Omowale Adewale is the founder of Black Vegfest, and editor of the recently published Brotha Vegan. Omowale talks to Forca Vegan about his current life in the USA, his community projects, family life and achievements, and the current Western Vegan Movement.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF, AND HOW YOU CAME TO BE VEGAN? In the summer of 1993, I had just begun to return back to school in Riviera Beach, FL. It was my second year in Florida. The doctor told me at age 15 I had hypertension. I didn’t understand the ramifications at the time, but I was a little concerned. Some time during that week I checked in with my older brother Wendell who still lived back home in Brooklyn, New York & I told him. He urged me to go vegetarian and stop consuming animals. I began the journey almost immediately, at a time when 14
I found chicken sandwiches incredibly scrumptious. I am always so proud of my 15 yearold self. In a new state, I had to grapple with being away from my foremost guiding force, my mother, Cleo. She would have helped me diversify my vegetarian options, but instead I ate canned green beans, white rice and cornbread almost daily. My recollection of eating vegan food from the Rastafarian food vendors in Brooklyn was so long ago it didn’t kick in until much later in my life. It took 20 years before going vegan. When I returned to Brooklyn less than a couple years later I began shedding dairy milk, but I still consumed lactose through baked goods. Through my struggle, of requesting rice and soymilks from bodegas, which were convenience stores in urban neighborhoods, often owned by Dominicans and Puerto Ricans I learned that simply asking for plant-products was not as easy as it seemed. Being young and Black did not earn me opportunities I saw advertised. I heard that you could request store-owners to purchase goods, but that’s not a
reality in my neighborhood. It was believed by bodegas, supermarkets, and even healthier shops that if you’re Black you eat whatever is advertised. I could not get support. The lack of guidance and support in my own New York neighborhoods growing up in regards to my vegan journey was greatly apparent. I imagine those who contend that they’ve tried veganism