My name is Nzinga Young and I live in the New York/New Jersey area. I’m a freelance writer with a focus on vegan issues. I write for vegan businesses and contribute vegan content to Huffington Post. I also have a vegan Instagram (@veganzinga). I recently launched Wanyama Box which helps vegans get people to stop eating animals. It’s basically a package of delicious vegan snacks we can send to the non-vegans in our lives. The goal is to dispel negative myths about our food by sending it to pre-vegans as a surprise, anonymous gift. You can learn more at wanyamabox.com.
What was the moment you realize that you wanted to go vegan?
I practice a form of meditation called Vipassana. You commit to five precepts through the practice and one is to abstain from killing (both the support of killing and the act of killing itself). Vipassana is traditionally vegetarian because there probably wasn’t any killing involved in the egg and dairy industries during the time of the Buddha, but things have changed. I knew to stay in line with my commitment, I had to go vegan.
How long have you been Vegan?
Only a year, but my mom raised me vegetarian. I’ve been meat-free for a collective 25 years.
Why is being Vegan important to you?
It’s in line with my ethics. I don’t want to cause harm to myself or other living beings, and not financing the exploitation of animals is a great way to do that. I also lived in a 90% plant-based home. Avoiding animal products has been part of me for a lifetime. I’m not a purist and definitely had some omnivorous years in young adulthood, but my foundation in avoiding animal products is strong.
Do you have a blog or favorite vegan blog you read?
My blog is veganzinga.com
Do you actively promote veganism? How? Please share any stories you would like.
I give people food a lot. It’s the beauty of living near New York–I have access to great vegan restaurants. I make sure to bring vegan food to people whenever I can so I can see their reaction. They’re always surprised by how flavorful and filling the food is. Wanyama Box is my way to help vegans everywhere recreate the strategy. I’ve sampled well over 600 different vegan products this year and put the best in a box. Instead of asking our skeptical friends if they want a bite of our vegan pizza, we just send a package with coconut caramels, hickory smoked soy jerky, an egg less egg, and so much more to re-frame their thoughts on vegan food forever.
Do you miss any non-Vegan foods?
Of course! Mostly sweets. Tres leches cake made my tongue feel good. But do I miss cake enough to stop being vegan? Absolutely not.
What is your favorite Vegan stereotype? If someone asks you a question about it, how do you respond?
I don’t hear a lot of stereotypes about being vegan since all my friends and family know I was raised not eating meat. I also don’t bring up that I’m vegan until it’s necessary (which is usually when people ask what I do). People don’t come to me with stereotypes so I haven’t had to respond.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
What’s your favorite recipe?
Oh, I’m the worst cook. I do a lot of stir-frys, though. Just get a good sauce, a bunch of vegetables, the grain of your choice, and go to town.
What is the one big stereotype you hear about Vegans that you want to dispel?
I didn’t get in this to dispel myths about vegans. Someone else’s opinion or assumption of my community doesn’t impact the work that I do. When it comes to vegan food, I want to dispel the myth that plant-based options are bland and void of protein. That’s the intention of Wanyama Box. Get the best examples of vegan products in front of skeptics to change their idea of what vegan food is and encourage them to adopt a plant-based diet.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
You will mess up and that’s ok. I didn’t know chewing gum and tampons weren’t vegan either. It will take you a solid year to get all the hiccups out of your system. Take a mental note of your mistake and try not to do it again.
Are you a cruelty-free vegan?
I don’t like the term “cruelty-free.” I think we’ve thrown it around so much and don’t really think of what it means. There are incredible amounts of cruelty associated with the Mexican avocado farmers being governed by drug cartels and mothers in Bangladesh making cents per day to sew our vegan leather jackets. I actively avoid supporting these practices but even I wouldn’t call myself fully cruelty-free. Most vegans who say they are looking at cruelty as animal cruelty specifically, but that’s not what “cruelty-free” really means.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need? Toothpaste, Deo, glue, etc..
Gosh, anything leather. Jackets, belts, shoes. I’m having a really hard time finding things I actually like.