Unity is important, especially among us as women and as people of color. I was blessed to have the pleasure of interviewing Abundance. Check out the interview below:
H.O.R.: Hey guys this is House of Ramirez. I would like to thank my sister Abundance so much for taking the time to sit down and talk to me.
Abundance, can you let our listeners/viewers/readers know where you’re from and who Abundance is?
Abundance: Yes, so I am from New York…Brooklyn, N.Y., I was raised here. I am an Afro-vegan chef and I make vegan soul food as well as being a holistic healer for my community. I am a published model and photographer.
H.O.R.: I was just in New York and the love there is real and of course you know down south, we have this whole smile and wave at everybody kind of feeling which is not the same up north (they both laugh), but the love is definitely real up north. I just want to shout out everybody that accepted me with open arms when I was there with my sisters and brothers. It is a beautiful place, it is an amazing world, a different world…like nothing that I have ever experienced before.
You have such a beautiful upbringing and now you have this creative way of giving back to our communities through holistic healing and it is what we all need. More and more people these days think that we need more rules, laws, and prisons. No, we need a natural way of healing ourselves, and what you are doing is amazing. That is just a part of what you do, you are an Afro-vegan chef, and you know that the vegan community is poppin’ right now.
Abundance: I am definitely blessed to have been given the gift of creating because I think that we all have gifts, but certain people are chosen to spread their light through creativity. It is a blessing honestly; I cannot see myself doing anything else. I am very self-sufficient and independent. I am Nigerian…I am African, and I was in college when I began to think about having a healthier mindset. I am first generation to go to college in my family and after going to college and learning about all the African people within the diaspora, I was learning about how we face environmental racism, systemic racism everywhere and also learning about food deserts and how the lack of proper food affects Black and Brown people everywhere. I realized that I wanted to go deeper into this, and I wanted to learn why this was happening. Growing up in Harlem, there are delis everywhere in NYC, I am not sure if you saw that when you came to New York, but they are everywhere, there are Chinese restaurants but there are no salad shops, there are no juice spots unless you go to First Avenue, which has been gentrified.
So, with that I was like okay…well I want to be able to go vegan but still maintain the cultural influences of my people. I wanted to be healthy, but I want healthy food and I want it to be seasoned, I want it to taste like my grandma’s cooking, so how am I going to do this. I starting researching Dr. Sebi, I started researching women in South Africa who started movements for food because they could not get food. I wanted to take what my ancestors had done and take it to the next level. It is really just about keeping up the legacy of Black women and of Black people. I decided to bring it to my college, and it took off from there, and I have been doing it ever since, so I am blessed.
H.O.R.: Yes, truly and you are so humble about it. You want others to benefit from being attuned to what they are putting into their bodies. It is deeper than watching what you eat, it is also noticing that everything is set up for us to consume bogus, unhealthy food. 2020 is opening up a lot eyes…third eyes. People are discovering the things that they are good at instead of thinking that they have to be stuck and unhappy in their jobs. We need to pay attention because we were all placed on this earth for a purpose and we need to pay attention to what that is so that we can be a great version of ourselves and continue to evolve and help the people around us, that is what it is all about.
You want us to be healthy, healed, and conscious and that is what matters most. So, who have been some of your mentors and inspirations on your journey?
Abundance: I have a couple. They are primarily Black women, definitely my mom and my grandma, because growing up I was able to see their strength but also, the trauma that they went through as Black women, I was able to take from that how I would like to grow into my womanhood and break generational curses from my family, so shout out to them. Definitely, Dr. Sebi, he was (even though his spirit is still with us), he was a holistic practitioner and he spoke about the importance of an alkaline diet and an alkaline regiment for the body. I actually started my business because of him. Nipsey Hussle was definitely an inspiration to me, as soon as he passed, I did my first pop-up actually and I felt like I needed to spread the truth and a lot of our prophets are being killed for speaking the truth. So, Nipsey Hussle for his self-made mentality and his dedication to the community.
I would also say my people for sure as a whole just because we have greatness instilled in us from jump, we have derailed a little bit, but it is still there. Making sure that our foundation is concrete is important to me. I would also say other Black women who are aiming to be the best versions of themselves in a healed and beautiful way. It is inspirational to me when I see someone who is being their authentic self and being them, regardless of what is going on in the world.
Now, I will jump to people that I follow on social media. There is this healer in Los Angeles that goes by the name Hood Healer, she is an amazing inspiration to me. She helped me to get on track with myself so that I am able to confront myself. As 2020 showed us, it is important to confront oneself so that we will be able to proceed properly. She is someone that pushes people to see the things that they do not want to see. There are a lot of us that like to stay hidden from our shadow side, to stay hidden from the truth. That can hold you back because if you do not look at that you will go through your whole life without knowing who you truly are. It is a matter of Yin and Yang and she was able to show me that within myself to this day.
H.O.R.: What I took from that is that you pay attention to detail, and you appreciate others, especially women…men too, but those women who are striving to be the best version of themselves. We have lacked the ability for so long to be able to appreciate a Black or Brown sister’s growth, we have deteriorated. In certain families, certain communities…there are generational curses where gossip is the thing and instead of uplifting each other we end up stifling one another from growing which is negative and you are the complete opposite because you are looking to become a better version of yourself and you are encouraging the women around you, while paying attention to those women who are striving to be better. That is very important, we need encouragement…especially amongst women, we are not in competition with ourselves or each other, we are our sister’s keepers, we can be uplifting and witness your growth, while providing words of encouragement along the way.
If we see that there is something that we can offer to help you with then we can continue to grow as a result and that is beautiful. Unity is key and that is what I have been stressing this year. As we come toward the close of 2020, we need to understand that unity is the only way that we will be able to remain sane. We are constantly pitted against each other, through media, propaganda, the things that we listen to and see, create division. We have to unify, and come together because there is strength in numbers, uplift one another in a healthy and productive way.
Abundance: Thank you because I do not hear that often. That is something that I have had to tune out but recently I have been attuned to it. I was just having this conversation with my loctician recently and it is crazy because everything always comes full circle, and this lawyer that I met, we are all Black women, and we were talking about how as Black women, we do not receive any praise, and if we do it is very condescending or it is tokenized in a way, and with my business I have been through a lot, as a Black female business owner, who is also a queer woman, it has been very…trying I would definitely say.
I am never going to quit this, but I have definitely had to step back so that I could step into myself. I noticed that when I was able to do that, not only does the food taste better but my connections with people grow better…if that makes any sense. I am very grateful for this and I know that any warrior is going to go through battles. I am very excited in all honesty for what the future holds because my past has been very rocky, but it has been successful and I know that as I grow because I am only 22, I know that this will grow with me…so I am very excited.
H.O.R.: There is always going to be challenges and yes at times we receive compliments, and they are not full blown, well intentioned compliments. At times, we do not even know how to take it because it rubs a certain kind of way (they both agree). It is important that we are genuine in the things that we do and, in the compliments, and words of encouragement that we give to our sisters and brothers, our family members and members of our community; it is uplifting, and it provides that fuel that motivates you to keep going. You mentioned this earlier, and you were right, it is a full circle, I pour into you, and you pour into me. I just call it how I see it.
I wanted to ask you, at what point in life did you decide to pivot and become a vegan, or had you always been?
Abundance: I have not always been vegan, but I would say that my mom had a vegetarian influence. My whole family is African and within West African culture our food primarily consists of veggies, but we add meat, for example goat, turkey, or fowl (African chicken). My mom was always healthy and into herbs, but she never became full blown vegan. She would make me smoothies before school, we were a super healthy household even when we were eating meat, we had a great balance, that yin and yang.
In college I majored in African Studies with a specialization in Hip Hop and I minored in Gender Studies. I was learning a lot about the Diaspora and how Black women are affected throughout the world. Closer to the end of my degree, I focused more so on Black health, and Black trauma and how it relates to our impact throughout culture, in society, fashion…etc. I started to learn about my ancestors, I started to learn about Dr. Sebi, Fannie Lou Hamer, and I learned about people who were resistant to the mainstream. Once I started to do that and more self-research, it became a matter of being engulfed and loving what it is that I do.
As I was learning, I thought…okay, I do not want to just learn about this, I want to take it further and I want to start living it, and so that was how I stepped into my purpose, and then things just started to flow. I met a vegan chef in Brooklyn, and I met some other vegans, and we started to find restaurants throughout NYC that were vegan, and I started a food blog on my social media about different vegan restaurants in New York that were cultural. I had a friend who was vegan, and I would watch him cook and I would think that what he was cooking was interesting, but I wondered if it would taste good because in my culture, we season our food very well. If anyone has ever had African food, they know that African food is it, from the spices to the natural flavors, it’s to the point that you have to go to a certain market to get certain ingredients. The chef was actually Dominican, and his culture has certain spices, and flavors and I was like while he is chefing that up, this is good.
He started to educate me by showing me documentaries to show me what it was all about. He did not go about it in a forceful way which I really respected because as I stated, I am Nigerian, but I was raised in N.Y., and I am very in touch and in tune with the hood culture and he is as well so when I was able to see that my homie was Dominican, vegan and he still lives in the hood, I was like okay…I can do this too so let me really see what it is about.
He showed me the documentary, What the Health and that was what sparked me. I was watching Dr. Sebi videos and learning the true importance of alkaline living and how certain things that we eat affects our brains. What you put in your body affects who you are as a being. After watching, What the Health, I saw the part about the dairy industry and cheese, but it was the Black family who lives on their own farm, they grow their own vegetables, they talked about the factory next door to them that deals with so much waste that it had gotten to the point where the smoke of the waste was carried over to their food and I was like…what, this happens? I started to do more research and found out that down south that is something that they deal with and it actually gets worse. I was blown away and realized that this is the environmental racism that people are not talking about.
This is not being exposed enough and people prefer to remain close-minded. I do not even like using the word vegan anymore. I mainly say plant based now, it’s a term that has a lot of politics to it but anyway. Once I saw that I was like well I need to see what is going on with this environmental racism. I wanted to make a conscious change and so I stopped eating meat. I was still eating Doritos, I was eating small, processed foods like candy and Doritos. I then learned about the artificial flavors that is put into all that stuff. I learned that dairy clogs your pores and how we are not even supposed to be eating dairy…I found out that dairy was connected to my acne and I of course do not want that issue.
As I was learning about all of these things, it just flowed from there and I made the decision to go vegan. The second year, I was still doing my research because I was in school, and I was learning about the different types of veganism; afro-veganism, veganism in Asia. I was looking to see how veganism could help me to achieve my goal to help my community. In 2018, for Thanksgiving I was at school talking with some friends, and after they left, I started thinking about coming up with a menu. It was Thanksgiving, and I wanted to go home but my whole family is African, and all I can think about was what I was going to eat for Thanksgiving and how I did not want to be the sore thumb because of my choices.
So, my mom called my grandmother and my grandma said that we could make the same things, just vegan. She told me to find the substitutes that you would like to use and then we can prepare the food together. I wanted mac n cheese, I wanted cornbread and my grandmother makes amazing ribs, so I wanted ribs too. I looked it up on-line and there are different vegan substitutes for these things. I learned about jackfruit…jackfruit changed my life. I brought all the ingredients to my grandma’s house and the whole family was there and the first thing that we made was the mac n cheese. I forgot some of the different vegan cheeses and I was like okay, we are going to do this. When it came out of the oven, my family loved it! I was like wow; can you all leave me some because this was for me and they are just eating my food like you don’t have your own food. So I thought well if its poppin off like this…let me see.
So then I took it back to school and I made a menu on Canva and I made cornbread, ribs, and greens…those were the recipes that my grandma blessed me with the recipes for. The fact that my grandmother gave me her recipes was something that she had never done before, and that was what pushed me to create the menu. When my mother offered to talk with my grandmother, I realized that it was legacy, passing down the recipes in the family. Once I shared the menu in school, it was a big hit! I cook out of the community kitchen and the response was crazy! I did not expect it. I made about 30 plates on my first menu. People were mainly buying the jerk chicken and the mac n cheese.
It was mostly my peers and it was such a hit that I couldn’t stop it and so I was posting when the next menu would be available on my story. People wanted to know, is that vegan jerk chicken, I make this mock skin and people were like, I need to try that. I am not Caribbean, I am African…not Jamaican, Haitian or Trini, I know spice, but I do not know spice like that, so I wanted my Jamaican friend to taste it so that he could tell me what he thought about it. At this point, I was still stuck in wanting approval from others. He tried it and was like yeah, this is it! I was like, okay cool I will start selling it now (she laughs). After that it took off and from there I graduated early and after school, I knew that working for someone else is not for me because I am too much of an artistic, eclectic individual that cannot be in someone else’s office. I took a month off and went home so that I can reconnect, get grounded and then decide the next move. I was talking with my dad about everything, he would see me cooking in the kitchen every day until 4 a.m., and my African dad was like…what is going on, why are you up cooking all the time and I was like because I love it. I cannot stop cooking for people and then he advised me, he told to manage my time better so that I can produce better, just make sure that you are profiting, he was giving me good advice.
I knew that I needed to take into consideration the things that he was telling me because he does have a business mindset. I continued to make menus and then around April, around the time that we were becoming more away of the pandemic, my business peaked. I had over 300 orders just from social media promotion alone and that was something that I did own my own, unless of course people shared or retweeted. I created a menu called Abundance April because I wanted people to step into their abundance. I made a huge menu that contained a variety of items, including snacks and platters. At that point, I started to ship throughout the world, I shipped within the states and I even shipped to Japan once. Unfortunately, the food was no longer fresh when it arrived, but it was a definite learning curve so that when I shipped again internationally, that was no longer an issue. In this case, the customer’s feedback contributed greatly to the success that I now have in shipping my food packages internationally.
Eventually, people realized that I was in New York and they began to encourage me to travel, I received invitations from people in L.A., Atlanta, and Texas who wanted me to come there because they did not have food like mine in these places. During this time, I did not really have a home, I was having some differences with family and I learned that as you grow that there are times when the elders of your family remain stuck in their ways and they are not always able to see your vision, or they need to see in order to believe. So then as a result the next generations have to pick up the torch and blaze new trails. A lot of times, family members, like your parents may have had their own dreams at one time and they see those dreams being fulfilled in you and it can cause some strife.
There were times when I did not even have a place to stay but I would still be cooking. I would go to my friend’s house, asking if I could come and cook and they were always welcoming to me. I was cooking in the midst of homelessness, while I was in school and despite all that was going on, I recognized that I was really about doing this because I never stopped. As I hard as I work though, I am not always able to see how far I have come, or how I have prevailed despite the challenges that I have faced. That recognition only comes when other artists speak of it and I feel so appreciative of this. So as the requests from people all over the states continued, I was getting my life together, I was able to get my own place.
I recently started a U.S. tour…no one else was doing a food tour in the midst of a pandemic, so I knew that this was monumental and life changing. I traveled to Atlanta and it was amazing. I met different creatives there and I was able to feed the community, afterwards, I traveled to Los Angeles and that is when I started to do free soul food vegan plate. I ended up going to Leimert Park, which is like a Black hub for cultural people and it has just been amazing. I am back in New York, working on catering and things for the holidays. It has been a very uphill progression, but I definitely did not start off being vegan.
H.O.R.: It is beautiful just to hear your story, there are many blessings that are headed your way. It is obvious that you are completely dedicated to this. You come from humble beginnings with great roots and family members. It is true, there is a tendency for us to be considered the black sheep because we are stepping outside of the norms but then we end up being the goats of the family (they both laugh). Family members at times are unable to grasp or understand the things that we are doing because they are not able to see…there is a difference between sight and vision and goats tend to have vision. Everyday people with a more traditional way of thinking, have sight. If they do not see it, they do not believe it. It is not until you start paving your own way, understanding who you are as you begin to excel in your journey and purpose that you start to give these traditionalists something to see and once, they see the tangible evidence of your success, that is when they become believers.
As creators and entrepreneurs we need to focus on our goals and channel out the negative. But when you create it and you do it, the right people will follow. It is evident that you are doing the right thing because you are doing something that is epic, you are on the right path.
Abundance: Thank you. I definitely feel that with this I have learned to drown out the outside noise because it can be very challenging. I come from a family of very strong women and so yes, I have been able to take on a lot, but I have told myself now that I am walking in abundance and I have stepped out of survivor mode and survival living, I do not have to take on anymore strength it is okay to not take on anything else. As a Black woman I already have a lot going on, I do not have to be there for everybody, and I do not have to take on other people’s energy. It is just as you said, there are people out there who have sight and there are those who have vision. Some people would see this as just a food business but for those who have vision, they realize that I am doing something much bigger than that and the people who have tried the food come back because they know that it is a matter of lifestyle and not a trend for veganism, I do it for plant-based living because it is a mindset and a way of life.
It is a matter of making sure of maintaining the balance, to not feed too much into what people say, knowing that it is important for the sake of constructive criticism. I have had crazy things happen, whether it has been on the internet or in person and I’ve had to remember that other people’s projections have absolutely nothing to do with me and at the end of the day, I cannot be stopped…I have personally witnessed the beauty of this, I have seen people who are joyful when I hand them a plate of food, I have seen meat eaters look at me, wondering” what’s in this” it’s the change and you need it and being able to heal people in that medium, being able to interact with them off of food and culture is so gratifying.
Usually, when I interact with people it is about the food, but they are also able to pick up on other details and they will make comments like; oh you dress really nice, what does that have to do with this, and we start talking and I can really spit some knowledge to you, and in talking about things we can evolve. I am grateful and blessed to be a part of the ascension that is the Afro-Renaissance because that is what I consider is happening in this time and that is why I am so grateful for Coivd-19, because I feel as though diasporic people are tapping into that vision. Some of us did not have sight and some have us do now but all of us are tapping into our different mediums, whether it is our gifts, what we can bring to the table in our community, whether it is fostering our own in ensuring that there is a legacy to be had, and it is amazing to see. I love it here and I am glad to be here.
H.O.R.: We are glad to have you. Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to impart to our youth or quite frankly, anyone who is in the midst of creating their own path into entrepreneurship?
Abundance: I would say that nothing happens in a day, it may not happen in a year or even two. It takes work so do not doubt yourself even though all of us do…just don’t because it is holding you back and whatever fear you may have right now, drop it and release it, be vulnerable with yourself because as you have mentioned, a lot of us wear a “mask” I do not think that it is necessarily a bad thing but I do think that we need to be aware of the “mask” that we wear, so that we can know ourselves and our work can be more authentic.
For any creative, just be reflective of this last year, what has changed, who has come into your life…who has stepped out of it, how have you evolved and what is different now then it was a month ago. Take a look at things in an increment of 30 days. What did you do last month that is different from what you are doing right now? What are you looking to do differently in a month or in a year that is different than now? Remember, that while time is on your side you also need to understand that it is not. Time is on your side because whatever energy you are harvesting and putting into, that affects your time, it is not on your side because you are an entrepreneur and we need your art, we need whatever it is that you are working on, the world is missing your contribution and whatever it is that you have to give to the collective. Your name is already in rooms that you have not even stepped into, rooms that you have not even dreamed about. Do not hold yourself back and remember that things do take time so stay steadfast in anything that you do, especially if it is in alignment with your passion and your purpose.
Remember who you are because that outside “noise” can push you away from your path and the weak will be strayed but those who are really called to do what they are supposed to do, will do it. So, just being steadfast in knowing who you are regardless, is very important and sticking to it, standing 10 toes down because there could have been many times when I could have felt like I do not want to do this anymore or this person wants me to go here so I am going to stay here. Remember what you are doing and the importance of it and being grounded and rooted in that is what has kept me where I am so those are a couple of gems that I would say are very important.
H.O.R.: Nice and we will take them (smiling) thank you. I think that it is important like you said to believe in yourself. We do doubt ourselves, it is a natural, human characteristic that we carry within us. But we cannot focus on it or put too much weight on it, I appreciate that.
So, at the end of our show and our time together, House of Ramirez likes to give all of our guests an opportunity give some shout outs, is there anyone that you would like to shout out?
Abundance: I would definitely like to shout out Chasity Londyn, she is a fellow queer Black woman who creates music, healing music that is really beautiful. I would like to shout out my family for showing me why my path matters. I would like to shout out God because without God, I would not be here. I would like to shout out my ancestors for getting on me when they know that I am slacking (she says with a little bit of laughter), making sure that I am always “10 toes”
I would like to shout you out for having me here…honestly. Anytime that I do interviews I’m like thank you for seeing me and seeing why this is important and the purpose of this and shout out to all my creatives, we run this! Things may seem up and down at times but just know that things are on the up and up regardless. So, shout out to you for living, for existing, for breathing…for having options and being alive and choosing yourself, for choosing your art. Shout out to Atlanta, I miss you guys and I am on my way (House of Ramirez gives the “A” sign letting Abundance know that she in fact is in Atlanta). I will be in Atlanta in a couple of weeks because things will be planned better then. So, right now I am taking time to step back and plan. So, Atlanta I will be back very soon.
H.O.R.: Thank you sis, I appreciate you, and until next time you know that we are here, and we will be waiting for you…open arms, A-town shawty. Thank again, I appreciate you so much and I just want to encourage you to keep doing what you are doing.
Abundance: Thank you, and I appreciate you as well and thank you for this opportunity and blessings.
H.O.R.: Until next time.