices and translating them to my community would be helpful.
But I was usually one of the only black women in these spaces. Issues of diversity were overlooked, and the animal rights movement was missing an opportunity to connect with African Americans--who have the largest per-person meat consumption rate in the US.
I complained a lot until I realized I could take an idea and do something with it. I founded Wanyama Box in October of 2016 as a tool to help vegans get their loved ones to stop eating animals while raising money for vegan initiatives in communities of color.
Wanyama (which means “animals” in Swahili) is my way of bridging the causes I care about most: animals and the black community. I know I have a lot bring to each issue, so I’m excited to see how my ideas and involvement grow over time.