3 Black Vegan Girls host Natural Fest on the Deuces

3 Black Vegan Girls — Andrea Monique Peaten, Shundra Allison and Sharlene Emmanuel – will host a vegan-centered festival this Saturday from 9-1 p.m. on the Deuces

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Sharlene Emmanuel, Shundra Allison and Andrea Monique Peaten are known for being three-quarters of the On the Beat – St. Pete social media production company. Now the multi-talented change-makers have formed “3 Black Vegan Girls” to raise awareness about another mutual concern: healthier eating lifestyles in the black community.

This Saturday, Sept. 28, the healthy lifestyle activists are bringing their passion and commitment – along with several natural health food and beauty product vendors — to the community.

The inaugural 3 Black Vegan Girls Natural Fest will take place on the Deuces from 9-1 p.m. on the corner of 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue South.

While the term “vegan” technically refers to a diet that includes no meat or meat products – including eggs or any dairy – 3 Black Vegan Girls describes the women’s progressive journey along a pathway to a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Sharlene Emmanuel, a nurse who works for the Health Department, said the desire to attain a higher level of overall health inspired her to look towards veganism.

“People looking to veganism for different reasons; for me, it was health reasons,” stated 39-year-old Emmanuel. “I’m getting older, and I want to take better control of what I put into my body.”

Emmanuel has experienced a marked improvement of the symptoms she suffered in the past from GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) since going vegan — which has meant giving up even the cheese and cold-cuts she loved in the past. “I loved a great sub,” she chuckled.

As well as feeling healthier, Emmanuel said the diet change has led to an overall lifestyle change. “It’s forced me to cook more,” she noted, which according to research contributes to people living longer, being happier and healthier and consuming fewer processed foods and less sugar.

Shundra Allison, co-owner of Annie’s Beauty Supply, LLC, also runs the nonprofit The Burg Cares, which has a mission to educate and support the St. Pete community in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“The reason I [gave up meat] was just to feel better, get some more energy going,” shared 49-year-old Allison.

While she’s not yet completely vegan, she holds to a plant-based diet, affirming that removing the meat from her diet was “a great decision” that alleviated her late-night indigestion and led to better sleep.

“I noticed after I stopped eating meat, I felt so much better,” Allison remarked. While she said that giving up cheese was also hard for her, she “thanked God” for “transition” foods such as Beyond Meat –a plant-based product the tastes like and has the consistency of meat.

Fibromyalgia flare-ups were the main reason for Andrea Monique Peaten’s choice to become totally meat-free. Peaten, who had already given up beef and pork two decades ago, said that giving up chicken was the hardest for her before going completely sea-food free as well.

“A lot of different things can affect or cause a flare-up in my body and one of them is food. And on top of that, I eat emotionally — which isn’t good either,” Peaten explained.

For her, totally releasing meat products helped her become more conscious of what she puts in her body in general, helping to relieve some of her flare-ups while combating constipation and painful inflammation.

While all three want to help inform the community about the benefits of eating less meat, they also realize it’s a go-at-your-own-pace project – and are careful not to force their beliefs on friends or family.

“My family calls me a rabbit now, but they’re not being mean,” laughed Peaten. “But I don’t expect them to go out of their way to have the food that I eat, so if we’re having a barbecue, I go and buy my food…and if it’s something that they don’t know how to cook, I will cook it.”

Emmanuel noted that research confirms humans were never meant to consume the carcasses of large animals such as cows and oxen – as evidenced by our lacking the true deadly, fang-like canine teeth and stomach acid of large meat-eaters like lions. Still, Emmanuel said she wouldn’t tell anyone to “turn vegan overnight.”

Instead, she challenges people to decrease the amount of meat they’re eating – starting with giving up meat for one, then two of their daily meals.

At the Natural Fest on the Deuces, attendees will be treated to a variety of healthy food and lifestyle vendors and events, including “Socarobics” at 10 a.m. followed by a talk on “The Food We Eat,” offered by John Thomas of Peace Fitness at 11 a.m.

Yummy Wellness will be on hand with fruit smoothies, natural body scrubs and supplements, while Vegan Naturals by Fai will unveil a new vegan soap line for the first time at the fest.

Vegan body products will be available by Conscious Body Therapy, and Queens Jewels by Andee — Jewels for Your Soul will be there with one-of-kind jewelry made from healing stones and gems.

Roving Chef Logistics/The Roving Chef will also be offering Vegan/Gluten-free desserts.

3 Black Vegan Girls’ Natural Fest on the Deuces is sponsored by The Deuces Live, Annie’s Beauty Supply, LLC, Queens Jewels by Andee, The ‘Burg Cares and On the Beat St. Pete.

For more information, visit their Facebook event page.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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