For a long time now the world has known the palpable wisdom and subtle healing power hidden inside nature – But does it really have the power to revive entire communities? According to Ietef Vita, a musician, farmer, vegan chef and former gang member, it does.
Vita feels that better food can level the playing field for impoverished people in America, but his message starts with education and access. The mantra: Clean Food, Clean Body, Clean Mind. Through the magic of a beat and microphone, Vita, aka DJ Cavem, aka Chef Ietef, is able to open minds – and mouths – of anti-veggie kids around the world.
Showing people how to grow their own food is a true gift for Vita, a calling if you will. His gospel of plants and organic farming practices is not something his students have heard much before, so he paints the ideas in clever rhymes. Such a smooth approach and cool style inspires these young people to connect with the Earth – helping them re-imagine their concrete jungle as a potential Eden.
He shows them simple and affordable ways they can grow for family and friends. After an invitation to the White House and interviews by national magazines, Vita says, “I started to understand hip-hop was the right medium to talk about food justice.” What he calls “...the art of being passionate about urban food.”
Throughout Vita’s childhood, his mother shared holistic recipes and ideas, creating a foundation for the person he is: “Looking back,” he says, “she was a big influence...always eating greens and tofu. She took it to another level and showed me that food is medicine. And health. And wealth.”
At age 13, she took him to Africa to connect with their cultural history and ancestors. While there, he had an awakening of sorts: About the negativity of the gang mentality in America, about his future as a man. Years later, Vita is working with current and ex-gangsters in a local urban garden. Aside from music, he uses nature as a medium. It's a great place for everyone to come together around common goal – feeding the neighborhood, which is often full of friends and family.
In the doc Vita reminds viewers: "Tribalism is ingrained in us. We're supposed to rep our hoods, our community. But when it becomes violent, it becomes destructive, that's when I realized that enough of this has happened." The low-income urban and at-risk areas Vita serves are often considered “food deserts” by social scientists.
Music helped Vita, aka DJ Cavem, see the next step in his journey – taking it to the people through hip-hop. He reflects on the moment when food crossed over into music: As a youth, Vita and some friends made a music video at summer camp called “Brown Rice & Broccoli,” which, he points out, “...really started this conversation about the epidemic of fast food and processed potato chips…[and how] It’s really starting to run rampant in our communities.”
This same concept has since been professionally produced into an educational video about healthy eating in schools. (Watch >>> “Brown Rice & Broccoli”) As populations increase and the number of farmers decrease, food awareness and justice will soon become a serious conversation in America – don’t be surprised to hear more voices like Vita on the mic. Watch the award-winning documentary short below.