By Jamila Alfred, VO Maryland/DC Events and Outreach Coordinator
We all know Russell Simmons as being the ultimate businessman and professional hustler, but not everyone is familiar with his relaxed, compassionate side.
Who would have thought that the long-time hip-hop mogul would become a hardcore yogi, let alone a super-passionate vegan? I definitely didn’t, so reading his engaging book, The Happy Vegan: A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life, not only helped me learn more about him, but it also reminded me of the main reasons why I chose to live vegan.
The books starts with Simmons telling his personal story of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and all the cognitive dissonance that came along with it. His experience was similar to many—he ate a lot of animal foods, dabbled in recreational drugs, and overall wasn’t feeling healthy. With his discovery of veganism he now has more energy and zest, which prompted him to share his newfound happiness with the world.
Simmons sectioned off the top factors that concern vegans—ethics, environment, and health—but he also discussed issues that affect communities of color, namely African-Americans. He touched on the concept of soul food being “slave food” since it derived from the time when African slaves were given the scraps of animal carcasses and other swill as meals. I was glad that he touched on this because not many people know about this important historical fact.
His conversational tone and personal stories made this such a fun and relatable read! Simmons, like many other people, thought that by giving up animal products he would be betraying his heritage and culture. He explained that those animal products—among other things— have been killing fellow African-Americans for centuries and invited people of color to understand that veganism is just as much for them as it is for anybody else.
Simmons dropped so much knowledge in an entertaining yet laid-back way, which I’m sure, converted many pre-vegans. It’s clear he wrote this how-to guide for middle-aged people of color, and for that I’m truly grateful! Marginalized groups aren’t usually included in the vegan message, so I think it’s a good idea for people like Russell to continue to speak up for his community.
Get yourself a copy, give it to a friend, and let us—or Russell Simmons himself—know how much you liked it!