Published by Katherine Sullivan.

The following article was written by Kirsten Ussery-Boyd, co-owner of Detroit Vegan Soul.

Our restaurant, Detroit Vegan Soul, is unapologetically vegan in a predominantly African-American and “meat and potatoes” city. Many people in postindustrial cities across the country want healthier versions of traditional soul food—and that’s what we serve.

The seeds and spices that our ancestors brought to America during the slave trade, along with their unique food experiences once they got here, formed the basis of what we call “soul food.” But they also brought with them their traditions of growing food and using plants to nourish and heal the body. Over time, with the rise of devitalized foods, we nearly lost sight of the healing power of food.

Food justice certainly plays a big part. People of color are disproportionately subject to poor food quality because food choices are so often determined by affordability and proximity. Fast-food restaurants offer convenience, but eating meat, eggs, and dairy “products” is a recipe for heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Unfortunately, these are the choices most commonly available in communities of color.

Popular culture also influences our attitudes about food. For example, in many fast-food commercials targeting communities of color, we see young, healthy, happy black families enjoying burgers and chicken nuggets. If the ad were realistic, half of the family members would likely be suffering from diabetes or other diet-related diseases. Some would probably be on a pill regimen to keep them alive.

We must reject these ideas. We need to question what’s in the chicken nuggets and double cheeseburgers served up by fast-food chains and consider the effects that our food choices have on our health.

At Detroit Vegan Soul, we encourage people to embrace eating vegan. It’s absolutely critical to our health and survival. For health, environmental, and ethical reasons, it’s imperative that we lose the baggage, drop the stereotypes, and begin to change our attitudes about what constitutes “good” food.

“Good” food is both tasty and cruelty-free. Customers at Detroit Vegan Soul rave about our Seitan Pepper Steak, collard greens, yams, “Catfish” Tofu, okra stew, and Smothered Tempeh, among other popular vegan dishes. Not only are plant-based versions of traditional soul food healthier for us, eating vegan also spares feeling, intelligent animals a life of confinement and a terrifying trip to the slaughterhouse.

What does it say about us if we choose to be cruel, even though we have the choice to be kind? Whatever your cultural background, please go vegan today. And Detroit Vegan Soul can help. We love seeing new faces, and we’re eager to tell everyone more about vegan soul food or just about going vegan in general. Please stop by if you’re in town and eat with us! If you’re outside Detroit, PETA’s website provides delicious recipes and tips for eating vegan. It’s never been easier.

Kirsten Ussery-Boyd is the co-owner and general manager of Detroit Vegan Soul at 8029 Agnes St., Detroit, MI 48214, and the newest location, 19614 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48223. 

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