FEATURE: Terron "Kwesi" Wilkerson

While growing up my father had an infamous saying, “If it tastes good then it’s probably bad for you.” Those words served as one of many cautionary tales that I took with a grain of salt and stored on the shelf of my subconscious; that same youthful arrogance resulted in me being diagnosed as pre-diabetic by the age of 14. It took me nearly half a decade to fully measure the weight of that diagnosis. The remainder of that decade was spent confronting it head-on by committing to a vegan lifestyle.

The pinnacle of my health journey began in 2014 during my time abroad in Ghana, West Africa. The motherland decided that I was going to be a vegan long before the thought ever crossed my mind. Believe it or not, I rarely ever ate “real food”--not requiring MSG or a microwave--prior to making that trip. Traditional African-American dishes (fried chicken, candied yams, mac & cheese, etc.) were a few exceptions that were good for my soul, but still terrible for my body. Ghanaian cuisine introduced me to soul food’s first cousin (see: red red, waakye, spinach stew) which enlightened me to the concept of healthy eating that also tasted good. Despite not fully adopting veganism until July of this year, by the end of my 10-month stay abroad, I was racing down the fast track. 

“So, what made you become a vegan?” I wish there was a simpler way to answer that question. I’ve been asked so often in the past few weeks that I feel foolish for not having a PowerPoint presentation on-hand for these inevitable moments. Nevertheless, as with most of my important life decisions, I became vegan because it felt like the right thing to do. One explanation I have been able to provide is that my decision was made for both personal and political reasons. I identify with Black veganism because I see it is an active form of resistance against a capitalist, fast food nation that targets Black and Brown neighborhoods with the intent to poison us from within. Reading various posts on Black Vegans Rock assures me that I’m in good company.

That being said, I look forward to my health journey becoming smoother upon realizing that certain food doesn’t taste bad because it’s vegan, it just tastes vegan. I look forward to solidifying the belief that my health is always worth those few extra dollars. And most importantly, I look forward to never looking back. Black vegan fo’ life!