The Fork in the Road: Ruminations on My Birthday
Updated: May 30, 2014 10:25 AM PST
Today, May 30, is my birthday. What a wonderful year it has been! I gave birth to my third child, Kira Satya, on November 5, 2013. Another successful vegan pregnancy, she came into the world at nearly nine pounds. My birthday wish for this year is simple: Can you help me continue doing my work by funding the project or pointing me to people you think would benefit from hearing me give lectures or act as a consultant? Thank you to everyone who helped me reach 4.5% of my goal over the last 12 months. Thank you to those who donated in other ways, such as editing my new book as well as creating a brilliant cover for (wahoo to Sarah Dorsey who shares the same birthday) the new manuscript, guiding me through difficult times, or watching my children while I was writing a new talk.
Recap of my year
During summer 2013, and under the mentorship of stellar food systems scholar, Dr Ryan Galt, I started my new Sistah Vegan project research: gathering the perspectives of Black vegan men who use hip hop pedagogies for their food, health, and animal rights activism. (Thank you Dr. Ryan Galt for offering me the opportunity to do this work at UC Davis!) In 2014, I presented my new research at Dickinson College, Oberlin College, and Pacific Lutheran University. I am appreciative that all three institutions provided childcare for my newborn so I could bring her with me to nurse on demand. I am also very grateful for the plethora of people who have inspired me to continue with the Sistah Vegan project, despite me wanting to give up; particularly because I felt so hopeless and questioned my purpose in Academia. Such hopelessness came after I received nothing but rejection letters from all academic positions I had applied to.
The hardest time for me came during the fall of 2013, when I received an email from someone who I had asked to write me letters of recommendations in the past. This person was one of my main professor mentors and someone I really trusted. They had emailed that they would no longer write me letters of recommendations because they had always found me to be “unprofessional” and not “intellectually rigorous” when it came to my pursuit of an Academic career. I had received that email the morning I was in labor with Kira Satya. There was really no way of telling if the letters that person wrote was the main reason I wasn’t even afforded a phone interview anywhere. Interestingly, the letter created a fork in the road for me: I could give up and give in to anger and self-pity…or, I could see the letter as an opportunity to test my commitment to the Sistah Vegan Project and try to find other ways to keep it alive…which would probably mean having to say goodbye to Academe.
After weeks of emotional and mental anguish that I allowed that letter to cause me, I decided that my 25 year goal of becoming a professor wasn’t the only way to keep my critical race, critical food, and critical vegan studies research, writing, and activism alive. I had to remind myself that I had successfully put together the first Sistah Vegan Conference in fall 2013 and received a lot of emails from people who said the event really shifted their consciousness; the event was not affiliated with any university at all. In addition, even though one of my main mentors had decided that they didn’t want to support me, I also had to remind myself of the many mentors who have supported me and found my way of engaging in research and activism, beneficial. I nearly let that email from this one mentor make me forget about all the other mentors who have supported me, including Carol J Adams, Psyche Williams Forson, Bryant Terry, DJ Cavem, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Kwanda and James Ford, Riche Richardson, David Leonard, Martin Rowe , Lauren Ornelas, Katherine McKitrrick and Carolyn Finney to name a few.
So, what was the lesson learned? Not everyone will experience my way of doing things as professional or intellectually rigorous. And sometimes even those that we thought were our mentors and that we trusted may also no longer want to support our vision or our way of doing things. And you know what? That is okay. Over the past eight months, I have tried to transition into making the Sistah Vegan Project my full time work while keeping these things in mind.
This morning, I also received word that my new novel, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England, is now ready for production through Sense Publishers. They are an awesome academic press. It was timely to receive the message from senior editor Patricia Leavy, a professor and a vanguard in the field of social fiction. Patricia Leavy read Scars within a week of receiving it last year. After years of me trying to find a place for my book, it was Patricia enthusiastically who offered me a contract. My work fit Sense Publisher’s new social fiction series which seeks social fiction, in the form of novels, to address societal problems. The key to the series is the use of real qualitative social science research that is translated into novel form.
Overall, I just wanted to let you know that when I receive emails of support from you all, it reminds me why it is important to do what I believe in and to not let obstacles deter me. Every single email I receive from my fans, really fuels me and re-centers me! Much love to all of you for your generosity and belief in my work.