“As Black people, a lot of us had the worst diets,” GZA explained in the video. “We eat some of the, I mean, we eat things I can never even think of. There’s a saying, you know, I’ve read it a few times, that soul food is really like slave man’s diet.”
Several sources have written about how soul food impacts the health of the Black community. In October 2016, historian Michael Twitty spoke to NPR about soul food’s historical connection to slavery.
GZA elaborated, “Chitterlings. Those are pig intestines. The waste and everything is filtered, it goes through the intestines. You know, people are consuming this. Intestines, pig feet. All this stuff that has so much sodium, salt in it. And we’re known to have high blood pressure because we eat a lot of these foods. You’re eating what your parents are feeding you, so your diet is passed on.”
According to the American Heart Association, more than 40 percent of African Americans live with high blood pressure – a rate that is among the highest in the world. GZA, along with others, have connected that to traditional animal-based soul food.
“If you don’t change that, then that’s the same diet that’s passed on down from generation to generation ’til you change that,” GZA continued.
A founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan who adopted a vegetarian diet in the 90s, GZA’s insights have inspired fellow members of the group to go vegan. In June 2017, Killah Priest told First We Feast that GZA inspired him to adopt a plant-based diet. Other members and affiliates of the Wu-Tang Clan have embraced the healthier lifestyle. RZA is a vegan of more than 20 years and according to Classic Hip Hop Magazine, Masta Killa, Method Man, and DJ Mathematics are vegetarian.
“There’s not enough, you know, awareness in the communities. Also, depending on where you live, if you live in the ghetto or the hood, you don’t really have access to Whole Foods or supermarkets that sell organic products,” he said. “They’re not really forced to eat it, but that’s what’s around them and they’re not being taught any better to change the diet.”
Hip Hop is Green, a nonprofit with chapters across the country, tackles the issues highlighted by GZA. The organization produces educational events and programming centered around plant-based nutrition. Its aim is to support holistic health in communities that may not otherwise have access to wellness resources.
GZA continued, speaking from the heart about his own family’s health struggles with cancer and diabetes, that have inspired him to discuss the health benefits of plant-based food.
Earlier this year, the artist and other members of the Wu-Tang Clan partnered with vegan meat brand Impossible Foods to promote the widespread launch of meatless sliders at White Castle.