The Sistah Vegan Project

Early Memories of Race in New England: Consumption, Healing, and Zen Buddhism

The first 7 minutes of Early Memories of Race in New England are about my experiences with race in predominantly white areas. Part I, I share several excerpts from my memoir that I’m working on. In parts II and III, I speak of incorporating Zen Buddhist philosophy into healing around these issues, as well as using it to engage in fruitful dialogues around race, food, and healing. This series is about 55 minutes in total. EARPHONES or A GOOD SPEAKER SYSTEM ARE SUGGESTED. I can’t hear it on my crappy laptop speakers, so you may need Earphones or connect speakers to your computer. Sorry about that. I need to buy a microphone for the video camera. The books are refer to in these video blogs are listed AFTER the videos.


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Books I mentioned
Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace (Compass)

Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism

Below is a picture of my son Sun on my lap at the Berkeley Zen Center in June 2010.

Sun Harper-Zahn at Berkeley Zen Center

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5 thoughts on “Early Memories of Race in New England: Consumption, Healing, and Zen Buddhism

  1. Hi Breeze!
    Hope you’re beginning to feel a little better.
    I listened to all three video blogs this morning, which I found quite pleasant and informative. The relaxed manner with which you deliver your message is quite soothing, a wonderful way to begin the day. It is my hope that at least one of my three children has the honor of being your student one day :)
    Also, the concept of eating anger and suffering resonates with me but I totally support your position that we can’t know that veganism is right for EVERYONE.

    Keep up the good work…

    M

    • Marcia,

      What a sweet comment. Thanks for taking the time to listen to my videos. I told my father about my latest videos, and my mother as well. My mother said yesterday, “You used to be one angry black woman. I remember.” My father apologized again the other day for never realizing how much suffering I went through as the only black girl in our all white town. I told him that he didn’t have to apologize and I understood that he thought he was trying to giving us that ‘best'; It was his dream to raise a family in a rural New England environment. He loves gardening and has an orchard and is really into edible landscaping. He wanted to give us that gift of homesteading (which he only did 50%, but that was cool anyway) and didn’t realize that I’d have so many problem with being black in an all white town. But, now he knows and we can talk openly about it (and have for about 10 years now. ) He said he didn’t experience that same thing and I theorized that perhaps it’s because he’s an incredibly light skinned black man and I am a darker black woman(?). He grew up outside of Detroit too, so I’m not sure.

  2. I just finished watching and listening to your videos — Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with racism and how you are reconciling issues with anger (forgive me if I’m not very lucid, it’s early in the morning :). The first video where you talk of you and your brother’s childhood experiences was particularly resonant with me because I encountered similar situations growing up in a predominantly white town in the Midwest. I was fortunate to have a great early experience with my education – from pre-school through elementary I attended a small, predominantly African American Jesuit school where I personally and academically thrived despite being painfully shy. Shortly after moving across town and transferring to a new school district I encountered a range of hurtful experiences, from being called the N-word by kids in my neighborhood, to being teased by white and black kids alike for acting or talking “white.” For better or worse, those and other experiences have shaped who I am today. And while I no longer get as angry as I use to, I struggled with coming to terms with the things I experienced in the past and catch myself when I start resorting to negativity.

    I’ve purchased (used) copies of Anger and Being Black and intend to read them this summer. Thank you again for all the work you do!

    • Thanks Meridith. I forgot to mention it on the video, but Jan Willis’s book Dreaming Me was REALLY amazing read for me. She is an African American woman born during Jim Crow era. She used Tibetan Buddhism to heal the hurt and pain of racism she experienced. The book is one of the best books I have ever read.

  3. Moni on said:

    Breeze,

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I feel that we are really on similar paths; I do work on anti-racism and education, I am finishing my PhD, and I am developing my Zen Buddhist practice. I have been trying to collect everything that I can on African-Americans and Buddhism and I have Being Black somewhere in my apartment. I once had a conversation with Rebekah Walker (Alice Walker’s daughter and Buddhist practitioner) about using Buddhism to “heal” from racism. Its an ongoing struggle, as I too have been and continue to experience racism. Its especially hard watching my son experience it. I grew up in Detroit, and was sheltered from a lot of it, but he has been the “black” boy in his class, and has been mistreated because of it. When I try to fight to protect him, I am often perceived as angry, but I feel that I have always tried to start from a place of love…anyway, that is something that I will continue to reflect on. I am going to pick up Interbeing as soon as I can cause I think that those guidelines would be helpful for me. Keep doing what you are doing; your blog is really an inspiration to me and I am sure to countless others as well!

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