Video: Race and Sistah Vegan Consciousness: Southwestern University, Feb 27 2012 Keynote Talk
In this video, I am talking at Southwestern University’s “Brown Symposium: Back to the Foodture”, which looks at food from all different perspectives. This took place in Georgetown, TX on February 27, 2012
Also, these are the things I want to mention but didn’t get a chance to. I also want to give more context to this video.
- This took place in Texas, at a university that was overwhelmingly white called Southwestern University. I have never been to Texas and didn’t know what to expect, since I had been invited to literally talk about race, whiteness, and veganism: three things I thought would probably be difficult to talk about in Texas. LOL. But I am conditioned to think these things because of media constructions of Texas. Of course Texas is not a monolith and that Rick Perry doesn’t necessarily represent a definitive consciousness of all living in Texas who are white racialized subjects.
- Was given a vegan care package of “tastes of Texas” and discovered that Texas makes olives and olive oil. Was give the local brand “Texas Olive Ranch.” I was excited because I love olive oil tasting! Click here: Texas Olive Ranch
- I really appreciated the mindfulness around “where my food comes from” by the students there. Southwestern University definitely has a “green” and “social justice” conscious. I certainly felt this throughout my stay there. Students held a food exhibition event in which audiences could learn about local food justice, food and sustainability, and food/nutrition education initiatives occurring in the local area. I met a young woman who was excited about figuring out creative ways for young children to enjoy “healthy” foods that most would think is “tasteless”.
- Mad props go out to Laura Hobgood-Oster and Sue Smith for pulling this event off and really being their for us keynote speakers. Laura did something that I never seem to receive: being taken seriously as a professional woman who also wants to put her newborn FIRST. When I originally was asked to attend and be a keynote speaker, I think I signed my contract BEFORE I knew I was pregnant with Eva Luna (who is now 6.5 months old). Several months ago, I had the the courage to ask Laura if I could bring my daughter with me because I nurse on demand and do not want to leave her home on formula for two days. I asked if I could get this support, which would mean I would need a babysitter for about 2.5 hours for two of the talks I was required to give. Not only did she say yes, she and others made sure I had a stroller, a car seat, a high chair, a Pack n Play to make sure Eva Luna was comfortable. This is what it looks like to support a woman who wants to simultaneously do the type of work I do and be there for her newborn. It seriously takes a village y’all, and I thank Laura and others for simply understanding this.
- Professor Michael Cooper is awesome. I had dinner with him with other faculty on Monday evening. He is a music professor and he was uber excited that I had begun my talk with a song. He got me thinking about how I can merge my love of music with food justice. I told him about hip hop musicians/activists/vegans Supa Nova Slom, DJ Cavem Moetavation, and Stic.Man, and how I would love to do a post-doctoral research fellow that allows me to research how these young men are fusing hip hop consciousness with vegan food consciousness.
- I got to meet Winona LaDuke, but have to admit that even though we were both keynote speakers, I was too shy to talk more. I am stupid for being shy, so sorry Winona if you’re wondering why I didn’t try to talk more.
- The original title of my talk is something I didn’t explain during my talk. The original title in the Food symposium brochure is “On Being and Not Being the Wretched of the Earth: A Critical Race Feminist Analysis of Vegan Consciousness”. The reference of Wretched of the Earth is a book title by psychoanalysist and anti-racist, anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon. The Wretched the Earth refers to those who have been racialized as “black subjects” and gone through hell due to a white supremacist/colonial society. My title inferred that those who are collectively part of the demographic of “wretched of the earth” (brown and black demographic I am studying in veganism) and those who are not (white middle class collectivity) have thematically different relationships with food, veganism, and the concept of animal rights.
- Lastly, I am going to admit this now: what I am reading to the audience was completely IMPROV. I had written a 23 page talk about whiteness and vegan consciousness that I was going to read, but then literally changed my mind once I arrived on stage and felt that maybe I should talk about something else, or at least try to convey race, food, and consciousness in a very different way than what I had planned. I am a very open person, so I will admit that I had anxiety around talking only about whiteness to an audience of what seemed to be mostly white people, despite the energy of the campus being “liberal”. After my talk, an older white man came up to me and introduced himself as a speech coach. He said my message was powerful, but got lost in the 153 times I said “kind of”. I explained to him that I was nervous, had done it improv, and that I said “kind of ” because of the psychological difficulty I was having with talking about “whiteness” in that environment. I was intimidated. I will have to work on this, but I am wondering if he fully understood my reasons for being nervous. However, I do thank him for letting me know I said “kind of” and “um” one million times. I can try to be conscious of that and not say it next time, even when or if I am nervous.