Vegan Healing, Racial Healing, Zen Buddhism in Black USA Communities
At the beginning of June 2009, my husband, son, and I spent a week at the Zen Center at Green Gulch in Marin County, CA. The week was called “Work Week.” Instead of paying to stay there, we exchanged our volunteer services for room and board. Oliver (my husband) built a shed and cleaned a water filter. I mostly took care of our newborn, but did have a chance to wake up early (well, early for me) and start hoeing Green Gulch’s organic farm crops at 6:00am, during “work meditation,” the first morning.
The Zen Center at Green Gulch is my favorite Zen center in the East Bay of California, simply because of the gorgeous estate the center is on, the wonderful trails along the grounds, and the 20 minute walk from Muir Beach.
Now, of course, as someone who is deeply entrenched in black feminist theory, critical race theory, and food studies, I quickly noticed that the demographic of the folk at the Zen center are predominantly white. It’s simply an observation, but wanted to point this out because it is very noticeable. It may very well reflect that fact that Green Gulch is located in Marin County which is incredibly white and middle to upper middle class. Like I said, I’m not hatin’ on anyone, just making an observation.
During one of the evenings that I was at the Work Week, I helped to prepare dinner. Now, what I like about Green Gulch is that you are guranteed organic meals that are vegetarian and vegan. Many of the veggies come from Green Gulch’s own farm. The evening that I helped to make dinner, I learned how to make vegan sushi.
The dinner came out quite well. I ended up preparing the sushi rolls with my 10 week old son on me, inside of his baby carrier. He slept the whole time. I unfortunately didn’t get a picture.
All and all, I think it’s great that the Zen Buddhist Center at Green Gulch, as well as the Berkeley Zen Center, offer environments that support those who have chosen vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.
What are your favorite religious or spiritual places that are supportive of you vegan or vegetarian lifestyles? Please share. I’m also interested if you notice the ethnic demographic of your community if your community happens to be Buddhist. (Remember, I’m interested in black feminist studies and black female studies) If you live in the USA, how many people of the African Diaspora are part of your Buddhist community?
I’m also asking these questions because I am interested in my own personal experiences with Zen Buddhism because I have found that the philosophies of the practice are very effective for someone like myself who is interested in compassionate ways of reconciling and healing from racism (internalized, overt and covert). Simultaneously, I’m quite impressed that the practice is very supportive of plant-based diets. Food related health disparities are quite prevalent amongst brown and black communities in the USA. Could Zen Buddhism (and similar) actually help to heal the hearts of those brown and black folk suffering from racism, as well as physical ailments due to imbalanced diets?
I don’t consider this question too extreme, as Buddhist practitioners of the African Diaspora , such as Charles Johnson, Jan Willis, and Angel Williams tackle racial conflict, racism, and the need for heart healing in their pratice. I’m currently reading Angel’s book, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace. The other year, I also read Jan Willis’s amazing book Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist – One Woman’s Spiritual Journey.
Anyway, these are just thoughts, running through my head. It’s probably because I personally feel I have benefited so much from Zen Buddhism (for my spiritual healing due to years of heart suffering from racism in the USA) and whole foods veganism (for health issues that run rampant in the black female community).