About an hour ago, I was looking through the work of Emory Douglas (see image below and click on it to go to the link to the book).
I started reading through his book again today because his work, though over 40 years old, is applicable today. His images show Black people resisting the white supremacist militarized police state. The images are powerful, breathtaking, and heartbreaking. As I sifted through the pages of this genius work, I couldn’t believe that this mess was still happening today; but also felt inspired that this work is a continuum that we see in the Black Lives Matter Movement, founded by Alicia Garza.
Eerily, at the same time I was looking through Emory’s book and thinking about how to implement it into my own work, I was on Facebook looking through Vegans of Color group posts. Someone had posted a current image depicting the Black Lives Matter movement in which there is a carton of young Black person fighting against the militarized police state. The police officers depicted in the cartoon are drawn as pigs. The person who posted the image said, “word to her and the energy/people/movement she represents! but to the system she/we oppose–let’s not disparage actual pigs in the process, yeah? (smile)”. Perfect timing that he would write this while I was looking through the Emory Douglas book because I had been thinking the same thing since I received the book as a wonderful gift for my birthday, about 5 years ago, signed by him by way of my friend Frank. He even referred to me as “Sistah Vegan” in the inscription. I briefly talked to him at one of Frank’s birthday parties. (I admit it: I was too shy to talk more to him, just like I was too shy to talk more to Angela Davis and give her a copy of my book. Yup, I’m still shaking my head over that one…and then I learn she’s vegan and probably would have appreciated Sistah Vegan. LOL. Oh well, live an learn.)
First of all, I cannot reiterate enough that Emory Douglas’s book is genius, amazing, and inspiring. The work he has done as a Black Liberationist and Black Panther is truly remarkable and has deeply influenced the direction of my own work. In addition, Emory Douglas eats a vegan diet. However, what is striking to me as someone who is a critical race , black feminist, and critical vegan scholar, I noticed throughout his work that Douglas depicts cops as ‘bacon’ and ‘pigs’.
I know that everyone changes throughout life and what we ate or believed in at 30 may differ drastically at 40, then 50, etc. So, I’ve been wondering about Emory Douglas’ vegan dietary practice and if this practice has changed his thoughts on he having used pigs as a way to demonize and depict the police state of the USA in the 1960s and 1970s. I wonder what he’d say about it; if he still agrees with his use of pig images to protest racialized state violence against Black people. (See a few of many images depicting cops as pigs, in the book below).
I’ve also been thinking a lot how the consumption of pigs, among ‘conscious’ Black people who no longer eat animals, has long been associated as being a ‘filthy’ and ‘low’ animal; that many ‘conscious’ Black people working hard to decolonize and liberate Black people have chosen to not eat pigs because they believe they are ‘dirty animals’…. as opposed to the belief that eating pigs is cruel because of the suffering that pigs go through as a commodity in the mainstream food system of the USA. There seems to be a speciesist vegan dietary element to this logic; quite a contradiction in many ways. But, I want to dig deeper and I don’t want to dismiss the brilliant work of Black liberationist who think this way about pigs and human consumption.
I hope to continue to think through Emory’s work and figure out a way to talk about the significance of his work through a vegan praxis of Black Lives Matters… Emory, if you are reading this, please let me know if you’d be interested in talking about this for the Sistah Vegan Conference, which is online in April: The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter.
Hey folk out here, if what I have written above has got your wheels turning, then I hope you will join us, support us, donate to us, and/or sponsor the upcoming Sistah Vegan hosted online conference, The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter. During the conference, I hope we can talk more about the meaning of Emory Douglas’ work (maybe even by way of Emory himself), the use of pig imagery in resisting racist police state, consuming a vegan diet, and the difficult contradictions we all often find ourselves in; after all, many of us as Black Lives Matter activists of color– vegan and non-vegan– are still practicing the decolonization of our minds around internalized racism as well as speciesist notions of ‘the place of the animal’; it is a continuum and I want to build on Douglas’ work, not dismiss or start honing in only on the images of ‘cops and pigs, pigs as cops.’ His work– and many of the Black Panthers who have written about Black Liberation (many who were not vegetarian or vegan) have deeply influenced the direction of my work in a positive manner. I’m about ‘building’ on this, acknowledging possible weaknesses or methods that may not apply now, and moving forward while not forgetting about the past!
About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist forCritical Diversity Solutions, a seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best known as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling
Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.
Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter. In tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”
In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.