FEATURE: DanDann

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BVR: When and why did you go vegan?

Let’s see. My journey began in December 2006 but I wasn’t 100% vegan until 2012. I grew up in a Jamaican household with two parents well-gifted in the culinary arts. Curry, Jerk, Escovich, ...the yard. Comparatively, veggies seemed to be almost an afterthought, because kids should eat veggies. Which is to say, it wasn’t until I lived with vegan and vegetarian college roommates that I realized vegetables could actually taste good.

December of ’06 (in Jamaica actually) marked my first attempt to go raw vegan. Unfortunately, I did not yet understand what I was getting into, or how to do it, so I began my volley back and forth between raw vegan, vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian. Eventually I discovered Dr. Douglas Graham and 80/10/10 raw foodism through which I finally began to understand the dynamics of food and the human body. By 2012 I managed to wean myself off of fish and dairy for the final time.

For me, veganism was completely about the human body, the prospect of living more healthfully, and helping the friends and family around me heal from various ailments. Despite loving animals, their plight did not register with me until a fter I became plant-based. It was a good feeling, once I discovered what they were going through, to realize that my life choices already aligned with my desire to end the violence. Conservation, human and animal rights, world hunger....I may have come to veganism for health, but I hold a lot of pride in being able to say that my lifestyle also supports the earth and ALL the being who share it.

BVR: Where did you first hear about veganism?

I was first exposed to vegetarianism from a childhood friend, but my attempt to follow suite was mocked by my well-meaning family. It wasn’t until college that veganism really appeared again. I moved into in a student-housing co-op and of the 10 housemates, there was one vegan and one vegetarian. As such, whenever anyone would cook, they would automatically make the food vegan, just in case the plant-eaters wanted to share in the meal or the leftovers. The food was always amazing and the experience completely shifted my outlook on eating plants.

BVR: How did your friends and family react when you went vegan?

When I first tried to go veg as a kid I was laughed out of town (or my house... whatever...). Having now met other people who went veg as kids, I realize I could have succeeded had I pulled a hunger strike or some other show of determination, but back then I didn’t have the constitution to stand firm in the face of heavy criticism or my mother’s cooking. It took a little while for my family to understand, accept or even remember my dietary shift as an adult. Lately, though, I notice them (all of them, extended family included) quietly adopting my habits, or even proudly announcing just how many bananas they had for lunch on a given day.

My friends didn’t really react in any sort of memorable way. But then, I traveled and moved so much that old friends couldn’t have known, and new friends tended to share my interests. The funny thing is, however, every time I check in with old friends via social media, another one here or there is talking about how they ‘randomly’ decided to go vegan.

BVR: What advice do you have for others who are thinking about going vegan but think it’s too extreme or that it’s a ‘white person thing’?

It is so much easier and less expensive than you think. As awareness and science spread, availability is getting easier. As far as ‘fomo’ goes, food is all about flavor and texture. Fast food restaurants have been proving for years that what you’re eating doesn’t actually have to be what you think it is so long as it has the expected flavor and texture. There are enough varieties of mushrooms alone to cover the gamut. Jerked mushrooms, curried mushrooms, escovich mushrooms.... You don’t have to eat tofu, ever, if you don’t want to. Make friends with Japanese purple yams, oyster mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, and all of the other delicious friends out there.

As for being a white person thing... Consider that certain people and groups have been convinced that their pride and national cuisines are not the bright, colorful, delicious fruits and vegetables that grow in their yards, but rather the cheapest things to feed slaves, the waste from ‘more important people’s’ meals (innards, feet, grease and garbage), and substances guaranteed to create life-long medical customers. Why are we giving away that kind of power? The foods that God and the planet gave us as our natural gift, foods that keep us healthy, whole, intelligent and autonomous, are ours by right. Don’t let ANYone, whether of a different heritage or your own , convince you that God saw fit to nurture someone else but not you. Veganism is a person thing, no prefix. We all deserve to be full of fruit and life. Don’t give away your birthright.

BVR: We know that you are an artist. Do you do custom orders as well?

Yes, I do custom orders on occasion, depending on where I am traveling at a given time. 

Some of the things I have available include:
- Fruit and Veggie Earrings, Necklaces and Belly Rings (acrylic and/or wood)
- Fruit and Veggie Themed Movie Misquotes
- Heartbeet Kneeling Meditation Stools
- Mystery Boxes with Exotic Local Gifts From Around the World (Currently Thailand), Including Vegan Snacks and Recipes
- A series of Melanin Plaques - currently, I'm featuring some of my favorite Jazz musicians

I have started live streaming both my music as well as live international craft market excursions. It's a bit like having a virtual personal shopper, as I take viewers through the Night Markets of Chiang Mai or wherever else I visit. Anything viewers point out, I purchase and ship to them.

BVR: We heard you are working on a new project that with deals with diversity. Could you give us some more details about it

I am aiming for a full immersive experience to:

• Present diverse cultures around the world through videos introducing local artists, dancers, musicians, chefs and other makers (think Ghanaian Dancers, Native American sculptors or Norwegian musicians, telling us about the stories within their art and teaching us about their culture, beliefs, everyday lives, etc)

• Present challenges, encouraging viewers to exercise their own arts (for example, ‘choreograph your own dance, create your own sculpture, or write your own piece of music with the story you want to tell and share the video with us - maybe you’ll win something from the array of available prizes, or maybe you’ll win a trip to hang out with me somewhere around the world)

• Offer Terra Trunks, or mystery box filled with textures, tastes, scents, sounds and sights from the local region so viewers can share in the global experiences with all 5 senses.

My desire is to inspire people to create, to collaborate, to be curious about life and one another, to share, to experience, to share experiences.... Additionally, we don’t currently see enough shades of melanin in the media. There are very few presented artists, musicians or dancers outside of hip-hop let alone travelers, writers, chefs, polyglots, entrepreneurs, etc. My project will highlight creatives from all walks and backgrounds, and as a female multipotentialite entrepreneurial traveler of color, I will naturally lean toward presenting as many strong, inspiring people of color as I can find. My aim is to provide a platform for creators who convert the light and darkness, joy and pain, delight and horror into incredible works of art and inspiration. 

Web Links and Social Meda

Website: Vegimundo.com (with DanDannDesigns.com)

Facebook: Facebook.com/TerraTrunks 

Instagram: Instagram.com/heydandann

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