Fabulously Vegan founder aims to demystify Black veganism
Many see veganism simply as a diet free of meat or animal products. Images of PETA campaigns and protests may even come to mind. For Artinces Smith, founder of “Fabulously Vegan,” becoming a lifestyle vegan started with a Black vegetarian teacher in grade school. “My friends and I were wondering, ‘What is she eating for lunch?’ She was a vegetarian … and we were like, ‘Our science teacher is doing it, we’re gonna try it, too,'” Smith shared on St. Louis on the Air. “I went home and told my mom, ‘No more chicken.’ And chicken was a food group [in my home], something we ate every day in every way.”
Smith’s family was supportive but puzzled by young Artinces’ decision. Their perception of what a vegetarian looked like didn’t include people from communities of color — despite the fact that many cultures and faiths abstain from eating meat.
When Smith left St. Louis for college, her vegetarianism moved beyond diet and into veganism. “It’s a lifestyle of compassion, empathy, and service… not exploiting [or] placing a higher or lesser value” on another’s life, Smith said. Dropping animal products from her everyday life made her realize the importance of having a community to learn from and be challenged by.
“Community components are different because of what’s available and what is already there,” Smith said. “There's vegan communities in larger cities. It's the smaller ones where there's a bit of dialogue and education that's really needed. And that's where I really believe the activism is — what the community is sharing, what the lifestyle is, where does that come from. Because of mainstream veganism, [Black people] are not really the face of it.”
Having benefited from many Black vegan mentors and peers over the years, Smith gives back to others through “Fabulously Vegan,” a site she founded to coach people interested in veganism as both diet and lifestyle. It is also how she is building visibility for Black vegans, individually and collectively. “I'm one person, but it's because of people who were just stepping out and saying what this needs to get done. … You have a voice, and you're attracting people to what you're saying or what you're teaching.”
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to email@example.com.