Meeting of the Minds Miami: Grief Fueled Founder to Unite Conscious Community | Photo Gallery

Cowritten by Monica V. Torres    @monicacat23 and Yma Tejeda @ymawashere (@emmaskyphotography)

On February 17, 2018, Meeting of the Minds descended upon Miami.  The original conscious networking event brought together local activists, entrepreneurs, artists, chefs,  athletes, healers, and other like-minded individuals for a get together at Sybarite Sanctuaries.  There were speakers, vendors, and entertainers that inspired and informed, leaving everyone feeling more connected, which is the exact purpose that the founder Ryan Di Somma envisioned.

Bad Ass Vegan (left) Ryan Di Somma (right)

Ryan explained how his sister’s untimely death in 2014 at just twenty-one spun him into depression and substance abuse.  He had more vodka than water. After a while, he realized that was not helping anybody on his path of self-destruction. An activist at heart, he started the social media page StandUp 911@standup911 a year later.  The site mostly discussed government corruptions and eventually became an outlet for all injustices including those against animals.  One day, he had a vision that “his purpose is to bring people together in real life.”  The mission inspired him to get out of his funk of grief.


So, Meeting of the Minds (MOTM) was born.  It has taken place in major US cities including New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Francisco. Ryan mentioned that he thinks the major cities in the conscious movement are Miami, New York and Los Angeles. He has also hosted the event internationally in Sweden, Brazil, London and James Aspey’s home, Australia.

The latest one in Miami was, coincidentally, the four year anniversary of his sister’s passing.  So, we dedicate this piece to Ryan’s sister. May she fly with the angles.


At the MOTM Miami, there were many angels spreading their wings including vegan, animal rights activists who are angels for the animals. Among them were rappers Atom Warlock @atomwarlok and Steve Grant @realstevegrant, who also runs the Anonymous for the Voiceless groups in South Florida.

Steve let everyone know about his bi-monthly event Cube of Truth, a form of street outreach and performance art. He is also working with Feeding the Homeless and GMO South Florida, co-creating the upcoming Farm to Food Fest.

Also a lively, positive, and strong personality, he told guests about how they can get involved. Check him out in the following video:

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Yoga instructor Gipssy Milian @breathintonow, front-line activist Louda Gomez @liberation269, and the preacher at heart /athlete from the start and overall warm charismatic personality Bad Ass Vegan, John Lewis @badassvegan, more well-known for his social media status and business pursuits, were all present.  They are all doing amazing things in the community.  Check out them on Instagram.

Yma Tejeda, writer for Channel 7 and writer/photographer for Miami Chronicles got a chance to talk to John.  Here’s what she recalled:

Fitness Expert and CEO of BAD ASS VEGAN, John Lewis, was at the meeting too since he’s a good friend of Ryan’s. He showed up with a couple of his products, but to also speak  that evening with everyone about how vegans aren’t filling up hospitals.

“The energy here is amazing. I think that’s the whole thing [about the people here at Meeting of The Minds] that you could be from different backgrounds, different cultures, and different ways of thinking with one core belief, ” shared John.

In his speech, he touched base about his journey of becoming a vegan, the new documentary he’s working on, having his successful vegan brand, and he answered any questions people may have had.

He explained that he was approached by award-winning documentary filmmaker Keegan Kuhn some time ago to make a film about racial injustice that exists in the food system and how it’s portrayed in urban and hip-hop culture. He’ll be speaking with vegan artists like Ne-Yo, Jermaine Dupri and Mýa. (They’re working on getting Will-I-Am.)

“I’m actually interviewing people in the hip-hop and urban culture about their journey and how they got there. I start off and open with my journey…and how these different mindsets are kinda imposed on us to not care about a lot of things, or about our health. Like for instance you’ll never see a McDonalds in Beverly Hills, or a liquor store. You know we never think about that.”

Torre Washington (left) and Joh Lewis aka Bad Ass Vegan (right)

“It’s been going really well for me,” said John about how well his health and nutrition company are doing after twelve years. Currently he has vegan nutritional shakes, VeganSmart, which is being distributed to Whole Foods,Walmart, CVS, Publix, and Vitamin Shop.  Kudos to him.

Planet Protein @planet_protein

A few other vendors were also on site. Planet Protein brought a table with their yummy and light plant-based protein bars.  I briefly chatted with Brenden Fitzgerald, CEO of the brand. He explained that they don’t use palm oil so they are helping combat deforestation. He also clued me in on the Planet ProTeam.  Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets, the only plant-based NBA player, sponsored them.  Most recently, you can find their bars at Love Life Cafe.


Another conscious entreprenuer on site was Erika Acosta, co-founder of Brewing Life Miami. Yma also got a chance to chat with Erika.

She shares:

The owner of Brewing Life Miami was one of the vendors there with samples of her locally made Kombucha which can be used for detoxing and as an energy booster. With a background in hospitality along with her partner and co-founder of the organic kombucha company Daniel here in South Florida.

They go to events, like Meeting of the Minds, to have people taste their fruity and yummy kombucha. She’s personally seen many customers like athletes and newbies, who’ve never gotten into drinking kombucha before, love her drinks.

“They see how it’s helping them with their stomach,how they’re able to eat a lot things they weren’t before, and just feeling lighter overall.”

Brewing Life Miami @brewinglifemiami

Erika is also a yoga instructor and was inspired to start the company after her experiences in India, where she practiced yoga and was introduced to it. Once she got her partner Daniel hooked on it, for health reasons and as an energy booster in his long and busy shifts as a chef, they started making their own.

Their main mission has to been to make a more palatable Kombucha that’s not so sweet or acidic when drinking it.

“A lot of people we call it our ‘traumatized’ by bad kombucha. So the main thing is that we use a lot less sugar. If we used more sugar it would have more acidic acid. We try to keep ours at a pH that’s not as acidic…so that you enjoy more of it so it’s not so harsh on your tummy.”

Erika shared how unique their Kombucha is because it has less sugar and goes through a natural carbonation process instead of it being forced like other commercial brand. They let the gas naturally carbonate from the kombucha once the bottle is sealed.

She hopes customers reap the benefits of the product by drinking a whole bottle in one go, instead of taking shots of it throughout the day.

We also had the pleasure of hearing Pro Athlete Torre Washington @torre.washington A Natural Body Sculptor, Public Speaker, and Animal Lover who was raised vegetarian and has been vegan since 1998. Here he talks about competition.

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Spiritual guide @SourceRadiance Kevin A. Walton

Kevin gave a beautiful talk about how the patriarchy has produced toxic masculinity and the feminine principle needs to rise in order to balance it. He said: “Women are the key to divinity.” Well, I think for us women, it is men. But in general, he is right on about creating a more matriarchal society in which women, nature, our inner selves, and animals are all more nurtured.  It is already happening. He is one bad ass spiritual guide and we all love him.

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Finally, the  most moving and personal speech was delivered by Melissa Aluna Solano@limitlessmastery.  The Energy PsyD gave a moving discussion about how the traditional system of psychological care is too reliant on chemicals and how our body’s natural healing methods are not nurtured.  She explained how music is one way of healing our bodies since we are vibrating. She also talked about how we often do not trust our inner guide and intuition, and we have to learn to trust ourselves better.

Melissa Aluna Solano@limitlessmastery.

“Everything is navigated by your spirit,” she exclaimed. She captivated everyone by kneeling on the ground and giving a passionate talk.

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The food vendor was also on point with delicious tacos and artistic display.


Rodrigo “Drigo” Richardson @drigotheculinaryalchemist brought delicious veggie brown fried rice, open face avocado, fried wontons and Gourmet tacos: Maroon Jerk Bbq, Jack Salmon, and Kush.

Rodrigo “Drigo” Richardson @drigotheculinaryalchemist


Special thanks to co-host Conscious Community @_conscious_community_

Gabriela Perez from Conscious Community

Photography by Emma Sky Photography

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