by Len Lear
Mt. Airy resident Joshua Black, 51, aka “Urban Black Vegan,” became a vegetarian about 25 years ago, but by his own admission, he was “an unhealthy junk food vegetarian. A lot of fried everything, pizza and processed foods. This led to diabetes, weight gain and the associated complications. At that point I was a very sick vegetarian, suffering from low self esteem and a sense of failure.”
On the night of July 4, 2011, however, Black happened to see a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” that literally changed his life. “It’s hard to explain,” he recalls, “but it was as if I had been reprogrammed to think differently. The next day was the start of a 31-day juice-only fast. I lost over 50 pounds, reversed my diabetes and dropped all medication, blurred vision, self-esteem issues and neuropathy. This is when my vegan journey really started to take root.”
After his 31-day juice fast, Black committed to a healthy vegan lifestyle, incorporated a vigorous program of physical fitness and reactivated a gym membership. He was so inspired that he became a certified personal trainer and began to share his “testimony on the healing power of food.”
Fast forward to today. Black has launched a YouTube channel, “Urban Black Vegan,” which covers issues such as food choices, how to transition to a plant-based diet, social and political issues surrounding food, weight loss and information relatable to helping the black community understand the ethical and physical benefits of being vegan. He is also working on an eBook, “The $5 Vegan: A Guide to Eating and Living Healthy on a Budget.”
Black, who will have a new vegan food truck called “Flat Belly Vegan” coming to the Northwest in early April of this year, will teach a class on “Vegan Sausage Making” for Mt. Airy Learning Tree at Blackeye Soup, 6143 Germantown Ave., on Thursday, March 7, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
By the way, Blackeye Soup was started by Joshua 11 years ago to make space available to other creative area residents who “want to collaborate and inspire each other.” It is more of a creative hub than an event space.
Black grew up in the city’s Logan section and attended Dobbins High School but has lived in Mt. Airy for more than 20 years. He is a professional photographer and graphic designer.
Black started the Urban Black Vegan identity/brand about three years ago “in response to the lack of representation of black men standing up for a healthy plant-based lifestyle.”
He has thousands of followers on social media “because my message resonates. I believe I’m a voice that’s seldom heard. It also doesn’t hurt to be relentless and unapologetic in your commitment.”
What about the commonly held argument that a person cannot possibly get enough protein and variety in their food without meat, seafood and dairy products?
“This is a question I get all the time,” said Black. “The fact is all plant-based foods have protein. Simply by eating a reasonable amount of calories per day means protein will never be a problem. The myth is that meat is the only source of protein. Not true.”
What is the best advice Joshua ever received? “It came from my father, although it wasn’t verbal. My dad spoke by doing. He set an example of hard work and a laser beam-like focus on providing for his family. His belief in physical activity, art and an overall curiosity continues to resonate.”
Which talent that Black does not have would he most like to have?“I wish I was a talented writer. I love the way words can paint pictures, stir emotion and provoke thought. My reason why, because I love art.”
If Black could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be? “Besides my brother, father and father-in-law, who all remain my greatest inspirations, it is David Goggins, the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), the U.S. Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He’s also an ultra marathoner who has completed more than 60 races. He also lost 100 pounds naturally and happens to be a black man.”
Speaking of family members, “although my family are not vegan, I still hold out hope that I can be a strong enough influence through my actions to encourage them to live a healthier lifestyle.”
Black has a weekly Facebook live show that airs every Monday at 7:45 p.m. You can find the show at facebook.com/urbanblackvegan
More information at joshuablackstudio.com. To sign up for the MALT course, call 215-843-6333. You can reach Len Lear at firstname.lastname@example.org