As a new feature on The Beet, Elysabeth Alfano interviews notable plant-based personalities to bring you stories designed to inform and inspire you on your plant-based journey. Here, she interviewed Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President and unofficial candidate for Mayor of New York City, also a longtime vegan and advocate for healthy plant-based eating. As cities such as New York have been in upheaval over social injustice, Adams has stepped up to lead and be a voice for change and equality. He appeared on CNN to offer perspective and when Adams speaks the world seems a little saner.

Adams sat down remotely with Elysabeth Alfano to share his views on leadership. His unique history and strength allow him to be a voice of resilience and change in these tumultuous times.

Eric Has Been In Law Enforcement and Now Plans to Run For Mayor

Eric grew up in a working-class household in South Jamaica, Queens. He was interested in computers, but an entanglement with police dramatically changed his life forever.  At the age of 15, Eric and his brother were arrested for criminal trespassing. While they were in police custody, according to Wikipedia, “officers beat Adams and his brother, repeatedly kicking them in the groin. Adams suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder after the incident, and has said that he believes his brother still suffers from mental health illness in 2020 as a result of the beating.”  This experience motivated Eric to pursue a career in law enforcement to try to change the system from within.

Eric later graduated from the New York City Police Academy and served 22-years with NYPD before retiring as a captain. While with NYPD, Eric co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an advocacy group that rose to nationwide prominence speaking out against police brutality, racial profiling, and departmental diversity.  Also in the 1990s, Adams served as president of the Grand Council of Guardians, an organization of black officers.

He was a vocal opponent of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy, which predominantly affected young Black and Latino men, and which, in 2000, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said constituted racial profiling and in 2011 Eric supported calls for a federal investigation into stop-and-frisk practices.

Now, as the first person of color to serve as Brooklyn Borough President, Eric has continued to take a strong stance of leadership and change as noted in this recent press statement.

“It’s time to tangibly address the unrest in our streets, including the disturbing scenes I witnessed [June  3rd] outside Brooklyn Borough Hall. It’s time to enact a meaningful reform agenda, starting with repealing Civil Rights Law Section 50-A, significantly boosting de-escalation and implicit bias training for police officers, and robustly cutting unnecessary NYPD spending in the upcoming budget in order to reinvest in Black and Brown communities and close historical racial inequities. That is the start — not the end — of a real reform agenda.”

Adams explains that leadership is necessary to guide the country through Coronavirus and turn the healthcare system around, as he turned his own health around, reversing his diabetes, nerve damage and partial blindness by switching to a plant-based diet. He is a strong advocate for the need to change our diets and reverse chronic conditions.

"We have a medical system built on sick care, not health care." -- Eric Adams

"COVID-19 is forcing people to look at these things we call pre-existing conditions," he said. "We are spending 80 cents on a dollar on chronic conditions in this country where 30 million people are diabetic and 84 million more are pre-diabetic, and it's not sustainable. We are forced to deal with how we deal with healthcare and make sure it's wellness and not illness." He should know. Adams has suffered type 2 diabetes and it got so bad that he nearly lost his sight. He changed his diet, lost 30 pounds and reversed his health fate, and wants to help others do the same.

For years he suffered the most serious side effects of diabetes, and now as a plant-based eater he has brought his A1C down by two thirds and is currently symptom-free. Adams teamed up with Hip Hop Is Green to launch a healthy rap battle among teenagers, to encourage young artists to write and rap about it, but the plans had to be on hold for now due to social distancing requirements. But now he is spreading the word, and encouraging young people to go plant-based and even write lyrics and art about it. After having diabetes for 15 years Eric’s mom decided to join him in eating plant-based foods in her 80s and after two months she was able to get off insulin.

"If we don't change our direction we won't have a planet to leave to our children."

When asked by Elysabeth if there is a phrase that Eric repeats to himself in times of challenge, he has just one word: “Believe.” He connects the role of the food system from "what's good for mother to what's good for mother nature."

Eric’s transformation through committing to a plant-based journey has helped him dedicate himself to helping others and make the world a healthier place through plant-based diets, keeping in mind that lack of access to quality food can disproportionately communities of color.

Eric helped introduce #MeatlessMondays into The New York City Schools, which is one of the largest school systems in the country, feeding over 960,000 children a day. Other states are taking note and are preparing to make similar changes.

Eric also started a project at New York City Heath + Hospitals/Bellevue where there is now a lifestyle medicine clinic focused on reversing chronic diseases through whole-food, plant-based diet. Several hundred people have signed up and several hundred are on a waiting list. There was even a conference in Orlando, Florida that 1,500 health care professionals attended who were looking to duplicate this project in their municipalities. Eric is trying to get all public hospitals in New York City to embrace his concept and eventually have it spread to other states across the country.

Before Eric reversed his diabetes, he was eating the average American diet. Meat was the center of his plate and his meals were built around meat along with heavy fried foods, sugar, and processed foods. He grew up with the idea of “what is a meal without meat?”

After having diabetes for 15 years Eric’s mom decided to join him in eating plant-based foods in her 80s and after two months she was able to get off insulin.

From Eric’s interview with Elysabeth, Eric shared his thoughts on bringing equal healthcare for all. “It’s unfortunate that we have a medical system that is built on sick care and not healthcare. We treat symptoms and not underlying causes and we have to turn that around… We’re spending eighty cents on the dollar for chronic diseases in this country where over thirty million Americans are diabetic and eighty-four million are pre-diabetic…It’s not sustainable. We are forced to change our directions on how we’re dealing with healthcare and make sure that it’s wellness and not illness.”

Eric has a book coming out in October called Healthy At Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses which outlines his plant-based approach to preventing and reversing diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

For the full interview, click here. Elysabeth Alfano is the host of the Awesome Vegans Influencer Series, and a plant-based expert, breaking down plant-based health, food, business, and environmental news for the general public on radio and TV.

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