D.C. VegFest 2010
Today I attended this year’s D.C. VegFest. It just started back up last year, and from the looks of it there were more people than last year. Just like the 2010 Animal Rights Conference, I found it really energizing and am so glad I went. I got there at 2:50pm, so almost halfway through (6-hour event). Last year I was only there for the first hour and a half volunteering to sell food donated from Java Green and sadly did not get to listen to any of the speakers. So I decided that this year I was going to just go for myself instead of volunteering.
When I got there, Colman McCarthy was speaking, but I decided I’d get some food and wait for the next speaker. I looked around, and a lot of it looked too expensive for me, i.e. the $7 delicious-looking desserts from some out-of-town place or $9 meals. I got a free sample of Gardein “beef” and decided to get something from a local restaurant: Sunflower Vegetarian. For $3, I got a bowl of pasta. Later, I bought a plate of nachos with delicious toppings (with a Frisbee plate) for $6 from D.C. Bread and Brew. Honestly, that didn’t make me feel too well, as nachos on top of wheat (pasta) don’t exactly make for a day of optimum nourishment.
However, there were also multiple groups selling healthy and raw foods, i.e. a local raw juice place. Unfortunately, healthy in this country often means more expensive. There was also a raw food demo that I will talk about in a moment.
I was lucky I made it in time for two speakers I was interested in: Tracye McQuirter and Lauren Von Der Pool (both D.C. natives?). Tracye is the author of the new book By Any Greens Necessary. I enjoyed listening to her tell the story of how she became vegan 20 years ago, after listening to Dick Gregory give a lecture, and how she went from being very disdainful of vegetarianism to eventually writing a book about how to sustain a healthy vegan diet. While attending Howard University in the ’80s, she discovered a thriving vegetarian/vegan community within the African American community of D.C., with Soul Vegetarian Cafe (still around!) and number of others I am not familiar with as I’m not much part of that community! When someone asked if being part of that community posed any challenges in her experience of being vegetarian, she said that African Americans are pioneers in that and started many of the first vegan establishments in D.C. She gives cooking demos to kids in D.C. public schools, and I also like that she said veganism is but one of the answers when it comes to health. After listening to Tracye speak, I will definitely have to check out her book.
The other one, Lauren Von Der Pool, was actually giving a raw food demo. I absolutely loved how upbeat she was and the energy with which she spoke. A black guy told me once that African Americans are, culturally and generally, “louder” (and better talkers) because of their history of being prevented from reading, so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but we could use a lot more of this in the world and in the vegan/AR movement! She was something special, though. I thought, “Damn, I wish I could be like that!” One person asked her when she would be doing her own cooking show, indicating that she also was loving it.
She is a celebrity chef, has a degree in culinary arts and says that food should look beautiful. I think she may have made three or four salads for the demo, but I only saw the last two. There was a kale salad that I did not try. Then one with other greens and mushrooms. She put basil sauce on them and crowned them both with a beautifully cut piece of mango. I was craving fruit after that. The mushroom I tried tasted really good in that sauce, and I usually am not a fan of mushrooms. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me.
One person asked her something about using honey, and she said she doesn’t use honey because she’s vegan and started talking about “the way the bees are treated,” the overproduction of honey through the exploitation of bees, etc. I loved that because I don’t hear much about bees, let alone an argument as thoughtful as that.
She also answered a question about eating raw vegan for college students, but I didn’t understand what she said, other than that she is “all about eating on a small budget.”
For more info about the speakers, check out their bios here, as well as their websites. Lauren has a collective raw fast coming up starting September 21, and it’s open to people around the world. I may join myself after all that excitement!
Seeing how great these speakers were, I am actually sad now that I missed Chef Tal Ronnen’s demo.
The free-admittance VegFest appeared a lot more racially diverse than the 2010 Animal Rights Conference, mainly in that there were a lot of African Americans in attendance, including half of the speakers. I loved that. Since African Americans make up over half the population of D.C., it would be great for me to get more in touch with the AA vegan community around here, sad that I haven’t much yet!
Today I really felt like I was part of a vegan/AR community. I arrived and saw so many people I knew or recognized from the AR Conference, the Open the Cages Alliance conference, etc. Last year the only people I knew at this event were the Compassion Over Killing crowd. Robert Cheeke came up from behind, surprised me with a hug, and said, “Heyyy! Third time this year!” That’s the third time I’ve seen him at events this year. I also saw my manager from Java Green, of course! Other than my university, this is my strongest offline community that I belong to, and it’s only since summer 2009 that I’ve started establishing it. It feels great and energizing to have so much social capital. I really needed this event to give me a boost when I haven’t had much time to read and write (I haven’t posted here in over three weeks!), and have been feeling disconnected elsewhere. Of course, the downside to that upside is what it says about the communities in which I don’t have so much social capital: other places and other movements.
At the AR Conference, I felt a little lonely and disconnected from the interesting people there, while the Open the Cages Alliance Conference was more intimate. This was something in between, but also different because it was a festival rather than a conference, and because it was specifically for D.C., for the local community. Again, this is something I was previously a little skeptical about, about the mainstream-ness of the event and my past experience, but for me these experiences have been getting better and better as I grow internally and build on the past. That’s how life works, as a whole. It was really rejuvenating socially, as well as in the spirit of health that could be seen in the speaker line-up (although not always in the food ). One day, perhaps I shall be good enough at organizing to say I organized something as refreshing as this, but for now I will just continue to look forward to those organized by others.