About Us

Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), the organization behind VeganSoulFood.org, was founded by a Xicanx and longtime vegan activist, lauren Ornelas. Inspired by Black staff members jaz Boler, Kennedy Little, and F.E.P. board member, Elise Ferguson, F.E.P. decided to launch VeganSoulFood.org to highlight cultural foods from the African diaspora that do not include animal ingredients and to model that it is possible to eat vegan and still incorporate our cultural comfort foods.

VeganSoulFood.org focuses on celebrating the rich flavors of African, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinx, and Cajun vegan soul foods. It also embraces traditional vegan soul food cuisines from the United States. VeganSoulFood.org represents the creation of dishes from the homeland of Africa and its transformation throughout the diaspora. Even through adversity, each of these communities has preserved and passed down generations of skillful cooking techniques and nourishing recipes. It is important to uplift the history and contributions of these cultures and share the many dishes that can be made without animal ingredients.

Africa is oftentimes called the “Motherland” because it is the oldest inhabited continent in the world. Human and global history developed for hundreds of thousands of years in Africa before it spread worldwide. The Atlantic Slave Trade involved Europeans enslaving over 12 million people in Africa and bringing them mostly to the Americas because of the colonizer’s desire to obtain free labor in order to build their livelihoods in what they considered the “New World” (though already inhabited by the indigenous people).

With no belongings able to be brought with them on the voyage, many Africans braided seeds and grains into their hair to bring their food with them. Rice, okra, black-eyed peas, and watermelon, are just some of the native seeds enslaved Africans brought with them to the Americas. These plants would eventually shape the cultural food many Black people eat today, known as ‘Soul Food’, as well as heavily influence the southern United States cuisine, and other populations that are part of the African diaspora.

Soul food originated during the time of slavery, when Black enslaved people were given the leftover, undesirable parts of animals that enslavers did not eat. This includes but is not limited to pigs’ feet, pigs’ intestine, and the tails of cows. These items were cooked using flavorful seasonings and unique cooking techniques to make the best dish they could given their circumstances.

Soul food is a symbol of resilience of all that Black people have gone through, no matter where they currently dwell, there is still a connection to the Motherland with many soul food ingredients originating from Africa because of the seeds brought by the enslaved when they were forced to leave their homeland. Our ancestors gave us a connection to our roots when they brought those seeds with them.

jaz, Kennedy, and Elise, believe vegan soul food speaks to that resilience. Black people disproportionately have the highest rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes in the country compared to other ethnicities, which is largely food related, including the systemic lack of access to healthy foods. While traditional soul food has served as a survival tool and an integral part of Black culture, the sustained practice of cooking with certain animal-based ingredients post-slavery in the Black community has caused severe health issues.

In an effort to combat health issues that are prevalent in the Black community, as well as stand on the side of collective liberation, the fastest growing vegan demographic in the United States are Black people. Vegan soul food is a form of food justice in the Black community and is a demonstration of compassion for another group of beings that deal with extreme subjugation and violence in the world.

Vegan foods do not contain animal ingredients, including land and sea animals, eggs, dairy, and honey, all of which are products of suffering and exploitation. The produce we all eat is picked by farm workers, who often suffer and are treated unfairly, so we need to recognize just how important it is to support these workers whenever possible. F.E.P. continues to raise awareness about the labor conditions of produce workers while simultaneously working with them to advance their rights by supporting corporate, legislative, and regulatory changes.

We created VeganSoulFood.org to be a user-friendly resource for vegans and the vegan-curious alike, as well as the Black community, and beyond. We hope that you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!

VeganSoulFood.org is a collaborative effort, and we would like to thank everyone who has contributed: those who submitted original recipes; those who tested recipes; and those who cooked, styled, and photographed each dish!

More about Food Empowerment Project

Food Empowerment Project is a vegan food justice organization that seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. We encourage healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms; the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas; unfair working conditions for produce workers; and the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, in the chocolate industry. By making informed choices, we can prevent injustices against animals, humans, and the environment. To learn more about F.E.P., our work, or how to go vegan, please visit our website.

Food Empowerment Project is a vegan food justice organization and a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

About the Vegan Soul Food Logo

The VSF logo is a visual representation of the connection between the ongoing struggle of justice and liberation for indigenous peoples and diasporas of African ancestry in connection to veganism, which is another liberatory, justice-centered movement.

One side of the “V,” for Vegan, is in red, which is one of the three main colors featured on the Pan-African flag and symbolizes the blood that unites all people of African ancestry, as well as acknowledgement of the blood shed during the ongoing fight against oppression from colonialism.

The other side of the “V” is in black, another one of the three main colors featured on the Pan-African flag; it represents Black people who exist as a nation, though not a nation-state, through our collective unity in connection to the Motherland. This side of the “V” is also a raised fist. I added this to signal the prevailing power of the Black community in our struggle against justice and liberation, and in solidarity with other struggles against oppressive forces, including non-human animal justice and liberation!

The “S,” for Soul, is in yellow/gold, a fourth color that is oftentimes featured on the Pan-African flag, and it symbolizes the abundance of natural wealth in Africa, in natural resources, and also, to many of us, a wealth that is inherent to our being, because we are connected to the Motherland and all of its abundance.

Lastly, the “F,” for Food, is in green, the last of the three main colors on the Pan-African flag. Similar to the yellow/gold, this color symbolizes the greenery and natural beauty of the African continent—the land that continues to give life through its abundance and continues to be a point of recognition of the power this land embodies and fuels all of us who are connected.

Vegan Soul Food is a testament to all of these things—empowerment, justice, solidarity, liberation, and much, much more. I hope you enjoy this logo and this resource as much as I do!

 

Jayde Boler
Creator of VSF logo