by the People’s Minister of Information JR
The Bay is known as a place where people seem to be more politically and socially aware. Souley Vegan owner Tamearra Dyson is only adding to this legacy with her groundbreaking restaurant, Souley Vegan. Her spot is one of my favorite restaurants in Oakland and the Bay Area.
Over the years I have toyed with eating at vegan restaurants around the Bay, but until Souley Vegan appeared in Jack London Square, I thought that the food was nasty and in need of some seasoning. I thought it was more food for white people, to be honest.
Tamearra over the years exposed my palette to a whole ‘nother vegan soulfood world, where the food tastes like someone Black from the South cooked it. Souley Vegan not only carries hot meals of Black eyed peas, macaroni, tofu and the like, they carry freshly bottled fruit juice and a whole host of treats to satisfy that sweet tooth.
As a community, we need to eat more healthy as a way of practicing preventive healthcare instead of becoming pharmaceutical dope fiends. Meet Tamearra “cook like yo’ grandma” Dyson, as she talks about Souley Vegan, veganism and her life’s journey.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us how you became a cook? And how did you know you were a good cook?
Tamearra Dyson: My mother was a phenomenal cook and that’s where I developed my love for cooking for others. My Mom would cook for my Grandpa, uncles etc. before they went to work early in the morning, and all family events would be over our house and no one was asked to bring anything.
My mom enjoyed cooking for others – a very sweet and humble woman – and I am proud to be like her in that way. I knew I was a good cook from the reaction of the many people who ate the food I prepared.
M.O.I. JR: What is vegan? And why are you vegan?
Tamearra Dyson: A vegan is an individual who does not consume any animal products. I am a vegan because all of a sudden I found eating meat off a bone or otherwise was inhumane and it began to disgust me.
M.O.I. JR: When and why did you start a vegan restaurant instead of a spot that might sell a few vegan dishes?
Tamearra Dyson: We opened in 2009 and the goal was to provide a vegan haven for not only vegan and vegetarians but for those who may be interested in making lifestyle changes or just want to give their bodies a break from meat.
So everything we serve is vegan and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want the world to see vegan food in a different light. It can be fun, exciting, delicious and filling.
M.O.I. JR: What has the response been like from the community since you have been open?
Tamearra: Very positive. We have long time faithfuls, people intrigued by the concept, as well as individuals who want to make better choices in their health and diet.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about your new hours on the weekends? What’s going to be happening?
Tamearra Dyson: We are now open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. We will have live bands and DJs on some nights as well. The goal with this is to make ourselves more available for the community, as well provide a positive social meeting place that people can enjoy, drink, eat and feel safe to be themselves.
M.O.I. JR: What are your views on fast food and genetically modified foods?
Tamearra Dyson: I think it’s sad that we live in a place that would allow such things. We have to make conscious decisions daily on what we consume and pay attention to what your body tells you. Eating healthy helps you physically and mentally. You think clearer, which makes you an overall better person, which helps the people around you – the community. So by helping yourself, you actually help to affect everyone around you.
M.O.I. JR: How is life as a woman business owner in Oakland?
Tamearra Dyson: Challenging – but I’m up for it. You have to be strong to maintain a business, which is why I give so much credit to those entrepreneurs who have managed to hold on to their business and make it thrive. It’s what’s in your heart that will determine whether you fail or succeed. I follow my heart first.
M.O.I. JR: Where do you see your business in five years?
Tamearra Dyson: Having additional locations.
M.O.I. JR: What do you hope people get out of your cooking?
Tamearra Dyson: I hope they feel good physically, mentally and spiritually.
M.O.I. JR: How do people stay in touch with you?
Tamearra Dyson: Our physical address is 301 Broadway, Oakland CA 94607. Our phone number is (510) 922-1615; email us at Souleyv@souleyvegan.com and for catering orders, email email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you and hope to serve you soon.
The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.