This week I’m reviewing a documentary called “The Invisible Vegan” directed by Los Angeles based actress and film maker Jasmine Leyva. The film is exploring the unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, how their health could be improved by choosing plant based diets and lifestyle choices. The documentary hopes to redress the prevailing attitudes and stereotypes about veganism within the African-American community and its invisibility by spotlighting alternative and ongoing efforts to raise awareness about veganism .
The documentary begins with the personal story of Jasmine Leyva, a 30-year-old black actress and filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Over the past seven years, Leyva has committed herself to veganism, both in lifestyle and research. Taking Leyva’s unhealthy childhood growing up in Washington, DC as a point of departure, the film interweaves her narrative with the professional and personal experiences of a prominent group of vegan activists. The film 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).Length: 90 MinutesGenre: Documentary
About the Author, Jasmine Leyva
Activist, actress, and documentary filmmaker, Jasmine is passionate about veganism, social justice, and telling her own stories. With a Bachelor of Arts in TV, Film and Media and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting, Jasmine is unapologetically an artist. She has worked as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitled Unsung and has written and produced for Being, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music.
Jasmine ultimately decided to let go of her nine-to-five and focus on her goals with no boss except for her own creativity. She went on to produce her own feature length documentary, The Invisible Vegan, a film that chronicles her personal experience with plant-based eating. The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression.
This documentary was quite interesting – being UK based the reference to say, fried chicken as a black food, didn’t resonate with me. When I think of American food I think of burgers , steak and tacos! I don’t think in terms of black or white food. I have been to West Africa and East Africa. In East Africa, back in 1990, I travelled with a vegan couple who found it very hard to stick to their vegan diet as every lodge we encountered offered us to eat a stew consisting of antelope (Dik Dik), chicken or crocodile. In contrast, in West Africa the food was delicious – fried cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, fish ….. I think people’s views on veganism/vegetarianism is not necessarily culture/racial based. A lot of it is more age related – the older generation are not as open to plant based diets as the younger generation- black or white. People, regardless of ethnicity, may need a little bit of nudge to explore this healthier alternative lifestyle.
Interestingly, when I was in the West African republic of Cape Verde, the two things food wise that stood out for me were the absolutely delicious lightly battered cauliflower florets that my sons at first mistook for southern fried chicken pieces but carried on ordering them daily because they were so delicious; and hibiscus tea, served cold. Hibiscus tea is made from the dried petals of the hibiscus plant and according to the locals, has been known to prevent hypertension, lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar levels, keep your liver healthy, help with menstral cramps, lifts depression, aids digestion and helps with weight management. A little miracle plant it seems and totally delicious!
#VeganDocumentary Tour Dates
My thanks to Jasmine for allowing me to take part in her Invisible Vegan Documentary Tour.
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jasmine Leyva, except where marked. Featured image by Linda Hobden
© 2021, Linda. All rights reserved.