Vegan Family Reunion (VFR) recently launched in San Antonio, TX as the city’s first Black-owned vegan outdoor market. Founded by Naomi Hendrix Oyegoke, owner and head chef of frozen meal company Rooted Vegan Cuisine, VFR’s inaugural event featured more than 20 local Black-owned vendors and products such as Southern and Cajun food from pop-up Mellos Vegan Gumbo; powerbowls from fitness company Fit Black Vegan; vitamins and teas from alternative health company Godbody Concepts; beer from Weathered Souls Brewing Company; and açai bowls, smoothies, and juices from pop-up Acai Eternity Co.
“I’ve been thinking about hosting a Black-owned vegan market for a while now,” Oyegoke told VegNews. “[VFR] really brought together many of the things I’m passionate about: veganism, supporting my brothers and sisters in the Black community, supporting local charitable organizations that are doing amazing work, spreading joy and love, and being surrounded by like-minded people.”
VFR’s inaugural event also featured national and local raffles and an art auction with original work from local Black artist Alain Boris. Proceeds directly benefited The Black Freedom Factory (a social justice organization dedicated to cultivating a more equitable culture) and Black Outside Inc. (an organization committed to making national parks and outdoor spaces more accessible by helping Black youth reconnect with nature).
Aside from local businesses and food vendors, VFR also had vegan dieticians and the Ethical Network of San Antonio—a vegan intersectional social justice organization—in attendance to help provide information and resources. “Spreading information and knowledge about the benefits of a plant-based diet is [also] important to all of us food vendors, especially finding a way to get that information to other members of the Black community since we have higher rates of so many diet-related medical conditions,” Oyegoke said. “We want them to know how even small changes towards a plant-based lifestyle can make a big difference in their overall health and life overall.”
Because Black Lives Matter
With an estimated 400 to 500 patrons in attendance, VFR was a way to bring healing to San Antonio’s Black community following a year marked by the deaths of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. “VFR was also an opportunity to bring so much joy at a time when we desperately needed it,” said Oyegoke. “It’s been a very emotionally taxing time for us in the Black community, but when we get together and eat, sing, dance, create art, and laugh, it gives us strength. It helps us heal. I really needed that.”
For Oyegoke, VFR allowed San Antonio vegans to reconnect after a year of quarantining and social distancing, while also reaching out to the city’s Black community at large. “This was also a call to the broader local Black community to show them that there are plenty of Black vegans already here—to break down the stereotypes of what it looks like and means to be vegan,” she said. “We wanted to showcase just how delicious plant-based versions of classic dishes can be.”
Oyegoke plans to make VFR an annual event and is currently toying with the idea of smaller events throughout the year. “My hope is that VFR is just one more vehicle to help the vegan movement grow overall and specifically within the Black community,” she said. “I want to show the Black community overall that the vegan movement is here for them so I definitely intend on utilizing VFR as a means to fundraise for organizations dedicated to the health, wealth, and progress of the Black community.”