FEATURE: Richard Bowie

Growing up in California’s Inland Empire—a less affluent county adjacent to Los Angeles and Orange County—veganism was something I’d never heard of. Instead, I was happily raised on mix of Happy Meals and sopa prepared by my Chicano family. 

Being mixed-race raised by a mono-racial family was tough, though. As a child all I wanted was to fit in with the white-passing Mexicans that raised me, to have straight hair I could spike up, to not be different. But thankfully, as a young adult I started dismantling my internalized prejudices and embraced what made me, me—queer, fat, mixed race, Mexican, Black, and Persian. This prompted me to examine issues of injustice, discrimination, racism, sexism, classism, hetero- and cis-sexism—all of which lay the groundwork for the understanding of my own speciesism. 

So in 2010, I followed through with my ethics and went vegan. 
I’d always been passionate about journalism, so as editor in chief of my university’s newspaper, I wrote Fat, Brown, and Vegan, a blog used to reach out to my predominantly Latino and Black community to shake the notion of veganism as solely for those upper class few with thin, white bodies. 

One pivotal point during my journey was when I realized my passion for animal rights had seriously waned. In these past few years, it seems that violence against Black and brown people has skyrocketed. Freddie Gray, Renisha McBride, Sandra Bland, Eric Harris, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford, Tamir Rice … news of each left me shook, angry, and hopeless. Online, I’d express my frustration at the wanton disregard for our lives, but would notice a serious lack of engagement on the matter from my non-Black vegan friends. Instead, all I saw were stories about dogs in locked cars and cute animal videos. The silence from a community meant to be about compassion, justice, and freedom from persecution, made me sick, and as a result I mentally disconnected from the vegan world for quite a time. 

Eventually though, I got the opportunity to work at VegNews Magazine, a vegan lifestyle publication recently named Niche Magazine of the Decade. I discovered VegNews when I first went vegan and had always wanted to be a part of it—to break the latest in news and products, learn about vegan places and personalities around the world, etc. I took the offer and through the magazine, was able to both reconnect with veganism and find a new purpose: to bolster POC representation in the ethical food movement. 

I’ve written VegNews’ first vegan Black History series, featured Black Vegans Rock, reported on intersectional vegan conferences, covered Dr. Breeze Harper’s nomination as a vice presidential candidate, and amplified the voices of queer vegans of color in response to the Orlando shooting. The positive responses to each has proven today’s audiences are ready for and craving more Black and brown vegan faces. 
Mainstream publications still have a ways to go when it comes to diversity and representation—my own included—but I’m energized, passionate, and ready to put in the work (alongside ventures like Black Vegans Rock) to have our voices heard.