We love to see a strong Black vegan female activist make waves in the community!
Meet Ashley Jackson, a vegan activist, actress, producer, and daughter of American political activists Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Dr. Karin Stanford. Jackson is a graduate student at the University of Southern California where she studies film production. We spoke with Jackson to learn more about her upbringing, new vegan lifestyle, activism work, and career plans. Keep reading to learn more.
VegOut (VO): What was it like growing up with two political icons as parents? How has it shaped your education thus far?
Ashley Jackson (AJ): As the daughter of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Dr. Karin Stanford, politics has shaped my life from an early age. I have a deep appreciation for my father’s global impact as an African American presidential candidate and civil rights leader who inspired millions. My father has taught me that one’s legacy is not just individual but collective. My mother, too, has been a formative influence through her work as a professor shaping young minds. Both my parents place tremendous value on education and instilled in me a love of learning. As someone with two extraordinary individuals as parents, my educational journey has been incredibly enriched by their principles and worldviews. I have an appreciation for schooling as a privilege with the understanding that millions of girls around the world are not afforded the same. I strive to walk in their footsteps while also forging my own path ahead.
VO: You have quite an impressive activist career already! What organizations and/or topics are you most passionate about?
AJ: In high school, learning about domestic sex trafficking motivated me to organize donation drives for survivors. I now collaborate with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) to promote public policies combating exploitation. Recently, I spearheaded NCOSE’s “Lend My Voice” campaign on social media, partnering with influencers, celebrities, and survivors. It spotlights the dangerous consequences of fully decriminalizing the sex trade and advocates for survivor-focused partial decriminalization. Additionally, my passion for veganism led me to partner with PETA on a food justice initiative. I strongly support PETA’s efforts to redirect meat and dairy subsidies towards increasing fresh, healthy, humane vegan options in food deserts. Through working with organizations like NCOSE and PETA, I aim to create positive change and move closer to an equitable society.
VO: When did you first go vegan and why?
AJ: I was raised as a vegetarian from birth. However, it wasn’t until recently that I made the full transition to veganism. During the pandemic, I developed long covid and other chronic illnesses, which required me to eliminate dairy and gluten from my diet. Honestly, going completely vegan felt like a natural transition. But beyond personal reasons, my choice to go vegan stems from a concern about our planet’s future. As a member of Gen Z, I worry deeply about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, especially deforestation and habitat destruction. The vegan lifestyle requires far less land and resources, making it more sustainable in a world facing climate change. I also question the ethical cost of mass production practices that inflict harm on animals and workers. By going vegan, I aim to reduce my personal contribution to these systemic issues. While my journey started for health reasons, educating myself on the broader implications affirmed that veganism aligns with my values around environmentalism and social justice. As a vegan, I hope to do my small part in creating a more ethical and compassionate food system.
VO: How has becoming a vegan impacted your life?
AJ: As a new vegan, I’m still making adjustments to fully align my lifestyle beyond compassionate eating. But even in a short time, choosing veganism has positively transformed my life in major ways. Most importantly, eliminating dairy and animal products has relieved some of my health challenges. Beyond personal wellbeing, going vegan gifted me with the joy of knowing I’m contributing positively to animal welfare, the planet, and ethical food systems. Of course, enjoying delicious vegan meals is an added bonus too! Making the switch to veganism was one of the best decisions I’ve made to improve my life and the world around me.
VO: Is there anything you feel is missing in the vegan scene, food-wise or activism-wise?
AJ: As someone new to veganism, I’d love to see more plant-based soul food options that are gluten-free too (I really miss banana pudding!). But more importantly, I believe the vegan community must amplify its focus on food justice issues. My collaboration with PETA was born out of the belief that promoting veganism should go hand-in-hand with fighting systemic inequities. I’m passionate about PETA’s work to reshape subsidies and incentives to improve vegan access in marginalized areas. Too often, veganism is seen as a luxury lifestyle when it should be a realistic choice for all. Going forward, I hope that fellow vegans will address the barriers that make plant-based eating difficult for disadvantaged groups. We must have uncomfortable conversations about privilege in the vegan movement. My hope is that by linking veganism with social justice, we can create a more inclusive and ethical food system for everyone.
VO: Why is intersectionality so important for the vegan movement?
AJ: Intersectionality, as defined by Kimberle Crenshaw, recognizes how forms of oppression like racism and classism interlock and overlap, affecting people in complex ways. Within this framework, food justice is social justice. At its core, this is an issue of access and equity. Marginalized groups have suffered for generations without adequate resources for healthy food options. By joining forces with social justice movements and incorporating an intersectional approach, the vegan movement can expand its reach and meaningfully include disadvantaged voices. Embracing inclusivity and intersectionality is imperative for ethically transforming our unjust food system.
VO: What is the vegan climate like at USC? What are your favorite vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants in that area?
AJ: As an incoming graduate student, I’m becoming familiar with the vegan dining options directly around USC. But as an LA Native, Monty’s Good Burger and Plant Power Fast Food have become my staples for quick vegan comfort food delivery and I love dining at Crossroads Kitchen. I also enjoy ordering the Kale and White Bean & Cucumber Avocado Salads from Erewhon. I recently learned that some of my favorite Ethiopian restaurants have gluten-free injera! Since I’ve been vegetarian my entire life, I’ve learned to adapt and veganize menu items at all kinds of restaurants. Once school begins, I look forward to discovering even more of LA’s amazing vegan cuisine (and trying Kevin Hart’s restaurant, Hart House!). My USC experience will surely include lots of culinary adventures!
VO: You’re also in the entertainment industry with plans to write and produce projects of your own. What messages do you want to put out to the world through entertainment?
AJ: As an actress, screenwriter, and producer, I aim to create art that authentically reflects my lived experiences. Through my collegiate research on African American narratives in film and TV, I learned how proper representation remains an uphill battle for people like me. I strive to be a cinematic force against the biases that silence diverse voices. My writing stems from my identity, my family’s activism, and the history I’ve learned in and outside of the classroom. I want to increase visibility for overlooked stories and spark thought-provoking dialogues. I’m also committed to portraying characters that break stereotypes and provide empowering representation on screen. My goal as an entertainment industry professional is to produce humanizing portraits that resonate with underserved audiences. I know how empowering it is to finally see yourself reflected on screen. I want my artistic work to give that gift to others.