The following is a guest blog post from Teachable creator Lisa A. Smith for Black History Month at Teachable. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a MBA. She is certified in plant-based nutrition, the creator of PHARM TO TABLE™ Plant Based Coaching Program and The Plant Protocol™, the first plant-based coaching certification to be founded by a person of color. She’s also the founder of The Black Health Academy whose mission is to eradicate those chronic diseases which disproportionately impact marginalized communities.
When we make reference to disrupting an industry, we’re usually referring to innovation and technology. In the last several decades we’ve seen many industries disrupted in this way. Including transportation, hospitality, and education.
However, the less obvious, but just as innovative, path to disruption is via hue. No matter how exceptional the current players are in a specific sector, diversity, and inclusion will always offer a point of view that can’t be found anywhere else. Every culture, race, gender, and hue has the potential to bring a perspective to an industry that hasn’t previously been explored. Culturally relevant content is and always will be necessary.
When I founded The Black Health Academy in 2017 it was to provide access to plant-based nutrition and lifestyle science in a culturally relevant format. Where people of color could feel comfortable and secure in the fact that the content was being curated with them in mind. When we launched The Plant Protocol™ Plant Based Coaching Certification in 2021, the first plant-based coaching certification to be founded by a person of color, it was intended to disrupt the rapidly growing plant-based coaching industry. The plant-based coaching and education sector has the potential to positively impact the health outcomes of millions of people…as long as EVERYONE is represented from the top down.
The overwhelming majority of African Americans who choose a plant-based lifestyle do so in pursuit of health and longevity. A whole-food, plant-based diet, has proven to be the most effective diet for combating and arresting common lifestyle diseases. Especially those that disproportionately impact communities of color. This includes conditions like obesity, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, kidney disease, and diabetes. In those instances, one cannot overstate the need for quality education, coaches, and subject matter experts to assist individuals with the adaptation of this lifestyle in the pursuit of optimal health.
According to a Pew Research Center Survey, Black Americans are the fastest-growing demographic of vegans in the U.S. As a result, we’ve been doing a phenomenal job at creating access to black-owned vegan food and lifestyle products. However, diversity in the plant-based education and coaching sector hasn’t been moving nearly as quickly.
When black creators and thought leaders are bold enough to take up space, magical things happen. Every. Single. Time. That boldness generates endless opportunities, access and exposure that would’ve otherwise remained untapped.
There are countless bold creators of color that held, and continue to hold, the torch in their respective sectors. Individuals like Fawn Weaver, founder of Uncle Nearest bourbon whiskey. Who fought to bring the Nearest story to light as he was the black mentor of Jack Daniels.
Then there’s Deneen, David, and Coral Brown, siblings and co-founders of Brown Estate Vineyards. The first black-owned Vineyard in Napa Valley.
Shontay Lundy, founder of Black Girl Sunscreen, one of the first to be curated with melanated skin in mind.
Iddris Sandu, founder of Spatial Labs, is poised to make immense strides in the world of augmented reality and blockchain technology.
Rashida Richardson, civil rights attorney, focuses on the intersections of technology, race, and society. And whose work has helped to highlight the inherent bias in facial recognition and algorithm technology.
Every time I read stories like theirs and countless others, it reminds me of the importance of the work I do. And the responsibility we all hold to make the world a more accessible and inclusive space for those coming behind us.
I am exceptionally proud of the work we’re doing at The Black Health Academy and inside of The Plant Protocol™. We are training and refining the next generation of specialized plant-based health coaches (of color) with an overall vision of developing collaborative care partnerships with lifestyle and functional medicine healthcare providers. Especially those that primarily serve communities of color. Our mission at The Black Health Academy is to extend the healthy life expectancy for people of color. I’ve no doubt, that task would be 100x more challenging if we opted to travel the well-paved road that already exists in western medicine by trying to force our way into predominantly white spaces. But we boldly decided that paving our own road would prove to be quicker, easier and I’m proud to say, more colorful.
When a black creator, thought leader or subject matter expert receives the call to create an opportunity that creates equity and access, their obedience starts a ripple effect which then gives permission to others to do the same. The more we normalize and celebrate being the firsts of our hue in our industries, the better chance we have at creating balance and blurring the lines of division on the planet that we’ve all agreed to share.