Since 2015, the Black Veg Society of Maryland's (BVSMD) mission has been to educate the public, particularly African American and Latin communities, on the benefits of a plant-based diet. Led by Naijha Wright-Brown, the organization focuses on building community around healthy, accessible, and sustainable food by meeting people where they are on their journey and assisting them, non-judgmentally, with their ongoing efforts toward plant-based eating. BVSMD operates a variety of initiatives, including Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week, Musical Meatless Monday, Vegan Soulfest, Keep It Fresh Fest, the Baltimore Hip Hop Green Dinner (in partnership with Hip Hop is Green), and year-round cooking demonstrations and workshops. During COVID-19, the organization has shifted to social media, live-streaming, and virtual campaigns to maintain its connections across the community and continue to foster greater adoption of plant-based eating in Maryland’s Black and Latinx communities.
What is your role at the Black Veg Society of Maryland?
I am the Executive Director.
How would you describe your community? What makes it unique?
Baltimore is a small city (a.k.a. “Small-timore”) filled with amazingly talented, passionate people with a whole lot of culture. No wonder it's called Charm City. It is the birthplace of the largest, most popular vegan events such as the Vegan Living Program, Vegan Soulfest, the Vegan Mac N' Cheeze Smackdown, and Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week! What makes it unique is that it's located in the state of Maryland, an exciting and vibrant state full of unique counties, towns, and neighborhoods boasting incredible diversity.
How is the concept of change important to your work? What kind of change does the Black Veg Society of Maryland hope to bring about?
Most people hesitate to do the work needed when confronted with a difficult task to create change, especially when the change is to one's way of thinking about their lifestyle. At BVSMD, we value all change, even the smallest. Change is constant and oftentimes needed. Small changes will eventually lead you to the ultimate one, which is the desired goal. BVSMD hopes to be that one organization that meets people where they are when they are ready to make that change in their lifestyle.
What has Black Veg Society of Maryland been up?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BVSMD, like many other organizations, has had to rethink new ways to effectively conduct outreach. For the first time, we hosted a 10-Day Plant-based Mad Easy Program/Challenge during National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month in June, followed by a monthly Food as Medicine webinar series to teach people how to eat healthier to build their immune systems, better digest, and improve their mood. We pushed forward with our summer Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week: Fight For Restaurants which was a major success. As Executive Director, I also launched my own digital talk show channel, Naijha Speaks, birthed out of my contributor role for Jane Unchained News.
What are your biggest challenges right now?
Coming up with fun, engaging, innovative, and creative virtual online ideas while we navigate through the pandemic. Everyone is fighting for digital space now and sometimes it seems as if people are doing the same things. We want to get back to our table sampling, family-style dinners, and large-scale festivals. We continue to brainstorm hard, educate ourselves more, arm ourselves with new tools to grow in order to take advantage of all options available to us in this digital space in order to keep our audience engaged.
What is inspiring you right now?
My family, my colleagues, YouTube, and live broadcasting.
If you were a plant or a fungi, what would you be?
A mushroom – I LOVE mushrooms.