San Antonio introduced the city’s first Black-owned vegan street market, hosting more than 20 local Black-owned vendors. Vegan Family Reunion [VFR] orchestrated the market, organizing the vendors alongside raffles and auctions that meant to invest back into the local Black community. The market’s founder Naomi Hendrix Oyegoke is the owner and head chef of Rooted Vegan Cuisine, a frozen meal company in San Antonio.

The introductory street market event hosted a variety of vendors that featured many cuisines: Mellos Vegan Gumbo made Southern and Cajun food while Fit Black Vegan provided power bowls to attendees. The event also showcased a series of beers and smoothies supplied by Weathered Soul Brewing Company and Acai Eternity Co.

“I’ve been thinking about hosting a Black-owned vegan market for a while now,” Oyegoke told Vegnews. “[VFR] really brought together many things I’m passionate about veganism: supporting my brothers and sisters in the Black community, supporting local charitable organizations that are doing amazing work, spreading joy and love, and being surrounded by like-minded people.”

On March 21st, Vegan Family Reunion attracted nearly 400 to 500 people, and Oyegoke hoped that the event would facilitate a place of healing for a year defined by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others. The event’s mission centered around providing both space for San Antonio vegans to connect after a year of quarantining and tragedy, while also giving back to the community.

“VFR was also an opportunity to bring so much joy at a time when we desperately needed it,” Oyegoke said. “It’s been a very emotionally taxing time for us in the Black community, but when we get together and eat, sing, dance, create art, and laugh, it gives us strength. It helps us heal. I really needed that.”

The inaugural event also featured raffles and an auction with original work from local artist Alain Boris. The proceeds from the events went directly to Black Outside, Inc, which commits to making national parks and outdoor spaces more accessible to young Black people, and The Black Freedom Factory, which is a social justice organization that aims to facilitate a greater equitable culture. The entire street market encouraged people to eat vegan and support the community, reaching out to San Antonio’s Black community.

“This was also a call to the broader local Black community to show them that there are plenty of black vegans already here–to break down the stereotypes of what it looks like and means to be vegan,” Oyegoke continued. “We wanted to showcase just how delicious plant-based version of classic dishes can be.”

Beyond the list extensive list of food vendors, VFR hosted vegan dieticians and the Ethical Network of San Antonio in order to establish a center of information for patrons who do not know enough about the nutritional benefits of plant-based eating. The event provided a unique selection of plant-based foods, but also help those who have yet to cut back on animal products. The ability to enhance people’s dietary understanding at the event sets it apart from many counterparts.

“Spreading information and knowledge about the benefits of a plant-based diet is important to all of us food vendors, especially finding a way to get that information to other members of the Black community since we have higher rates of so many diet-related medical conditions,” Oyegoke said. “We want them to know how even small changes towards a plant-based lifestyle can make a big difference in their overall health and life overall.”

Oyegoke’s core company Rooted Vegan Cuisine delivers frozen plant-based meals to the greater San Antonio area at affordable prices. The company carries a similar mission to that of VFR. The first reunion will hopefully mark the beginning of a continued tradition, giving space for plant-based eating after a year of limited gatherings.