I’m walking into a civic engagement training in Midtown Detroit when a white lady stops me, glances at my hand and asks, “What did you juice?”
I have my workbag in one hand and a mason jar filled with green liquid in the other.
“It’s kale, celery, apples, and grapes,” and both of us say, “green machine!” at the exact same time.
Since becoming a vegan a year ago and adopting juicing into my eating habits, I’ve experienced new conversations like this with total strangers that center on vegetables and herbs.
That’s always a bittersweet moment for me.
The sweetness is from the joy of meeting souls who share my interest in juicing, but the bitterness because these conversations rarely happen with black people.
It has been a harsh reality, knowing at juicing events and recipe seminars I will be one of – if not the only – African American in the room.
(It reminds me of moments in my life when I’ve participated in a PhD workshop or attended a professional development seminar, and feeling like an outsider to experiences that should be a part of the African American community – my community!)
But why are these experiences not a part of my community?
In college, I learned terms like systemic oppression, and how corporations place fast food restaurants at every corner in low-income neighborhoods knowing the poisons are addictive and will keep the poor consumers poor.
When I explain to someone what juicing is, can I blame their brush-off … about 85% of the time the comment is “Gross! I would never! How can you do that? That’s too healthy!”
My most unsettling encounter was an older African-American woman in her late 50s who told me that I should be enjoying life at 24 – and wait to juice when an illness happens and I’m forced to do it.
The Aha Moment
I was thinking of giving up on my people when one day at work a black woman in her early 20s asked “what’s that in your jar?”
I explained to her how pulp was extracted from the fruits and vegetables that were placed in the juicer. And how one can absorb nutrients faster this way and cleanse your body from the poisons in processed foods.
She asked to smell it and said, “Wow, I had no idea that’s what juicing meant. I’m going to try it. Thanks for sharing.”
At that moment I realized it didn’t matter if I was one of the few in the “Black World” who juiced – because I could change that.
Struck by that idea, I soon began telling others about my eating habits, posting photos on instagram and facebook.
Within 2 months time people from different races who followed me were trying it, asking me questions, as if I was the expert in this realm they never knew. And what I realized is that it isn’t only black people who don’t know.
A few friends and I decided to start a young juicing group with the goal of making juicing hip and cool.
Meantime, I’m still looking forward to the day someone of my race looks at my jar, looks at me and together we smile and say, “the green machine!”
*Green Machine refers to green fruits and vegetables that are juiced. It can include kale, apples, grapes, celery, lettuce, spinach, cilantro, etc….and machine is the idea that green juice jumpstarts your day.