By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

Baltimore’s fifth Annual Vegan Soulfest brought a peaceful weekend filled with messages of health, wellness and holistic living for the city’s Clifton Park community.

Artist Naomi Hanaa shares painting at Vegan Soulfest (Photo by Deborah Bailey)

“We felt we needed to bring something positive on this level devoted to compassion and love in this community,” said festival co-founder and organizer Naijha Wright Brown.

“You don’t have to be vegan to participate, just curious. Our folks are dying in droves more than we are by the bullet. We need to take better care of our health.” Brown said, regarding the purpose and mission of the event.

More than 150 vendors and exhibits at Vegan Soulfest (Photo by Deborah Bailey)

More than 12,000 persons from across Baltimore and across the region enjoyed food, music and 150 vendors offering everything from fashion, natural personal items, health and wholistic living products in addition to lectures and workshops throughout the day with experts like Dr. Milton R. Mills, nationally recognized authority on plant-based disease prevention.

Fruition Experience, one of the day’s many performers, at Vegan Soulfest (Photo by Deborah Bailey)

“Vegan Soulfest is important for Baltimore because it allows me and others to share information with my community about being plant based and improve the overall health of our community and lower our disease risk,” Mills told the AFRO after speaking to a tent crowded to capacity.

Wright Brown said that each vendor participating in Vegan Soulfest needed to be committed to the vegan lifestyle.

Participamts sample food from Land of Kush restaurant at Vegan Soulfest. (Photo by Deborah Bailey)

Lee Putney, founder of Ase water (pronounced ah shay), said that Baltimore was an important connection for the new natural water company. It was founded less than two years ago she watched the Flint water crisis unfold and realized Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and many East Coast cities suffer the same problems.

Ase water, one of the only African American owned natural bottled water companies in US talks with Baltimoreans ay Vegan Soulfest (Photo by Deborah Bailey)

“Baltimore is high on the list with lead in the water. The pipes are old. We need to vote. We need to elect politicians who will come in and fix the infrastructure. But in the meantime, we need to watch the water we’re drinking,” Brown said.

Festival attendee Quiana (no last name provided) drove from the Washington suburbs with her sister and niece because she thought it was important that a vegan event was being held in the heart of the African-American community.

Henna art displayed at Vegan Soulfest (Photo By Deborah Bailey)

“It’s not just Caucasian people who live this lifestyle; Black people do it too,” she said.

Independent artist and Creative City Charter School art instructor Naomi Hanna has been vegan for seven years and offered her paintings at the event which she characterized as an awakening for African Americans.

“We’re not living in food deserts, we’re living in food apartheid.  So, this event is beautiful, we’re having a renaissance to take care of ourselves, to define what health means for ourselves,” Hanna said.