Hello y’all, I am Unique Vance. co-founder of Vegan Voices of Color. I am a feminist, environmentalist, social justice advocate and all around intersectional badass (If I do say so myself).
I am a vegetarian of 4 years and vegan of 1+. I was born and raised in Compton California and am currently awaiting my senior year at UC Santa Barbara where I am majoring in Environmental Studies. Let me start off by saying my views and ethics have changed drastically over the years as I have become involved in social justice activism since starting my freshman year of high school when I joined our Black Student Union. Now I hate to admit this as a radical progressive intersectional vegan but I used to be pretty conservative during my teenage years. This is a fact that I like to forget. Being a homophobic, transphobic, anti-immigration, anti-choice, vegan hating anti-feminist is quite embarrassing… but if I’m going to tell my story I believe telling the truth of the growth of my politics is very important, as VVOC is not a space for just sharing vegan recipes but was created to deconstruct the way we see and practice liberation and justice in regards to ourselves, the planet and the fellow animals who live here. When engaging with people I think its always important to remember that most of us did not start off at a point of “wokeness” to the systems of oppression at play in our lives.
So at the beginning of my activism I was kind of a terrible person, but luckily for me I had amazing teachers and counselors (as well as some pretty radical family members—shout out to my dad and aunt) who helped me to start thinking very critically about the world I was living in. Fast forward to my junior year of high school where my best friend and fellow Co-founder, Aaron, worked together to create two clubs on our campus I was well on my way. Our book club called Literacy Loves Company never quite took off but luckily our much beloved (even if not heavily attended) Environmental Education Club or the “Green Team”, as we liked to call it, did. Now at this point in time I am still a meat eating, “stupid vegetarians aren’t going to tell me anything” person. I’m Pro-Black and PoC at this point, not quite anti-homophobic or intersectional yet (don’t worry I’m getting there) and luckily I am a lot more open to new information and ideas. I’m even starting to see the evils of capitalism (you know thats a great start) and luckily for me my best friend is a vegetarian. Now I almost forgot to tell yall the story of how we met, its quite fantastic and symbolic actually, on a field trip to the botanical gardens. During lunch on this trip I sat down to a meal of hamburger and fries, across from me sat Aaron who was not eating this specialty of the restaurant. So we start having a conversation and I’m like “oh okay one of those people, he is going to be annoying” but somehow we hit it off. Since that was like 5 years ago I don’t quite remember all the details but needless to say our friendship flourished. Fast forward a year and Aaron is my awesome friend who is trying to get me to give up meat “at least do meatless Monday’s to start off”. And I do with the mindset that I am never actually going to give up meat completely but luckily being the Co-chair of an environmental club required me to do research on the major causes of environmental destruction happening around the world and I chanced upon an article on a vegan website detailing the ecological cost of animal agriculture. I went vegetarian right there and then.
That was the start of an intersectional justice approach I began to develop. How the rights of animals were connected to social justice. It took me until college to go vegan, this was due to a class I took on climate justice where we watched Cowspiracy. I went vegan that morning. No longer could I call myself an environmental justice activist, hold all these positions in social justice organizations while preaching about sustainability and ethics while so actively participating in this system of oppression that was all too easy to ignore.
This is why Vegan Voices of Color was created. I cannot separate the rights of animals from my work on racial equity or environmental justice. I am tired of white veganism being at the forefront of this social justice movement and I am tired of social justice activist ignoring that fact that veganism IS a social justice movement. Vegans of Color have lots to say about veganism and their communities and I want VVOC to be a platform from which we can speak. We will be bringing the issues of racism into the discussion of veganism. Will will be talking about feminism, xenophobia, poverty, justice and more. No PETA veganism, no non-intersectional veganism, this movement will be led People of Color. Veganism is about justice for the people, justice for the animals, and justice for the planet.
Veganism will be intersectional or it won’t be my veganism.