Vegan chef Bryant Terry reading at last year's Oakland Veg Week.
At the fourth annual Oakland Veg Week, which will run from April 19-26, the featured events include a broad-ranging celebration of multiculturalism, a youth-oriented hip-hop show, and presentations by more than a half-dozen prominent African-American health experts and food activists. And if that isn’t the kind of cultural slant you’ve come to expect from the Town’s weeklong celebration of all things vegan and vegetarian — well, according to Oakland Veg Week organizer Katie Cantrell, that’s precisely the point.
Cantrell, the executive director of the Oakland-based Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, explained that, despite evidence to the contrary, there’s still a perception that veganism is primarily a white, upper middle class movement. So Cantrell and the other organizers of Oakland Veg Week decided to make a conscious effort to combat that stereotype this year.
“We wanted to make sure that we were having diverse events so that we could reach out to all of the different communities in Oakland,” Cantrell said.
Perhaps the best example of this focus is Oakland Veg Week’s collaboration with Youth Hip-Hop Green Dinners, a Seattle-based national initiative that uses hip-hop music and culture to introduce urban youth to healthy vegan food. On Friday, April 24, the organization will host a free vegan dinner at the Oakland Peace Center (259 29th St.) for 150 Oakland youth and their families. The event taps into what appears to be a burgeoning (if still under-the-radar) vegan hip-hop movement — you may recall reading about Berkeley-based rapper Lil B’s recently-launched vegan emoji app. At the Oakland Youth Hip-Hop Green Dinner, the featured act will be the Oakland-based group Earth Amplified, known for its healthy-eating manifesto “Food Fight.” (Sample lyric: “Just say no to Cocoa box / cuz when you Google the ingredients, you might get got.”)
Cantrell explained that part of Oakland Veg Week’s mission this year is to show how vegan eating is deeply rooted in a vast array of traditional cultures — despite the popular image of veganism as a white, elitist, hippie cuisine. It’s fitting, then, that next Friday’s youth hip-hop dinner will be catered by Taste of Africa’s Malong Pendar, who cooks traditional, inexpensive, and very delicious Cameroonian food.
Meanwhile, this Sunday’s kickoff event, Vegan Soul Sunday ($15 in advance/$20 at the door), should set the tone for the whole week, with a diverse lineup of food vendors and guest speakers — including the keynote speaker, Oakland resident Bryant Terry, who is perhaps America’s most famous Black vegan chef and cookbook author — and a “soulful” soundtrack courtesy of CJ Flash, a Bay Area-based hip-hop DJ. The event will take place at Oakland’s Humanist Hall (390 27th St.) starting at noon, as will an optional 10 a.m. “Brunch with Soul” ($57, with part of the proceeds benefiting the East Bay Meditation Center) cooked by the vegan catering duo S+M Vegan. Their vegan, gluten-free brunch menu will include a buckwheat crepe benedict, a spring salad, homefries, and more.
Other new events for this year’s Oakland Veg Week include a panel discussion about nut-based vegan cheese-making on Wednesday, April 22, and the first ever Oakland Veg Fest — a free, all-day outdoor festival at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater featuring local vegan food vendors, lots of free samples, and even more guest speakers.
You can check out the entire schedule for the Oakland Veg Week here.