Feeding a Black Nation: Decolonial Vegan Politics and Queen Afua's Kitchen

Part I

Part II

Above are the two videos from my most recent talk that I gave on November 1, 2012 at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. The topic I was to address was “Intersectionality of Oppressions: A Look at How Race and Gender Shape the Vegan Experience in the USA.” The title of the talk that I gave to examine this topic was called “Feeding a Black Nation: Decolonial Vegan Politics and Queen Afua’s Kitchen.” It was hosted by the Boston University Vegetarian Society and Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism.

I had a really great time. I also let everyone know that this talk is from a dissertation chapter that is still in its draft stages, “So bare with me as I try to work out a lot of the theoretical stuff I talk about at the very beginning.” I’m also functioning off of 2.5 hours of sleep and flew across country and basically went directly to the talk. Whew, crazy day getting there but it was well worth it. I think the Q&A session was the best because the questions were very critical and engaging.

The next day, I had brunch with a bunch of friends and my twin brother, Talmadge, who I had not seen in person in over 2 years. We video Skype several times a week, but this was a gazillion times better. We ate at Central Sq. in Cambridge at a place called Veggie Galaxy, owned by the same people who run Veggie Planet. It’s vegan and vegetarian diner style.

Talmadge Harper and Breeze Harper at Veggie Galaxy. Cambridge, MA. November 2, 2012.

Lastly, I mentioned a few titles at the end of the video. Here they are with a few more that may be of use. I think Barthes is really excellent as a semiologist because he can help folk understand how food ‘signifies’ and communicates an entire society’s “attitude” about life in general.

Afua, Queen. Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit. New York: Ballantine Publishing Group, 2000.

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. New York,: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology. 1st American ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968.

Grosfoguel, Ramón, and Ana Margarita Cervantes-Rodríguez. The Modern/Colonial/Capitalist World-System in the Twentieth Century : Global Processes, Antisystemic Movements, and the Geopolitics of Knowledge, Contributions in Economics and Economic History, No. 227. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Lewis, Tania, and Emily Potter. Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Sandlin, Jennifer A., and Peter McLaren. Critical Pedagogies of Consumption: Living and Learning in the Shadow of The “Shopocalypse”. Edited by Joel Spring, Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance, Suny Series, Philosophy and Race. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

Warren, John T. Performing Purity : Whiteness, Pedagogy, and the Reconstitution of Power. New York: Peter Lang, 2003

Zuberi, Tukufu, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. White Logic, White Methods : Racism and Methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.

0 thoughts on “Feeding a Black Nation: Decolonial Vegan Politics and Queen Afua's Kitchen

  1. Thank you so much for posting this footage. I would have loved to have seen you talk in person but alas I live in England. So so happy to have been able to listen to you in some way though!

  2. What an awesome talk!! And I’m truly inspired by your singing at the beginning. That is just incredible! I have noticed many of the things you mentioned about gender, race, class, sexual identity, and so many others. I haven’t read Queen Afua’s books — specifically The Sacred Woman. I really need to just go online and get it, though I have listened to her ‘hour of power’ talk before. Does that count? =D I appreciate you specifically addressing those areas I mentioned above.

    I have a question about the idea of being able to decolonize through veganism as Queen Afua says. I have thought about this for a while — from my Black, female, and my zillion other intersections, and as someone who grew up in Southern California, among a greatly diverse population, and have been exposed to extremely awesome cultures and have learned many ways on how people practice eating.

    Do you think think these ideas Queen Afua offers are exclusive? What I mean by this is that since the suggestion is that a vegan or raw food diet is the gateway to a healthy body and can denounce a legacy of oppression we suffered here in the US that is said to be something that can help us reclaim our wombs, how does this work with the way we interact with the overall population, or how many other folks consume animal parts and other food?

    My question stems from just wanting to genuinely understand. I know that you said she draws much of her ideas and research from Kemet, so I am wondering how people from other countries on the continent who were colonized would experience this (especially if they experienced an entirel different culture being from let’s say, Ghana, just as an example), if they had other ways of building agency for women. Is it lumping? Or, how other groups actually did hunt for their meals — if that is their legacy are they still considered to be contributing to a legacy from white slavers? Ahhhhhhh, shoot. I have so much more to ask, but I won’t overwhelm you. And I hope my question makes sense. :O)

  3. I just found your blog today and overall find it refreshing. I am a woman of color who is vegan and childfree. Although the heavy focus on the womb being the center of womanhood turns me off (as well as the focus on “holistic” healing turns me off), it sounds like Queen Afua does bring a perspective to veganism which is often missing. I do like how you critically questioned how she doesn’t address the modern slavery that goes into food production and how her viewpoint is very middle class. No microwaves? Seriously? Another person who thinks microwaves are radiation machines? The waves are smaller than radio waves!

    For me, whenever I buy something, I aim for products that are vegan, fair trade and affordable. However, I rarely find products that are all 3. 🙁 If it’s vegan and fair trade, it’s expensive. If it’s affordable and vegan, it was probably made by sweatshop labor. And then the “vegan police” will get you if buy something that is not vegan, even if it was fairly traded, like wool mittens from South America.

    I am glad you’re thinking critically about all this and want to read more!

    1. Thanks for considering what I had to share. I spoke a long time ago, but since then, that talk became a published chapter in my dissertation which is now accessible here if you’re interested: Breeze Harper
      s Dissertation

      Like most things I read, I appreciate a lot that I learn, but I also point out things that may be missing or seem contradictory through the analytical lenses I’m using. I believe I can learn something from everything I read, whether I agree 100% or not.

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