Hiya, y’all!

Welcome to your weekly dose of Black joy from the Black Magic Project. You may have paused there to be like, “Black Magic Whaaaaat?”

Don’t worry. Let me explain.

While chasing breaking news as a night reporter, I heard these words often: “You only come when we are dead.” The “we” here is Black people.

My people.

I was beginning to feel the heaviness of my melanin and the media’s duty to dispel stereotypes that add weight to not just my skin tone but to all Black and brown people targeted by discrimination and violence. So, in February 2017, I wrote a series of stories about Black folks doing positive things in their communities and called it the Black Magic Project. From a nonprofit teaching children and teens to fight the violence of the streets through poetry, to the brothers who wouldn’t let their autism define them, I wanted the world to see the melanin-coated magic.

That series has now evolved into a whole social media campaign where we at Reckon showcase all things southern fried Black pride. That includes our Facebook group where we discuss Black southern topic and celebrate the Black community (And yes, you can join!).

Starting this week, we’ll give you a weekly flavor of the most important news and conversations in Black joy.

So let’s get into it!

Going Vegan Crazy

One thing I will always applaud loudly and proudly is our Black-owned businesses. Especially since Ms. Rona’s attitude has shut down nearly half of America’s small Black businesses.

But popular food truck Slutty Vegan traveled from its Atlanta headquarters to make a stop through Birmingham this Wednesday. The plant-based burger joint owned by Pinky Cole started as a food truck in 2018. When the business opened its first brick-and-mortar location the following year, Slutty Vegan’s Instagram account had more than 83,000 followers. Slutty Vegan now has more than 376,000 Instagram followers, two locations in Atlanta and Cole hinted at eyeing Birmingham for a third location earlier this year.

So when Slutty Vegan announced its pop-up location on its social media accounts, Birmingham showed up and showed out.

Mekeia Fox jumped in her car and became the fourth person in line after she got a text from Slutty Vegan announcing the pop-up. Fox says having a vegan restaurant in her city would help her commit to a healthier lifestyle.

“I’m glad this is coming to Birmingham because this is something that we need more of in our community,” Fox said. “Who doesn’t like a good, full burger that tastes good and (is) actually good for you?”

People stood in line for hours just to try the vegan burgers with names like the “Super Slut” and “Fussy Hussy.” Slutty Vegan also has other sandwich options. The “PLT” is concocted by tossing grilled plantains in jerk sauce topped with its signature Slut Sauce and paired with lettuce, tomato and smushed between a vegan Hawaiian bun.

Monique Shorts was impressed when she tried a vegan burger for the first time after ordering the “One Night Stand,” a plant-based burger loaded with vegan bacon, cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and Slut Sauce, also on a vegan Hawaiian bun.

“I’m a really picky eater and I’m going to eat all of this,” Shorts said. “If you’ve never tried vegan, or if you’re from the culture and eating vegan, come eat vegan. This burger is the bomb!”

Slutty Vegan has received nods from many celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Usher. Q Parker, a member of the Grammy-award winning, multi-platinum R&B group 112, was proud to see Cole succeeding as a business owner and philanthropist who has funded scholarships and stands up for social justice.

“As a Black man, it makes me proud to see one of my sisters really, really successful. She’s not just successful in selling food,” Parker said. “She gives back to the community. She’s very active in the community. The fact that she’s traveling abroad, giving people and introducing them to vegan burgers, it’s super amazing.”

While Slutty Vegan’s arrival created a lot of noise on social media, mixed into that conversation was the importance of supporting other Black-owned food trucks and restaurants that also dish out vegan delights. Here are a couple of options from our Facebook group. If you know of other Black-owned vegan joints out there, hit me up at jdunigan@al.com with the business name and links to their social media accounts.

Underground Vegan (Birmingham): Find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Good Health To Be Hail Holistic Wellness and Culture Learning Center (Bessemer). Find them on Facebook.

Plant Bae (Montgomery). Check them out on Facebook.

Mangoes Caribbean Cookhouse (Huntsville) can be found on Facebook.

Bean Me Up Scottie (Tuscaloosa) is on Facebook here.

Growing Black power

Black history is the foundation of the Black Magic Project. I started the brand in February for a reason: to showcase Black Alabamians who carried on the legacy of those who fought during the Civil Rights Movement by doing positive things in their communities in big and small ways. I even wrote an article about the lack of Black history education in Alabama despite the state being the stomping grounds for many Black history giants, and how slavery myths get their start in the classroom. You should read them when you have time.

So when I read a Food and Wine story explaining Fannie Lou Hamer’s food activism, I inhaled every word. The Mississippi activist co-founded the Freedom Democratic Party and National Women’s Political Caucus. But Hamer also created the Freedom Farm Cooperative, which fought off a white power structure that was targeting Black farmers. The cooperative provided affordable housing while also giving Black Mississippians a place to grow their own food.

Hamer is the woman I inspire to be in life: A bold woman who looked out and uplifted her people. She built a powerful legacy while doing so.

So I asked the Black Magic Project community this: What legacy do you want to leave behind for your community?

One member answered that she is following in Hamer’s footsteps by helping other Black women register as famers.

We are literally growing our Black power, y’all!

Flexin’ for the Census

Deadline to fill out the Census is Oct. 5. Here is the link to the questionnaire.

When I was younger, I thought the Census was just this big government campaign to count everybody so that officials would know how many people are in the United States.

I was hella wrong.

Data from the Census determines how over $1 trillion will be spent in our communities and that money could make a serious impact on Black lives in America. Programs like Head Start and Medicaid are at stake. Alabama is among the states that could lose a U.S. congressional seat because of low participation numbers.

Our voices can be silenced if we don’t participate in the Census.

A little skeptical about it? Here’s a Now This video where Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, dispels a lot of the myths about the Census.

That’s all for now. See you next Friday and keep spreading your Black magic, y’all!