At 23 years old, lifting myself from my tub was almost impossible, excruciatingly painful. Active in the NFL, I played for the Cowboys, Cardinals and the Jaguars. Along with tendonitis my blood pressure was off the charts; anti-inflammatories and painkillers were essential components of every day.

My 305-pound defensive lineman frame was sustained by excessive portions of meat. After watching Forks Over Knives on Netflix, I transitioned into being vegan. The documentary spotlighted the flaws in the accepted formula for achieving peak performance and size — exposing healthier choices as viable options.

I found studies like the NIOSH study stating that the average age of death for NFL players is 56, due to food related illnesses like heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. This is despite them being touted as physical specimens in today's society. With my experiences, I sought to change the narrative, for anyone who would listen. I forged a speaking career with help from the vegan/animal rights community.

Although I love animals, I never spoke much of them because I didn’t go vegan for them, I did it for my health. Through the years I realized that most people of color (POC) share the same thought.

The vegan/animal rights movement has a reputation for being like a country club — white and elitist. Their organizations say that POC don’t want to be vegan or care about animals. In fact, we want to be healthy or vegan, but we don’t necessarily have the privilege to care about animals like white people do. And we shouldn’t have to feel guilty.

Many of us are in survival mode, trying to eat in communities that are food deserts, where fruits and vegetables are not readily available—unlike in other franchised areas. Diets consist of processed fast food and bodega junk. Transitioning is done with the idea of governmental systems restricting access to nutritious foods.

In the vegan arena, POC can sometimes feel like the only black baseball player on an all-white team in the '50s. We feel discrimination on multiple levels. Our vegan nonprofit organizations like Food Empowerment Project or Better Health Better Life work for animals, food justice and environmental racism struggle receiving funding, while solely animal focused entities amass millions. We see major corporations like Pepsi and fast food distributors focus the bulk of their marketing and location budget on targeting us.

I recently spoke at Harvard Law on the topic Oppression in the Food System and expanded on these ideas. For example, if you look at the history of all people of melanin over the world, plant based diets were prominent. Eating meat became tradition over the years.

Now, more than ever, our people (artists, athletes and regular joes) are expiring from food related illness in their 30’s or 40’s. We are trying to set a health trend by building groups to help with transition. We understand that we should not be topping the list of diseases known around the world as western illnesses.

The urgency around dealing with this issue as a community is at an all-time high as we witness so many purveyors of the culture fighting for their lives or leaving us way to soon due to preventable illnesses. From Prodigy, to Phife Dawg, to Reggie Ossei to Craig Mack and countless others who never saw their 50th birthday, our black men are dying. We just almost lost Rick Ross as well, and it occurred to me that although I admire his entrepreneurial efforts, it's time for us to change the narrative by electing to franchise farmer's markets instead of fast food chains in our communities. Awareness and accessibility is key to a sustainable healthy future for our people.

David Carter, 30, native of Los Angeles, CA however currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.  David is currently touring across the U.S. speaking about food justice, plant based living and vegan experiences. David will present his first music, culture and wellness festival, Truth, Health & Culture Festival this summer in NYC. David will release two books in 2018-19 through Serendipity Books.