The Invisible Vegan: A Documentary For The Collective

Meet Jasmine C. Leyva, an actress, filmmaker, and producer of The Invisible Vegan, a 90-minute independent documentary that explores the problem of unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, foregrounding the health and wellness possibilities enabled by plant-based vegan diets and lifestyle choices. Jasmine identifies as a black American, hailing out of Southeast DC, “pre-gentrification” (she says, pointing that out makes a difference). The film interweaves her narrative with the professional and personal experiences of a prominent group of vegan activists. It also integrates interviews with popular culture luminaries including Cedric the Entertainer (actor and comedian), John Salley (former NBA player and wellness advocate), and Clayton Gavin (aka Stic of the hip-hop duo Dead Prez). Jasmine shares with Black + Well her perspective on veganism, and what she hopes viewers walk away with. Rent or Purchase The Invisible Vegan HERE. Full trailer available below.


What made you go vegan and decide to create this documentary?

I was exposed to veganism when I was twenty, which is why, initially, I only wanted to try it out for cosmetic reasons. I saw Chef Babette, the middle-aged owner of Stuff I Eat, and I said to myself “I want her body when I get older”. She shared her vegan habits with me and I put them into play. But my reason for going vegan evolved when I noticed health changes around my weight, acne, digestion, hygiene, etc. I read vegan books and I watched several documentaries on a vegan diet like Cowspiracy, Vegucated, Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, and others. As I learned, I tried to put my black friends on to the health game, but they dismissed me with “you’re on that white people shit.” or “you on that LA shit.” and it hit me… A lot of people in my community don’t feel connected to health and compassionate living because the subjects have not been equally marketed to us. When I reflected on the documentaries I watched, all of the messengers were white males who might not relate to inner city people of color that grew up the way I did. So I chose to create something tailor-made for people like me.

Is being vegan a total lifestyle for you? Do you avoid any and everything that is resourced from animals?

Recently, I’ve encountered debates on what it means to be vegan. I’ve heard it referred to as a diet, philosophy, religion and a lifestyle. What intrigues me is how offended some people get when you don’t use their semantics, so for safety, I’ll throw labels out of the window. I am on a journey of wellness and compassion. For the past few years, I have been following a vegan diet, and my latest purchases have been cruelty-free. However, while I don’t buy products derived from animals, I didn’t exactly throw away my wardrobe and shoe collection that was not ethically made. This shift of consciousness is a process and while there are rock stars that make the change overnight, I am not one of them. To avoid relapse, I took my time and upgraded like an iPhone. Once I secured one habit, I moved on to the next and this method makes it so I don’t really feel the change.


What's the number one misconception about veganism?

The number one misconception I encounter in regards to veganism is that we are depriving ourselves. For the first time in my life, I am hyper-concerned with how many nutrients I am getting. Before, I would eat fast food and several meals that contained no nutritional value. That is when I was depriving myself. I was deprived of vitamins, minerals, vegetables, fruits, healthy carbs, and awareness. Eating plant-based food isn’t deprivation; it is paying attention.


Do you think veganism is a form of revolution for the black community?

I don’t think veganism it’s always a form of revolution; that gives vegans too much unearned high ground. Some people go vegan to appease other people’s standards of beauty or want to follow celebrity trends. That’s fine, but it’s not a form of intentional revolution. Veganism becomes a form of revolution when intelligence, consciousness, change, and compassion are at the core of one’s choices.

When black people/ POC consider going vegan, ethical reasoning such as animal cruelty, the environment etc. are usually not a thought. The conversation is typically around consuming healthier food to prevent disease. Why do you think that is?

My film covers animal rights but it’s more focused on health. I received mild backlash for that choice and I told those people, I’m a black woman and I can’t operate the way others operate. If I had come out with a film about the conditions of farm animals while unarmed black men and women are being customarily executed, many members of my community wouldn’t have given me or my film the time of day. Not because I come from a race incapable of compassion, but more so because people are dealing with more immediate issues. When people are stressed out because they hate their own conditions, it’s hard to convince them, in this stressed state, to worry about another group they perceive to be unimportant due to cultural conditioning. The same goes for the environment. If people have to constantly worry about keeping food on the table, habitually in stress mode, these people aren’t in a position to put rational thought into the state of the environment in fifty years, they are in “fight or flight” mode. However, people in my community are repeatedly battling with losing friends and family to degenerative disease. So it makes sense, to me, that someone might be more concerned with their grandma’s diabetes or their mother’s cancer than problems they can’t see.


What advice/tips do you have for someone one interested in conforming to a plant-based diet?

Look at being unhealthy as a drug habit. Bad foods are just as, if not more, addictive than drugs. If a person tries to stop smoking crack, it’s going to be hard if it’s always in the house, if they always see commercials for it, if all of their friends are crackheads, and they have no support system pulling them in the other direction. So my advice: get a support system. Talk to your friends and find out who wants to get healthy with you and more times than not, these people exist in your circle.

What do you hope people who watch this documentary walk away with?

When my brother watched my film he said: “I’m not gonna lie, I’m not going to go vegan tomorrow, but you definitely gave me a lot of things to think about that I hadn’t considered.” At the very least, that is what I want. I want non-vegans to walk away with, at least, a new spark of consciousness in regards to their food choices. I want vegans to walk away with compassion for non-vegans and reflect on their marketing. They need to understand how some outreach efforts, while well-intentioned, can exclude, devalue and repel non-vegan people of color.

What does being black and well mean or look like to you?

It’s feeling sexy. And not because of photoshopped Instagram photos, but because you radiate energy and compassion. It’s loving yourself so much that you want the best for yourself down to the detail. It’s understanding that there are a plethora of forces trying to further disenfranchise our race, and we don’t want to be a permanent underclass. We need to be healthy enough and love our race enough to fight those battles. Being “black and well” is self-love and collective preservation. (Insert finger-snaps)

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Anasa Troutman on Joy, Radical Love, + Forgiveness

Photo Source:  Anasa Toutman

Photo Source: Anasa Toutman

Writer, producer, and entrepreneur, Anasa Troutman has dedicated her work to the importance of culture and the power of love. As CEO of her company, Culture Shift Creative, Anasa works to build and execute strategies for artists and organizations that are aligned with her vision of a loving world and her belief in creativity as a pathway to personal, community and global transformation.

In her recent TED TALK, Troutman discusses going from justice to joy. She goes on to say “What if we teach everybody that all of us of deserve joy, wellness, the benefit of the doubt even… what would that be like? A culture of joy offers sustained well-being for everyone”.

Watch as she shares her full story below!

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Black Women In Wellness: 21 Influencers + Advocates You Should Know + Follow

As a way to celebrate International Women’s Day we put together a list of black women authentically and unapologetically advocating for wellness within their communities.

These women represent what is means to be Black + Well


Chelsea.

@TheCoffeyBreak: Every week the Black + Well community is blessed with affirmations by the one and only ‘Affirmation Queen’ Chelsea Coffey. Admitting to not “having it all” Chelsea uses affirmations and her spiritual awareness as a way of manifesting a purposeful and fulfilling life. TheCoffeyBreak.com

DeJanae.

@dejanetanye: Wellness writer, certified cannabis educator and founder of @greengodessglow. DeJanae uses her platform to encourage mindful cannabis + self-care practices. GreenGoddesGlow.com

Chelsea.

@thatschelsea: Chelsea began her platform in an effort to help teach others how they can live a healthier lifestyle, as well as become more knowledgeable, and health-conscious consumers. Her content ranges from quick health tips to eco and green beauty reviews, to plant-based recipes. ThatsChelsea.com.

Yasmine.

@meanttobeyasmine: NJ based writer, body positivity advocate, and content creator. With a simple mission to “honor myself enough to become who I’m meant to be”, Yasmine encourages others to be fearless and do the same with @transparentblackgirl; a community organization founded to encourage, highlight, and nurture unapologetic women of color. Meanttobeyasmine.com

Shanna.

@shannatyler_:Life + Biz Coach and Podcaster. After being diagnosed with major depressive disorder and hospitalized in an inpatient facility, Shanna decided to move toward the light, and share her story to empower others to do the same with her podcast Self Soul Sport. Catch her sharing all things wellness over at ShannaTyler.com


Leah.

@GreenGirlLeah: A sustainability + wellness writer and advocate, whose overall goal is to help people live with both self-care and the environment in mind. Leah is passionate about environmental justice and equal access to nature, which she personally calls 'Green Inclusivity'. GreenGirlLeah.com

Kharissa.

@Kforteco: Writer, health coach, and light force. Kharissa continues to advocate for wellness in multiple ways, spiritually being one. With her book Pardon My ApathyKharissa aims to help women create authentic lives by reaching the root of their core desires and seeking fulfillment over validation.

Aala.

@aalaoffical: After curing herself of an autoimmune disease, Aala has been encouraging others to take their health into their own hands with her cookbook cleanse. You can catch her spreading health and wellness at aalacleanse.com


Somi.

@somiigbene: Advocating for health and wellness through a plant-based diet, Somi shares drool-worthy recipes over at VeganBySomi.com

Danielle.

@zelue: A Brooklynite, Nurse Practitioner, and creative. Danielle dedicated her blog to plant care/styling, self-care, vegan and sustainable living, home decor, and the pursuit of cultivating a joy-filled life. Her goal is to be her most authentic self and inspire others to do the same. Zelue.me


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Larriell.

@herthrivinglife: Larriell believes that health is a priority and should be considered mentally, physically and spiritually. Her Thriving Life exists to inspire others to live a life of wellness to produce growth, peace, and happiness. HerThrivingLife.com


Melissa.

@metricdisco: Melissa shares her personal wellness journey unapologetically. Along the way she’s learned to give herself “permission to enter spaces of predominately thin, white people and tell myself “yes, this is for me” even when I felt like the people around me were implicitly telling me no”. Follow along as she cultivates an active practice of self-care and joy at MetricDisco.com

Jasmin.

@mashandspread: Registered Dietician by day. Blogger by night. Jasmin shares creative ways to indulge in healthier food choices at MashAndSpread.com

Amanda.

@elevatedbygrace: Vegan Health Influencer. Amanda’s goal is to lead a life of health consciousness and inspire other to do the same. Check out her YouTube Channel where she shares recipes and mini docs. ElevatedByGrace

Les.

@balancedles: Les is the fitness-loving founder of Balanced Black Girl, a podcast and supportive wellness community for women of color. She creates space for women to have candid conversations about wellness, self-care, and self-love, with a dose of humor. BalancedBlackGirl.com

Nzingah.

@yesbabyilikeitraw: With a holistic approach to wellness, Nzingah shares food, fitness, mental health, and self-care tips along with natural remedies to empower others to live more wholesomely. YesBabyILikeItRaw.com

Brielle.

@wellwithbrielle: Black + Well contributor Brielle shares her own personal wellness journey and tips around a lifestyle of wellness on her blog. WellWithBrielle.com

Maiah.

@maiahthemermaid: Wellness coach and fitness instructor, Maiah advocates for others to get fit and offers wellness programs over at MaiahTheMermaid.com

Denise.

@brooklynbabe NYC Mama, Doula, Wellness & Self Care Advocate, and Content Creator. Denise loves building community, supporting moms, women, and humans while remaining in a constant state of growth and connection with the universe. ABrooklynBabe.com


Valerie.

@floursihheights: Dietician Valerie advocates for women’s nutrition & wellness and helping others plant their health on higher ground. FlourishHeight.com

Tiffany.

@TiffanyIma: Teaches creative women how to use exercise and self-care to manage depression + improve their overall wellness. She believes we all can build our own happiness through a simple and holistic approach to wellness. TiffanyIma.com


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Diaspora Darling: A Childhood Reflection

Diaspora Darling: A Childhood Reflection

When I was little, I knew we were different. Not only because of my parents and their thick accents but because of the lines they drew around us and the other children in the neighborhood. I remember my mother saying, “You are not to go and play with those kids! They are not like us!” Even now, 30 years later, it rings out like an echo. A black mom boomerang.

Using Gratitude To Naturally Increase Happiness

Using Gratitude To Naturally Increase Happiness

Gratitude boosts your happiness and that’s great for your health. Science shows that improving your happiness also improves other areas of wellness in your life. I’ve found that gratitude has been an easy, but super effective way for me to live in the present while constantly tapping into feelings of love and happiness.

Essential Oils & Emotional Detox: How One Energetic Transit Brought Me Deeper Healing

Essential Oils & Emotional Detox: How One Energetic Transit Brought Me Deeper Healing

I always say my first son birthed a Mother, but my second son birthed an Advocate. A woman who wants fellow millennial mothers to thrive in their role as divine co-Creator, even if she’s come face to face with death in the process. I’ve been talking about birth trauma for two years now- supporting women in getting comfortable with acknowledging and giving voice to the undiscussed pain behind their birthing experiences

19 Habits To Bring Into 2019!

19 Habits To Bring Into 2019!

This year boundaries has been a hot topic! Have you gotten comfortable with setting those boundaries to live a life that respects your needs? If not, it’s time to get comfortable. Make a list of the things or people you need to set boundaries with. It may be putting yourself in check or letting friends and family members know where your priorities lye. Check out this episode ‘The Gift of Boundaries’

Two Women Of Color Impacting Youth Wellness In Underserved Communities + Bringing The Conversation To WellSpring 2018

Two Women Of Color Impacting Youth Wellness In Underserved Communities + Bringing The Conversation To WellSpring 2018

We took some time to chat with two featured women on the Wellspring talent lineup, who effortlessly represent what it means to be black + well. Nicole Cardoza, founder + executive director of Yoga Foster , and Ebony Smith, founder of Yoga N’ Da Hood.



Mindful Ways Women of Color Can Channel Painful Emotions Without Bingeing

Mindful Ways Women of Color Can Channel Painful Emotions Without Bingeing

You see although the most popular view is that emotional eating is due to a lack of control or weakness, it’s really much deeper. Certain situations can trigger you if you’re unconscious of them or choose not to respond to them. Most of us are generally unconscious of these signs and only become conscious of them when taking time to be present and aware of your own personal habits.

3 Tips To Overcome Bad Habits!

3 Tips To Overcome Bad Habits!

They say it takes between 21-28 days to create a habit which may sound like a long time to some people, but it’s actually very short! I’m sure we all have things that we wish we didn’t do, but we just need a little help on how to overcome it. Here are 3 tips to overcome bad habits to get you on a path to a better life.


A Happy Mind Starts With Analyzing Your Mental Health

A Happy Mind Starts With Analyzing Your Mental Health

Therapy has such a negative connotation and in the black community, it might as well be a sin to speak on therapy. When in reality we have been conditioned to believe that we are always supposed to be okay and to keep it to ourselves. I believe the biggest problem of all is a lack of knowledge. Mental health isn’t being sick or being mentally ill, but it is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. 

The Lives of Men: Making An Impact in Our Communities.

The Lives of Men: Making An Impact in Our Communities.

"We need to educate ourselves, as black men, women, parents, and friends on the benefits of eating well for our bodies," Yoba says. Understanding the intricacy of our interiors and how eating what grows from the earth is beneficial for balance, having clear thoughts and having clean energy is also paramount. Wellness does not stop at going to the gym, it's making those lifestyle changes to live more holistically and being more in tune with your body and the way it should function. 

Too Busy For Self-Care?? This Is For You!

Too Busy For Self-Care?? This Is For You!

A little stress here and there doesn’t make or break us. In fact, it is within those challenges that we develop new skills and grow. However, relentless, constant stress can be the culprit for both physical and psychological symptoms such as migraines, weight gain/loss, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

Freeing Myself of Medication + Reclaiming My Mental Health!

Freeing Myself of Medication + Reclaiming My Mental Health!

For the past three years, I’ve struggled with anxiety and ADHD in which both of those labels, I became very dependent on medication. I was more so dependent on the medicine for ADHD than the anxiety because my inability to focus and sit longer than a couple of minutes was a daily struggle. So much so, it became a problem in my work as well as school. I became increasingly unorganized and frazzled.

Living Your Life Beyond The Lens

Living Your Life Beyond The Lens

REFLECT ON YOUR SELF WORTH! Take a step back from the consuming stresses of Instagram stories and Facebook timelines to realize your own worth. It’s common to unintentionally devour your time in stalking the lives of others with their permission.

Winter Blues; And the Truth Behind Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter Blues; And the Truth Behind Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many of us know about depression but some people experience worsening symptoms over the winter. With the season lasting an average of four months, maybe more, we could all use some help keeping our mental health in order. What’s going on? How do we make it stop? 

7 Life Lessons To Carry Throughout 2018!

7 Life Lessons To Carry Throughout 2018!

For 2018, my word is manifestation. It seems almost on a universal level that people are coming into themselves. We are looking back on the past, learning from our experiences, and cultivating lives of purpose. We are manifesting. These seven lessons reflect what last year taught me and serve to shape a lifestyle I believe we all desire.

8 Anti-Inflammatory Spices/Herbs That Will Help You Fight Sickness and Improve Overall Health

8 Anti-Inflammatory Spices/Herbs That Will Help You Fight Sickness and Improve Overall Health

Right now, the flu is spreading like wildfire and I doubt anyone has time to be sick for weeks at a time nor does anyone want to. So, I have compiled a list of the best spices and herbs that will help you fight against the flu and improve your overall health and immunity for long term stability: