Going to a predominately white, all-girls Catholic high school in Detroit, Darrien Fordham experienced racism for the first time in her life. Her high school was very segregated. Black people only hung out with black people, white people only hung out with white people, and people from the Middle East only hung out with one another. She says that it was in high school where she came into her “blackness.”
Fordham joined the black student union at her school and hung out with the black girls in her class. In the black student union the students discussed Historically Black Colleges and Universities and what different opportunities they had for them. She decided then that she wanted to go to college at an HBCU.
Ironically, her father's girlfriend at the time had a daughter who was in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University. It was her father's ex-girlfriend’s daughter who sold her on choosing FAMU and j-school as her next step after high school.
After two years of college Fordham decided she wanted to become vegan. Following extensive research on what types of food she was putting into her body, the shift began. She says she had to change her mind before changing her diet. It was difficult at first but a year later she feels a lot better with clearer skin, stronger nails, and her hair is growing a lot faster.
“I’ll go to the cafe and realize man I can’t even eat anything. It becomes so frustrating. There just isn’t enough options for us,” Fordham said.
Unfortunately, living on campus made it extremely hard for her to eat. A lot of times she was malnutritioned because there were not enough options for vegans on campus. It was not until she moved off campus and got a car that she was able to eat more – and better.
“People think I turned vegan because of the animals and it really isn’t about that for me. It’s more of a cultural thing. I feel like the food industry attacks the black community more than anyone else and that’s why we have higher risk of diabetes, heart attacks and gout,” Fordham said.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers markets where residents can buy a variety of high-quality fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Instead, residents – especially those without reliable transportation — may be limited to shopping at small neighborhood convenience and corner stores, where fresh produce and low-fat items are limited, if available at all. And when available, healthy food may be too expensive.
Fordham believes that low-income communities are usually predominately black. And FAMU has fallen victim to having low-income community food choices on campus.
“All a student has to do is approach a chef in a Metz chef jacket and tell them that they are vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian and we will always accommodate you,” said Luis Sanchez, sous chef for cafe and campus catering.
Most students do not know they are able to get accommodations for their specific diets. The Metz team at FAMU is willing to make special food for students who need to eat a special way. Nobody is left out, they say.
“I wasn’t surprised when she became vegan because she is always trying new things. I thought it was great because it is a healthy lifestyle choice. As a pescatarian I support her in her vegan journey,” said Fordham’s bestfriend, Taylor Muson, a junior at Indiana University.
Fordham plans on using her journalism degree to start her career in directing and producing her own shows, much like the Showtime star like Issa Rae. She wants to create a show where the main character is a vegan college girl going through life to display some of her personal struggles.