When Jay Z and Beyoncé announced earlier this year they were totally committing themselves to a vegan diet–and in fact stated using 22 Days Nutrition, a vegan meal delivery service — many might have wondered how a rapper turned vegan.
Well, in fact, there is a long history of hip hop artists who are either vegan or vegetarians, especially the Old Schoolers who are of the Nation of Islam faith and follow a strict diet. But for one reason or another, there was never a full recognition of the connection. That was until Keith Tucker launched the Hip Hop Green Dinners, which promotes a vegan diet through hip-hop culture. During the past six years his organization has turned the Hip Hop Green Dinner into an experience that engages and motivates young people and their families to make healthy lifestyle choices. To date, the organization has served more than 1,500 youth and their families delicious vegan meals. This year, it expanded its program by touring the country on the first Hip Hop is Green Tour, reaching more than 10,000 individuals with the help of hip hop artists.
The Hip Hop is Green Tour has already hit several cities on the West coast as well as Atlanta with Baltimore (Sept. 18), Washington, DC (Oct. 2), Tacoma (Oct. 29), and New York (date to be announced) on the horizon. Vegan Hip Hop artists and culinary wellness leaders have made appearances on the tour, including Afya Ibomu and Stic of Dead Prez, DJ Cavem, Ashel Seasunz, Methuzulah and the “Queen of Green” Lauren Von Der Pool, celebrity vegan chef and personal chef to Serena and Venus Williams. “The last one for the year will be in NYC sometime in November,” Tucker told us. “I am not going to tell you everything but this will be one of the most historic days in the history of hip hop–don’t miss this day!”
Overall, the vegan market is expanding. “In 2009, a tiny one percent of the US population reported eating vegetarian or vegan. Now, 5 percent of the United States population is vegetarian and half of those people are vegan. The rates have skyrocketed over the last five years and studies show the rates are climbing,” reports The Raw Food. That amounts to a whopping 16 million people in the U.S. who eat absolutely no animal products.
Tucker didn’t start out as a vegan himself. While in radio he started to go a series on the green movement and veganism. This evolved into working on a documentary called “Pursuit of a Green Planet,” about how hip hop meets the green movement and when he left radio this became his focus full time.
When invited to his first vegan festival, Tucker said he was blown away by the food. “I was like wow, this is actually good! But the problem was I was probably the only Black person there,” he recalled. “I said I have to bring this to the community.” That was when he decided to do the Hip Hop Green Dinners.
For Tucker, his work is not just about veganism as a personal health matter, it’s about an array of issues from the environment to organic gardening to social justice. And his efforts even got him an invite to the White House where First Lady Michelle Obama invited him and his vegan DJs to share their work. The tour has even received invites from cities in the UK, including London.
“Oh My God, the response has been growing and growing,” he told us about the number of people picking up on the movement.
“The purpose of the tour is to inspire people to be healthy and think about what they eat, and also that what we put on our planet and in our body will determining the future of the planet.”