Juicing While Black

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.

Here I am with my ‘green machine’ daily elixir. It can be any number of green fruits and vegetables that are juiced. The ‘machine’ part is the idea that green juice jumpstarts your day.

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?”

A ‘green machine’ drink can include kale, apples, grapes, celery, lettuce, spinach, cilantro, etc.

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. 

 

Kayla

About Kayla

Growing up in South LA where the graduation rate was lower than 50%, Kayla decided at 14 to commit her life to improving education for youth at-risk. She spent her high school years as a member of South Central Youth Empowered through Action speaking at events, recruiting volunteers and helping plan demonstrations in support of quality education. She envisioned her peers looking at their obstacles as a reason to succeed instead of an excuse to fail. When Kayla was accepted to the top ranked Masters of Social Work program in the country at UM-Ann Arbor, she didn't think twice! Not because she would have a high quality education for the first time in her life, but she would be a short drive from supporting youth in Detroit to imagine a new life. Currently, Kayla, 24, works for Detroit's Harriet Tubman Center and manages the organization YOUTH VOICE, teaching youth that they have the power to change their lives.

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28 Responses to Juicing While Black

  1. Julie Topping November 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Love it when African American women try to live healthier lives. We need to get it together before we all die too young.

  2. shannon2818 November 3, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    I’ve been a vegetarian for years and I’ve never tried it. I keep meaning to though.

  3. Kayla Mason November 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    You’re so nice! Give me a few more years ;)

  4. Rhonda Gray November 1, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Sorry, missed opportunity to give praise and admiration. Young lady I’m so proud of you “my little politician.” Who do I make the campaign check out to lol

  5. Rhonda Gray November 1, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    I must say, I would look twice if I were to see that “green stuff” in a glass and I might say ugh lol However, I would ask questions and I’m always open to trying new things. As far as seeing this as yet another thing “we black folk” won’t embrace, sounds a bit over inclusive or exclusive depending on your view of the matter. Considering “we” represent roughly 17% (stats may be skewed lol) of the population how much of that 17% can be expected to be juicers. I mean come on :-)!

    With your help I’m sure those persuasive skills will not go to waste.

    • Kayla Mason November 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Rhonda you’re awesome and thank you for your insight! The plan is to persuade one person at a time.

  6. shana October 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    This is an amazing article. It makes you think twice about things. It’s something I would look into to get more information.

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

      Thank you Shana! I’m glad I could make you think twice. That is always the first step, reflecting on your food take.

  7. Ashley October 30, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    This was a great read! I think in many African-American households there is just not a lot of exposure to juicing. I first read about it on a blog and it totally sparked my interest. Had I not been searching for a way to live a healthier lifestyle, I’m not sure I would know about it either. I think starting a group is a great idea because I know there are tons of young African-Americans who would love to incorporate this to their everyday diet!

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

      I completely agree Ashley. It is unfortunate that we have to research when others were raised with it but we’re taking the first steps, having conversations. If you’re interested in the group, let me know :)

  8. Janyne Z. October 30, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    “You must be the change you want to see in the world…”

    You are definitely that Ms. Mason! This article was very true in the sense that a lot of people do NOT know what juicing is, or how beneficial it can be for one’s health.

    I truly believe if more people, especially young adults, were to share this information with their families, friends, and peers, there would definitely be a change for the better.

    Change may not always happen right away, but just one person can make a difference. It’s not always about how you start, but how you finish. I say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s encouraging to read articles about imporving our lives, SOMETIMES WE JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW.

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

      Janyne this made my heart smile. A lot of times we tend to believe people know the information because we know the information. But if no one is sharing information, nothing changes. Thank you for your insight!

  9. Kirsten October 30, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Kayla, great article! My partner and I started our business, Detroit Vegan Soul, in February of this year and will open Detroit’s first vegan soul food cafe in spring 2013 in historic West Village. We received many warnings from family and friends about using the word “vegan” in our name, especially as it pertains to appealing to African Americans. However, we refused to buy into the notion that people must be tricked into eating healthy. Over time, we’ve seen that there is a large and growing vegan community in Detroit and we’re meeting more and more of them who are African-American. Also, a large contingent of our current customers aren’t vegan or vegetarian. We’re very encouraged by this and encouraged by posts like yours. We believe most people are interested in healthier options, although there are some who reject anything that’s different and that’s what we need to work together to change.

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

      Thank you Kirsten! & congratulations for Detroit Vegan Soul! I would love to meet with you and learn more about your launch (and see if I could be of assistance). I’m happy you decided to keep Vegan in the name. I think people in general are afraid of the word because it is not used enough from those of us that practice healthier living. Keep up the great work!

  10. Nichole Christian October 30, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Back when I was a teenager, my uncle used to juice like crazy, even suggested to my cancer-stricken grandmother that juice might help strengthen her. Like most of my family, I thought he was crazy.

    I mean what black man drinks cabbage and beet juice. Funny how a little education-and age- turns everything on its head. I ‘m now grateful to him. I’m also deep into my own juicing and healthy living journey. I start everyday with a green glass of something. Maybe all it takes to turn the tide in our community is a few more brave and vocal soldiers like yourself.
    Keep juicing and sharing.

    Peace, Nichole.

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Nichole thanks for sharing. You’re right. I never looked at it as being brave and vocal, but imagine if the Black community started to be more open about their healthy food lifestyles, it would inspire others to believe, “If they can do it, maybe I can!”

  11. Breana October 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I completely agree!!

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

      I’m glad that you agree with me Ms. Breana!

  12. Soul Rebel 2 October 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Way to go Ms.Kayla. You are an asset to your peers. I would bet your interest was sparked right here on the West Side of Los Angeles(Leimert Park). Oops,just a guess. We be conscience! May we shake the fried foods and carbonated sodas also. If nothing else but for the “love of self”. Peace! One!

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

      Awww that made me smile. Thanks Dad ;)

  13. K Alison October 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Wonderful article! The best part is realizing that it’s not just about ur own African-American race; it’s about the oppression of poor citizens aka “lower class.” All of us were not born fortunate or well off and education is the only thing that can take us from the “lower class mentality” as well as the actual neighborhoods set up to fail. Keep educating!!! Using social networks is one of the fastest way to spread education!

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

      I agree. I think technology and a site like Shetroit allows the space for conversations about things we tend to reflect on alone. I shall continue on this journey to spread any information I learn :)

  14. Maruska October 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Love the article- great way to stay healthy- Def want to read more!

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

      Maruska I’m happy you liked it! I plan to write more so stay tuned.

  15. ant greenly October 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    I’ve been juicing for years…. this is dope cause i get the same reaction at work and around. Im not as strong as you though. Lol i have cut back my meat intake but i cant give it up just yet.

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      Hi Ant Greenly! That is great that you cut back on your meat intake. I think over time, you will find that it isn’t difficult to give up…you’re making steps towards a better quality of life!

  16. Ike October 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Great article! hopefully your story inspires people to eat healthy and continue a positive lifestyle. Keep it up!

    • Kayla Mason October 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Thank You! :)

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