Black, Indigenous and Other Colored People (BIPOC) face many challenges in their creative careers, and content creation is no exception. Many creators from underrepresented communities have yet to make their way when it comes to creating material in their chosen niches — particularly in the vegan food creator realm, as BIPOC creators use humor and education to combat stigma and plant-based varieties matter pass on dishes in their cultures.
Those challenges haven’t stopped Norma Pérez (The Salvi Vegan) and Jasmine “Jazz” Avery (Diary of a Mad Black Vegan) from making their mark on the scene. Not only have they managed to cultivate successful brands, but they have also created culturally sensitive material.
Avery’s Instagram account has 34,400 followers and her TikTok account has 40,000 followers. Her YouTube channel, which has 3,000 followers, features mukbangs featuring vegan food from different cultures. Avery creates lifestyle videos featuring tips for new vegans, easy recipes, nutritional information, and videos exploring the many vegan options in and around New York City.
“I came onto the scene in 2018 and there were more white vegan content creators. They would get the big brand offers and promote different products. The biggest challenge was finding my lane, harnessing my creativity, and finding my community,” Avery told Passionfruit. “But once I found my community, it was amazing.”
Pérez’s Instagram account has over 15,900 followers and she also creates videos for small audiences on TikTok and YouTube. Pérez publishes vegan versions of Salvadorian food, easy vegan meal recipes, online cooking classes, ingredient lists and videos about Afro-Salvadorian culinary contributions to El Salvador.
Pérez told Passionfruit that she became vegan after watching earthlings, a 2005 documentary about big farming, the use of animals in entertainment, and the domestication of animals as pets. Her experience as a dance teacher, as well as some chronic pain she was experiencing, also influenced her to change her diet. Many vegans adopt a plant-based diet for environmental or physical health reasons.
Avery said her sister influenced her own journey to veganism in adulthood. Avery said she researched plant-based milks, vitamins and where she gets her food. She said she’s also taken the time to gradually change her diet.
“I found mentors, but my younger sister was already vegan when I started. I did my research, but I also saw their diet. … It took me a whole year to figure out what it felt like to be vegan,” Avery said, adding that having a sister who went vegan first helped. “We have each other’s backs on vacation.”
Dealing with someone who is new to vegan can be difficult for many relatives, friends, and even co-workers. Reunions, meetings, happy hour, and holiday meals can be contentious. Recipes are important in all cultures, but BIPOC cultures often pass on traditions through food.
There are also a lot of stereotypes about vegans. 2019, the scientific journal appetite published a Kent State University paper on the stigma of veganism, which found that simply expecting responses to possible changes in one’s diet can influence whether some people choose to become vegan or not. The study focused on college students from the United States who expressed concern that their families might start hating them if they adopted a vegan diet.
Avery said bringing vegan versions of traditional dishes to family gatherings helps many family members realize it’s possible to create plant-based versions of foods that have been in the family for generations.
“A lot of family members don’t know what veganism is, but I use family reunions as an opportunity to bring foods that I know can be veganized,” Avery explained. “When I show how easy it is to make vegan versions of our meals, it’s always an enlightening moment because some family members come on board.”
A problem all BIPOC face at some point, cultural appropriation and the abuse of customs can create a rift that often results in rebuffs for people who fear vegan versions of traditional dishes are an affront to traditions — though many do BIPOC kitchens have traditionally been plant-based.
Pérez said she realized that the holidays would be more difficult without traditional Salvadorian dishes, which are mainly eaten at this time of year. She said it’s not easy to veganize Salvadoran dishes because Salvadorans and Salvadoran Americans are protective of their culture.
Still, Pérez said she’s started veganizing tamales. Although recipes vary between nations that make their version of this delicacy, it’s common to mix the flour with an animal-based broth. She asked her mom for her tamale recipe and worked on preparing her vegan broth to mix with the flour. Despite a slight texture difference, she said her vegan tamales were a hit.
Avery is known for using a sense of humor in her process to ease potential tension in altering inherited recipes.
“In the Black community, we talk about serious, deep issues. There’s always humor in everything in life, and in 2023 my biggest goal is to show up and be transparent,” she says. “You really learn more when you laugh.”
Avery is working on a series of videos to help new vegans navigate family reunions, holiday gatherings, and potential conflicts over food. Avery hopes to create content that facilitates conversations, such as B. Dealing with situations where vegan options are not available. An example of this is a post in which she collects tips on how to deal with family reunions.
In the comments, users chimed in with great advice, saying: “Walk into the event with your heart and brain lovingly prepared: don’t give them any reason to believe that you’re telling THEM how to eat.” EXPECT them to want to put you down, but DO NOT take the bait. Keep that in mind and feel the support of your fellow vegans (who are not present) giving you the strength to get through the event.”
Similar to Avery, Pérez also uses a sense of humor and her dance background to showcase her culture, the roots of Salvadorian cuisine and her love of plant-based eating.
Pérez’s content and professional decisions have paid off. She recently appeared on an episode of Food Network It’s complicated hosted by actress Tabitha Brown and chef Maneet Chauhan. She was also part of the Food Empowerment Project Chopped with a vegan twist. She is currently working on an Afro-Salvadorian cookbook that explores the African and Indigenous contributions to Salvadoran cuisine.
For both creators, it’s evident that their identity, culture, and history shape the way they express their plant-based lifestyle. For people from other parts of the world, rest assured that there is likely someone who has veganized foods from your country, state or region. If not, food creators or creators from any niche can start gathering inspiration for vegan dishes — even if you don’t decide to go full-time vegan.
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