Nzinga Young: Activist, Model & Teacher.
I met Nzinga at the 2016 Seed Food & Wine Festival in Miami. That’s not to say I didn’t absolutely know who that glowing smile belonged to. I had been following her on social media for quite some time. She had become an inspiration to me and so many others. Here we were face to face though. Minutes before I had to take the (tiny) stage at SFW Festival. As tiny as it was, my anxiety about getting on to it was huge. I ran into Nzinga and was super honest with a complete stranger. I said “I had THE worst anxiety.” She looked at me relieved and almost laughed a little. The discovery of an insecurity from someone you know online had made us real to each other. We bonded over social anxiety and I went on stage and with Nzinga in the front row, I basically had a conversation with her in front of a lot of people. She was my saving grace. So when making this website, I wanted to showcase the people I’ve met through this business and lifestyle. Here is just a small glimpse into a wonderful woman who has had an impact on my life…
MM: Tell me a little bit about what your goal is as an activist?
NY: I want to help African Americans to reduce their meat consumption by 75% or more. I’d love if everyone went vegan, but I’d be happy with a massive reduction. Reducing my intake of eggs and dairy as a vegetarian was what nudged me to veganism. As people feel better from a diet low in animal products, I’d like to think plant-based eating will be their natural progression.
Since African Americans eat 38% more fish, 28% more turkey, and 52% more chicken than other racial demographics (source: xxx), getting my community to simply reduce their intake of animal products does more good for the animals and the environment than getting someone who only eats meat occasionally to go vegan.
MM: Do you find that when you’re putting yourself out there, its more of a positive experience than a negative one?
NY: More positive but still nerve-wracking. I’m a very shy, private person. In this age of social media, it’s been a challenge putting so much of myself out there for people to scrutinize. But I’m glad I did. It’s connected me with wonderful people and opportunities that I wouldn’t have come across if I stayed in my bubble. There have definitely been negative experiences, but the good outweighs the bad.
MM: What advice could you give someone who uses social media as an outlet to be an activist, as well as use their account for personal interactions?
NY: Aesthetics matter. Get professional photos taken. Decide on a color scheme that appeals to you. Be thoughtful about your social media profile–don’t just throw random photos together. Instagram is an image sharing platform so the pages with the most interesting imagery usually do better.
It’s a bit easier for me to say considering I model and have a backstroke of professional photos, but you can also search the hashtags for photographers in your area. Reach out and she if they’d be open to collaborating. Photographers always need subjects and will shoot you for free if it’s worth their while.
MM: What’s next for you in your career?
NY: I’m working with Vegan Outreach to develop Marinate, a free vegan cooking classes for mothers of color.
People eat what they know. By teaching new recipes, I’m hoping women of color will start cooking vegan dishes more often for their families. Each cooking class will be interactive and attendees will go home with some (if not all) of the ingredients to recreate the dish at home. All the ingredients will be sourced from their neighborhood grocery store and most meals cost around $2.50 per serving.
Food deserts are a major problem and there are great people working on ending them. In the mean time, I want to teach women living in these areas how to work with what they have. How we can create delicious, affordable vegan meals from the options in our area and create new eating habits in our households.
MM: Do you see social media being a big part in that?
NY: That’s what’s been hard. So much of my social media is travel and pretty pictures. I’m actually stationary and makeup-free getting things done. Marinate isn’t the most “Instagrammable” thing I’ve done, so I have to find an appropriate way to incorporate it into my social media presence.
If anything I’ll revive veganzinga.com. My blog may be a good place to log all the programs I’m creating and explain more about what I have going on.
MM: If you could change one thing about social media the way it is now, what would it be?
NY: The amount of time I spend on it. Even though I’m not active on a daily basis like I used to be, it’s such a reflex for me to check it when I pick up my phone. There are other things “wrong” with social media, but the fact that I engage with it as often as I do is a real problem. I sometimes forget it’s optional to participate.
MM: How long ago, and why did you become vegan?
NY: I went vegan two years ago but I was raised vegetarian. It took me about four years to go from vegetarian to vegan because you can get a slice of pizza for $1 at 4am in New York City.
I went vegan after my second Vipassana mediation course. I decided to commit to the five precepts and avoid the support of killing.