Image Courtesy of Delores Holloway of a little bit of whimsy photography
Tracye McQuirter exemplifies black women's excellence and empowerment. After dedicating her life, education, and time to improving health, she is a purveyor of wellness for various communities and now looks to transform the lives of black women with her new program, 10000 Black Vegan Women. However, don’t be fooled, her latest initiative is founded on decades of knowledge and experience. After receiving her Master’s in Public Health from NYU, Tracye continued to improve the health conditions of various institutions. She co-founded the Black Vegetarian Society of New York and Justice for All Species, which is an animal rights organization for people of color. Serving as a health advisor for the Black Women’s Health Imperative, she successfully developed the organization’s first plant-based obesity prevention and reversal program. She also developed a curriculum for DC public schools to tackle childhood obesity by training teachers and cafeteria staff members to prepare healthy plant-based options for students. Her work over the years has further reinforced her belief in the importance of going vegan to gain control over one’s health and live ethically.
About 33 years ago - during her sophomore year in college - Tracye became a vegan, along with her mother and sister. With the support of the closest women in her life, Tracye embraced a seamless and lifelong transition to veganism. Filtering her palette and lifestyle through a veganized pair of eyes, Tracye became aware of the ubiquitous Black vegan community in DC – one that has been active and growing as early as the 1960s. Some of the first vegan health stores were founded in this very community during the 1970s. She had access to all types of vegan experiences including soul food, fast food, health food stores, cafes, and restaurants. It was only until her lifestyle change did this community become apparent to her. Contrary to popular belief, a vegan lifestyle is not expensive and only reserved for those whose income allows it. From Tracye’s experience, she noticed that it was in the low-income Black neighborhoods where vegan vendors and restaurants were mostly populated and operating. During protests, the Black vegan community came to feed the protestors and provide support. A drastic dietary change was unexpectedly supported not just by Tracye’s family, but an entire community with a conviction on the benefits of the vegan lifestyle - giving her a change with little bumps on the road.
Tracye’s journey in her vegan lifestyle welcomed others along the way, who all have only benefitted from becoming vegan. She has helped handfuls of individuals reverse their diabetes, lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, go from an unhealthy weight to a healthy range, and lower the amount of medication they are on. She provided support to family members and friends as well. “It isn’t rocket science,” Tracye says, “Most people start noticing results in as little as one to three weeks, depending on their health condition before going vegan.” She emphasizes the importance of introducing fiber to the diet to clean out the colon, stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, reversing prediabetes, diabetes, and heart disease. The hallmark of success is reaching a wide audience and that is what the NYTimes have recognized Tracye for as her book By Any Greens Necessary was the key reason for heightened popularity for veganism in the Black community within the last decade. “Giving information to people they normally don’t have access to is important. Presenting information in an affordable and accessible way is important. Black women have the most to gain from eating a plant-based diet since they have one of the worst health outcomes in the country,” Tracye explains.
While all individuals face immense health benefits when becoming vegan, it is important to account that some people experience social challenges and discomfort when making such a drastic change. There are women Tracye worked with who are eager to make the change but have family members not on board at the moment. In her latest blog post Tracye outlines some steps to remain empowered when making a change when others around you are not. “The woman in the family who is going vegan needs to be clear and solid in her foundation for making the changes, whether it is for health, animal rights, spiritual, or environmental related causes, and has to acknowledge that her being a vegan is important for those reasons,” Tracye advises. For women who are not the sole cooks in their households, she suggests asking for an extra pair of helping hands during meal prep. It is common for vegan individuals to no longer want to handle meat and dairy products, so it is worthwhile asking other family members to prepare their omnivore meals. However, for women who are the main or sole cooks in the house, she suggests cooking lots of vegetable dominated meals and utilizing whole grain pasta, quinoas, brown or black rice as the foundation. “Have a separate bowl with vegan toppings and another one with meat toppings. If you are making a meat sauce, make the sauce and meat separate,” Tracye suggests. It may seem overwhelming in the beginning, but once the habit is formed, it will be as if your cooking habits haven’t changed. The same mindset can apply to pregnant women as well. Witnessing her own sister’s successful vegan pregnancy, Tracye draws upon lifelong vegans such as Seba Johnson, an African American Olympic athlete, to get inspired by veganism as an attainable way of life. Tracye also has worked with pediatricians who themselves attest that veganism is healthy for every stage in the life cycle and children can also be raised as vegans. More information can be found in Tracye McQuirter’s African American Vegan Starter Guide.
Tracye’s education, transformative impacts when working with communities and her experiences throughout her journey have been a testament that the vegan diet is more sustainable for families with a modest budget. Her lifestyle change and work with public schools, communities, and individuals jettisons the myth that you need to be rich to be vegan. “Eating a whole food plant-based diet is cheaper than meat and dairy packaged based foods since you are focusing on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as your main ingredients,” Tracye explains in greater detail in her blog post. She advises that buying a bulk supply of grains, nuts, and dried beans for the family is cheaper in the long run as you have a nutrient-dense supply that can last for several months. Her advice continues to be applicable during the Covid-19 pandemic. She acknowledges that in the beginning people avoided fresh foods, opting for canned fruits and vegetables out of fear of mishandling them. However, research confirmed that Covid-19 is not on fresh fruits and vegetables and people can consume them as they did before - bringing back the appeal in fresh produce. Tracye also reassures that frozen fruits and vegetables can be mixed with fresh ones. By switching to fresh produce and whole grains, one will be getting a wealth of nutrients from much cleaner sources, leaving immense health benefits and promoting longevity. If you are having hesitations or doubts about going vegan, head over to By Any Greens Necessary to learn more about how you can gain control over your health and support environmentally sustainable dietary options. Health shouldn’t be reactive, where you start the change only after a diagnosis or a condition; instead, health should be focused on prevention, and veganism has been a successful way to prevent lifelong illnesses. Make sure you stay updated so you can join Tracye’s new program, 10000 Black Vegan Women.