The following is an excerpt from what I believe is the most important book of Spring 2021:
edited by Omowale Adewale and published by Lantern Books. The target audience for Brotha Vegan is, as the title indicates, Black men, and I’m a white woman. Even so, I inhaled these thoughtful, provocative essays. I learned from them. I was inspired by them. And I used up nearly all the ink in a yellow highlighter in the process. When the message of a book is powerful, important, and timely, it’s also universal. If you purchase only one book this season, make it this one. If it doesn’t speak to your heart and mind and soul, I’ll buy it from you for whatever Amazon is charging for a new copy. That’s how much I believe that everyone — in the U.S. at least — needs to read Brotha Vegan. The following essay by Kevin Jenkins, D.Min., is one from a vast spectrum of Black male voices, each one unique and well worth reading. ~ Victoria Moran
Why Black Men Should Go Vegan
They say bad things come in threes, and I should have known this. However, I was too busy enjoying life to see this ominous sign, until I received a third phone call. You see, in 2018, I received three calls from three Black men who called me because they knew that I am a vegan and certified as a vegan lifestyle coach and educator. Each called stating they wanted help with the same problem. And what was this problem? They all had prostate cancer.
To say I was shocked is an understatement. One brother was a close relative and the other two were associates of mine in my profession as a pastor. These men called me not only because I was their friend but also because they have been close observers of my lifestyle and, as one them said, I was a cheerleader for avoiding the use of animals in eating and clothing. Two of these men had personally heard me pontificate about this subject for decades.
So, in order that other Black men do not experience this dreaded disease, which claims the lives of one in twenty-three men in our community and at a rate 2.4 times more than white men, I’m going to suggest five reasons why there is a significant need for Black men to go vegan.
When I am in dialogue with many brothers about the possibility of transitioning from meat eating to eating plants, the first question on a brother’s mind is “Where do I get my protein?” This question is the result of the successful brainwashing by the meat and diary industry emphasizing the falsehood that the highest source of protein you can get is from the consumption of animal products. But there is another reason why men ask this question: They fear the loss of muscle mass if they stop eating meat.
Let me assure you that you will not lose out on your protein source or muscle mass. Plants not only have protein, but the largest animals on Earth are plant eaters: oxen, gorillas, elephants, rhinos, horses, and giraffes, to name a few. Examine these creatures, and you will notice they have no diminished muscle mass. Furthermore, check out Black male vegan athletes like Omowale Adewale, Dominick Thompson, Torre Washington, Badass Vegan, and others for concrete proof that vegan men have muscle mass. For many in our society, protein deficiency is not the problem; it’s fiber deficiency. And only plants contain fiber.
The second reason to go vegan is sex. Now, if you fear the loss of protein, I am sure this next reason to go plant-strong will give you plenty of motivation. I don’t know of any man, especially a Black man, who doesn’t want the edge in the bedroom. How much this is desired is indicated by the amount of money that is spent annually on erectile dysfunction (ED) medication. According to Zion Market Research, the global ED drugs market will reach $7.10 billion by 2024.ED is the result of blockage of the heart, which prevents blood-flow to the penis. Heart blockage is the direct consequence of eating animals raising bad cholesterol, which in turn has deleterious consequences on your “sex machine.” If you want to sing like James Brown in the bedroom even in your old age—eat plants!
Men are naturally protectors. We have a desire to prevent harm to our families and communities. Going vegan is another way that you can follow your natural instinct as a protector. What do I mean? Going vegan protects not just your health but it also protects animals and the environment. Planet Earth is in the midst of climate change; global warming is the topic of the day. Numerous studies confirm that one of the best ways to help the environment is to reduce the intake of animal food and/or eliminate it altogether. It is as simple as substituting beans for beef. Men were made to be protectors and going vegan will fulfill part of this mission.
Coupled with protection is protest. Veganism is a social justice movement. You don’t necessarily have to march in the streets with picket signs decrying the social evils of the day. You can do this by simply adopting a vegan lifestyle, which includes watching what you eat and what you wear. Here’s what you protest when you go vegan:
- More than 200 million land animals killed daily
- 72 billion land animals killed per year
- Over 1.2 trillion aquatic animals killed for food annually
And this is just for food, not counting killing animals for fashion. Remember: going vegan is a protest against the use of animals for food and clothing. You not only protest animal abuse and slaughter but by your dietary and fashion choices but you say, “Black Lives Matter!” Because you’re taking care of your health.
For example, did you know that in 2011, CVD (cardiovascular disease) caused the deaths of 46,081 Black men and 47,130 Black women? In his book How Not To Die, Dr. Michael Greger lists the fifteen leading causes of death caused by sickness and tells us all of them can be avoided if we eat more plants! By going vegan you wage a protest against a healthcare system that is not focused on healthcare but disease care.
You protest animal slaughter and disease, but also fast food genocide. When I was a child, one of my great cartoon heroes was Popeye. Popeye got strong because he ate spinach. He was the first vegan superhero. But Popeye must be rolling in his grave because so many chicken fast-food places are using his name.
I always say you can get away with murder when you put murder in food. Just take a look in our neighborhoods and you can see fast food places and liquor stores. And what is the result? Our community is burdened with obesity, diabetes, and cancer. As Black men we can combat these medical problems by not only going vegan but establishing farmers markets where people can have access to more fruits and vegetables.
The fifth and final reason why Black men should go vegan is intriguing. It’s intriguing because in our history there is a consistent attempt to deny Black men power—whether it’s politically, educationally, and professionally. So how does going vegan help a Black man secure power?
In a way, I hope I have secured this argument in my previous points. However, let me add two more reasons under the umbrella of power: Energy and Anti-Aging. I’m not telling you something that I have not experienced. I have been plant-based for over forty-four years, starting with becoming vegetarian when I was nineteen and vegan forty years later.
My energy levels are off the roof because I haven’t eaten animals who are killed in slaughterhouses, hearing the screams of their fellow creatures and smelling the blood of the dying. When you are eating animals, you are placing that energy inside of you. This is confirmed by studies that suggest a connection between mental illness and diet.
Eating plants energizes you, because they also contain anti-aging properties. I always love the shock on people’s faces when I tell them how old I am! Before I give the big reveal, I always ask them to guess my age. And I always get ten to twenty years younger. This is the result of a combination of spirituality, a positive attitude, consistent exercise, and a vegan lifestyle.
Black men: You are destined for glory and greatness. What you do for your health will impact our communities. It’s time to consider going vegan. Going vegan will empower you to fight against the unrelenting challenges we face daily in a society designed to disempower us.
Becoming stronger mentally, physically, and spiritually starts with what’s on your plate. And we if start this journey, we can chant like actor Derek Luke in the movie Antwone Fisher: “I’m still standing. I’m still strong.”
Kevin Jenkins, D.Min., VLCE, CPT is pastor of the Genesis Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Plainfield, NJ, a bodyguard and fitness athlete, and a Main Street Vegan Academy-certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. Find him on Instagram @TheVeganBourne.
 Lannis Hall, Arnold D. Bullock, et al. “Prostate Cancer Isn’t Colorblind,” New York Times, July 27, 2016; and Boston Scientific. “Prostate Cancer: Patient Resources, n.d., https://www.spaceoar.com/patients/prostate-cancer-resources-and-articles/prostate-cancer-in-african-american-men/.
 Zion Market Research. “Global Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Market Will Reach USD 7.10 Billion by 2024: Zion Market Research,” October 5, 2018, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/10/05/1617442/0/en/Global-Erectile-Dysfunction-Drugs-Market-Will-Reach-USD-7-10-Billion-by-2024-Zion-Market-Research.html.
 Susan Levin. “How You Can Help Save the Planet—and Yourself—Simply by Substituting Beans for Beef,” Salon June 11, 2017, https://www.salon.com/2017/06/10/how-you-can-help-save-the-planet-and-yourself-simply-by-substituting-beans-for-beef_partner/.
 Sentient Media. “How Many Animals Are Killed for Food Every Day?” n.d., https://sentientmedia.org/how-many-animals-are-killed-for-food-every-day/.
 American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. “African Ameicans & Cardiovascular Diseases: Statistical Fact Sheet 2015 Update.” https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_472910.pdf.
 Michael Greger, M.D. How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease (New York: Flatiron Books, 2015).
 James Ponder, “School of Public Health Study Links Unhealthy Diet to Mental Illness in California Adults,” Loma Linda University Health, February 20, 2019, https://news.llu.edu/research/school-of-public-health-study-links-unhealthy-diet-mental-illness-california-adults.
Please note: This excerpt is (c)2021 by Kevin Jenkins, D.Min. It can be reprinted only with the express permission of Lantern Books. If you wish to share this, contact Martin Rowe, publisher, Lantern Books: [email protected]