The Sistah Vegan Project

Archive for the category “Race, Class, Gender Issues”

[Video] Scars of Suffering and Healing: A Black Feminist Perspective on Intersections of Oppression

This is the talk I gave at the Activist’s Table Conference, which took place at UC Berkeley on March 15, 2014. It was sponsored by the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition. I talk about Sistah Vegan and also read from and analyze my newest book, Scars, a social fiction that intersects issues of racism, internalized homophobia, and speciesism to name a few. This is my first public presentation of my new book and reading excerpts from the much anticipated novel.

In addition, check out the graffiti on the wall of the bathroom stall that was right down the hall from where I gave my talk. Perfect timing!

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Breeze Harper is a Bitch…

Breeze Harper is a Bitch Magazine interviewee, that is! Hey the title made you click :-)

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If you like Bitch Magazine, I just wanted to let you know that I am in the latest Food issue for this month. I have a VERY long interview in the magazine. I talk about Sistah Vegan Project, decolonial food politics, critical whiteness issues, animal compassion and more.

It was a lovely interview with Vera Chang. Her set of questions were one of the best, well-thought out, and critical inquiries into the Sistah Vegan Project that I have ever experienced during an interview. You can go here to check out the latest issue. People can download the digital copy or the paper copy. Also, Bitch Magazine is sold in a lot of stores throughout the USA.

The Black Queer Experience is Not ‘Our’ Experience: Breeze Harper’s New Social Fiction Novel

It is official. I have signed a contract with Sense Publishers to publish the book Scars for 2014. Sense Publishers is the perfect press for Scars.  They embody exactly what I would like my novel to achieve. Below is a description of this publisher’s social fiction series of which Scars will be included:

“The Social Fictions series emerges out of the arts-based research movement. The series includes full-length fiction books that are informed by social research but written in a literary/artistic form (novels, plays, and short story collections). Believing there is much to learn through fiction, the series only includes works written entirely in the literary medium adapted. Each book includes an academic introduction that explains the research and teaching that informs the book as well as how the book can be used in college courses. The books are underscored with social science or other scholarly perspectives and intended to be relevant to the lives of college students—to tap into important issues in the unique ways that artistic or literary forms can.” 

-Patricia Leavy, PhD

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The painting above will be used in the design of the cover. It was created by Sarah Dorsey after she read the novel.

Below is the full Preface for Scars. However, before you read the preface, I wanted to share this next tidbit withyou. The title of this blog piece, “The Black Queer Experience is Not ‘Our’ Experience”, was inspired by an email I received a few days ago from a Black identified Christian woman who had found out about Scars. Via a long email, she ultimately let me know that the premise of Scars alienated regular Black girls like her and that it was not ‘our’ story; ‘our’ being Black people’s story or authentic way of being. Even though she has not read the book, I found it incredibly interesting and as well as heartbreaking that she sent me an email that basically let me know she was disappointed in this new project. She sincerely thinks that the book’s main character (a Black teen lesbian) is too ‘controversial’ and ‘edgy.’ Hence, ‘regular’ Black girls like her (heterosexual) were being marginalized and she felt that I should be using my prominent voice to write about more pressing and important issues affecting the Black community. So, essentially, this book hasn’t even been published yet and I’m already receiving these types of messages. Anyway, I wanted to share that tidbit with you because I am constantly amazed by how “Blackness” and authenticity amongst Black folk is a complex and controversial issue; how we are monitored when we fall outside of being a ‘regular’ Black person (which I assume means hetero-normative and Christian identified). It is worrisome and disturbing to think that there are many Black folk who honestly feel that the queer experience is not part of our history; that we’re not part of the authentic community of Blackness in the USA. Even though this is her opinion, and the email she sent me was written respectfully and politely, it still hurt very deeply to read that. However, this is why I continue to write and do the work that I do. I feel like silence just creates more suffering and pain, so my writing becomes a platform to discuss these issues that are taboo for so many, including not just homosexuality, but also how white supremacy in the USA affects the emotional and physical health of everyone– not just people color. I welcome you read the preface to ScarsI am also hoping that if the preface strikes a chord with you would you have interest in inviting me to come and speak and create interactive discussion from Scars. Please email me at breezeharper (at) gmail (dot ) com to discuss my honorarium fees and travel requirements. Also, I am open to be interviewed for radio, tv, blogs, and other forms of media.

Preface for Scars

Scars is a novel about whiteness, racism, and breaking past the normative boundaries of heterosexuality, as experienced through eighteen year old Savannah Penelope Sales. Savannah is a Black girl, born and raised in a white, working class, and rural New England town. She is in denial of her lesbian sexuality, harbors internalized racism about her body, and is ashamed of being poor. She lives with her ailing mother whose Emphysema is a symptom of a mysterious past of suffering and sacrifice that Savannah is not privy to. When Savannah takes her first trip to a major metropolitan city for two days, she never imagines how it will affect her return back home to her mother… or her capacity to not only love herself, but also those who she thought were her enemies.  Scars is about the journey of friends and family who love Savannah and try to help her heal, all while they too battle their own wounds and scars of being part of multiple systems of oppression and power. Ultimately, Scars makes visible the psychological trauma and scarring that legacies of colonialism have caused to both the descendants of the colonized and the colonizer… and the potential for healing and reconciliation for everyone willing to embark on the journey.

As a work of social fiction born out of years of critical race, Black feminist, and critical whiteness studies scholarship, Scars engages the reader to think about USA culture through the lens of race, whiteness, working-class sensibilities, sexual orientation, and how rural geography influences identity consciousness. What makes this novel unique its emphasis on Black and lesbian teen experience of whiteness and racism within rural geographies. Often, interrogations of whiteness and socio-economic class are left out of fictional literature within popular LGBTQ literature. My intention with Scars is to fill this gap by creating emotionally intense dialogues among four primary characters: Savannah Penelope Sales, Davis Allen, Esperanza Perez, and Erick Roberts.

Davis Allen is one of Savannah’s best friends. A straight white male who grew up on a rural dairy farm in Savannah’s home town, Davis and Savannah have been close friends since they were toddlers. Davis is the only white friend Savannah has ever chosen to develop a close relationship with. When Davis and Savannah interact with each other, the intimacies of their conversations reveal an interesting dynamic: Davis’s perception of reality manifests from what Savannah has marked as “a privileged point of entry”: white, male, lower-middle class, and straight. Davis can never experience Savannah’s embodied experience as a Black lesbian. Growing up in a country that has institutionally legitimized whiteness and heterosexuality as ‘normal’, Davis’s white and straight identity limits him to superficially interpreting Savannah’s verbal hostility as nothing more than stereotypical “angry Black female” banter.

The second theme developed in Scars is the irreconcilable differences that Erick Roberts and Savannah endure in their rocky new platonic relationship. Erick and Savannah both identify as same gender loving, however, that is where similarities between them end. Their frequent antagonistic verbal intercourses deconstruct the common myth that being gay or lesbian means they will instantly connect emotionally to each other as comrades in the same battle against heterosexism. The exhaustive energy it takes for both to maintain their volatile relationship has it’s roots in Erick’s oblivion to the fusion of his upper-middle class status and his white male privilege when attempting to advise Savannah about being and coming out as a [Black, poor, and rural] lesbian.

The third and more subtle theme developed in Scars centers on how Savannah’s perception of oppression is positioned within a geopolitically global North perspective. Savannah never acknowledges her privilege as a USA national; only her lack of privileges as a non-white person. She considers herself revolutionary in thought in comparison to the people living in the provincial town she grew up in. Simultaneously, she has no awareness of her perpetuation of inequality outside of the USA; for example, Savannah is unaware of how many people of color outside of the USA are exploited so she buy cheap coffee, chocolate, and Coco-Cola. Esperanza Perez, a key character, is one of her best friends. Esperanza, a vegan and fair trade anti-globalization activist who originally grew up in Guatemala, visits Savannah from college. Through honest and heartfelt dialogues with Esperanza, Savannah’s oblivious understanding of her geopolitical Northern privilege is revealed. I hope to engage the reader to empathize with Savannah’s realistic struggles with “whiteness as the invisible norm in the USA,” while also addressing the need for Savannah to engage deeper into social injustice by encompassing and linking Black struggles and USA racism to a broader range of social and ecological inequalities throughout the world.

Born out of my Dartmouth College thesis social research in feminist geography, award winning Masters work at Harvard University, and my dissertation work at the University of California-Davis, Scars emphasizes how rural geographies of whiteness can impact the consciousness and young identity development of non-white youth who seemingly ‘don’t belong’ in rural settings of whiteness and hetero-normativity; yet, the reader sees during Savannah’s trip to her first major metropolitan city, she is very much out of place. Furthermore, Savannah contrasts the mainstream media stereotype that the “authentic Black experience” is from heterosexual Blacks raised in predominantly urban landscapes. Even though the critical theory in this novel has been translated into creative writing format, it is notable that Scars was significantly influenced by a strong canon of Black critical thinkers and writers stemming back to W.E.B. DuBois. My choice to title the book Scars reflects the legacy of Black anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon and his intense dedication to making visible, the psychological trauma and scarring that colonialism, white supremacy, and racism have caused to both the colonized and the colonizer. Furthermore, this book continues the traditions of bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Octavia Butler who have written extensively about the ‘the problem of the color line.’ However unlike Fanon and DuBois’ more hetero-normative and masculinist analyses, hooks, Lorde, and Butler have complicated the ‘problem of the color line’ with intersectional analysis of gender and sexual orientation.

Scars can be used as a springboard for discussion, self-reflection and social reflection for students enrolled in American Studies, Sociology, Women’s Studies, Sexuality Studies, African American Studies, human geography, LGBTQ studies and critical whiteness studies courses, or it can be read entirely for pleasure.

-A. Breeze Harper, PhD

Breeze Harper’s new novel. Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England

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Sense Publishers will be publishing my latest book in 2014. I am very excited. The painting above will be used in the design of the cover. It was created by Sarah Dorsey after she read the novel.

Scars is a novel about whiteness, racism, and breaking past the boundaries of normative heterosexuality, as experienced through eighteen year old Savannah Penelope Sales. Savannah is a Black girl, born and raised in a white, working class, and rural New England town. She is in denial of her lesbian sexuality, harbors internalized racism about her body, and is ashamed of being poor. She lives with her ailing mother whose Emphysema is a symptom of a mysterious past of suffering and sacrifice that Savannah is not privy to. When Savannah takes her first trip to a major metropolitan city for two days, she never imagines how it would affect her return back home to her mother…or her capacity to not only love herself, but also those who she thought were her enemies.  Scars is about the journey of friends and family who love Savannah and try to help her heal, all while they too battle their own wounds and scars of being part of multiple systems of oppression and power. Ultimately, Scars makes visible the psychological trauma and scarring that legacies of colonialism have caused to both the descendants of the colonized and the colonizer…and the potential for healing and reconciliation for everyone willing to embark on the journey.

As a work of social fiction born out of years of critical race, Black feminist, and critical whiteness studies scholarship, Scars engages the reader to think about USA culture through the lens of race, whiteness, working-class sensibilities, sexual orientation, and how rural geography influences identity development. What makes this novel unique its emphasis on Black and lesbian teen experience of whiteness and racism within rural geographies. Often, interrogations of whiteness and socio-economic class are left out of fictional literature within popular lesbian and gay themed novels. My intention with Scars is to fill this gap by creating emotionally intense dialogues among four primary characters. Once I have a completed ‘back cover synopsis’ and received approval from the publisher, I’ll post more about the book.

Revisioning Food Sovereignty: “Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness” [Scripps College, Sept 25 2013]

On September 25, 2013 I gave a lecture at Scripps College in Ontario, California: “Trayvon Martin, PETA&The Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness”. Below is the video recording for those who could not attend. It’s part of their Humanities Institute Fall 2013 symposium on Food.

Part I

Part II

I want to thanks Scripps College for inviting me to speak. I had an amazing time and they were very mindful of my needs and making sure I got what I needed (i.e. transportation from the airport and food, food, food, as at this point being 34 weeks pregnant, I’m an ravenous! LOL) .

If you would like to invite me to come speak at your organization, institution, or similar, please contact me at sistahvegan(at) gmail(dot) com. Also, if you enjoyed the content of what I spoke about during this Scripps College talk, feel free to check out the Sistah Vegan Web Conference that took place on September 14, 2013. The entire 8 hours was recorded. You can click here to see what speaker line-up and the talks that were given.

ScrippsFlyer Breeze Harper

Here is the poster of the advertised talk above and also a blog piece you can read that I wrote. Toward the end of the blog posting, I share my mother’s ‘fears’ of me talking about whiteness and jeopardizing my safety; this occurred after I shared the news that I was going to give my talk at Scripps and told her the title and content of it.

[TALK] Dr. Breeze Harper at Scripps College Sept 25, 2013: “Never Be Silent: On Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness.”

Are you in the LA area? I will be giving a talk tomorrow (Sept 25) at Scripps College. Here is the poster and also a blog piece you can read because toward the end of the blog are my mother’s ‘fears’ of me talking about whiteness and jeopardizing my safety.

Can’t make it? Don’t worry, I record and upload all my talks to my blog :-)

ScrippsFlyer Breeze Harper

“All racial identity is racist!”: The Broken Record of White Post-Racial Utopian Fantasies

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I must sound like a broken record by now.

But, here I go.

In 2005, I did a call for papers for contributions to the Sistah Vegan Anthology book project. The call for papers went out onto the web and ended up on many sites, including the site VeganPorn, which had nothing to do with porn. However, it was a hot spot for vegans to talk and discuss. Upon seeing my call for papers and the title word ‘sistah’, as well as reading that I was searching for black female vegans, an 80 page discussion thread was generated from largely white identified vegans claiming many things: the project was ‘racist'; gender had nothing to do with veganism; race had nothing to do with how one enters their vegan practice; racism is no longer an issue in the USA so why talk about it?; why is Harper using Black English (i.e. ‘sistah’), as anyone who can’t speak proper English shouldn’t be surprised if they can’t find a job; Black English sounds like one was born to a ‘crack addicted mother.’

Long story short, this thread became empirical data for my award winning Harvard Masters thesis which interrogated how covert whiteness operated within cyberspaces dominated by ‘liberal’ white vegans and animal rights proponents(The shortened version of this, published in a peer-reviewed journal, can be found here). Less than a year after being granted my Masters degree, I would then continue my work as a doctoral studies student. I was awarded a 2 year coveted fellowship at University of California to pursue intersections of veganism, ethics, and how whiteness and racialization impacted one’s relationship to, and perception of, the vegan food commodity chain. I was awarded my PhD and deemed an ‘expert’ in this intersectional field of study.

The other weekend, the Sistah Vegan Web Conference took place. As some of you know, it focused on the “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism from Black Women and Allies.” Before the event, Vegan Society of the UK posted it to their Facebook page. They actually sponsored the event, showing solidarity with the fact that how we practice food ethics is not in a vacuum and is dramatically influenced by systemic oppressions such as speciesism as well as racism, whiteness, and sexism. Even though there were comments in support of the conference’s intentions, these were some of the other post-racial comments in response to the posting:

  • “All racial identity is racist!”
  • “Omg why O why must we have such division!! Life is so complicated ! Ugh.”
  • “Actually, white men are the minority.”
  • “‘Black female vegans’ LOL!”
  • “R u playing the minority card- EVERYONE IS A MINORITY – lets unite – not divide- This makes me sick!!!!”

8 years later, the same broken record from the same collective demographic of post-racial [almost always white] people who actually think talking about ‘race’ is ‘racist.’ I think this is funny. No really, I do. WEB DuBois, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Roland Barthes, and Frantz Fanon, if you were alive right now, what would you be thinking? Would you be surprised, or would you not be surprised, just really disappointed in the same theme; the same broken record?

I’ve been reading the book Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief About Racism  over the past week. It was recently released and is an anthology of stories from white identified people who speak about how deeply hurtful racism and white supremacy has been to their own humanity. It has really helped me extend my compassion and understanding (don’t get me wrong, I’m still dealing with anger and disappointment) towards those white identified people who continue to define ‘racism’ in a way that completely distracts and deflects from its true meaning; distracts and deflects from the fact that racism, at least here in white settler nations like the USA, greatly influences most, if not all of the consciousnesses of those of us who were either raised here, or spent most of our lives here. From reading Combined Destinies so far, I got to hear the confessions and testimonies of many whites who admitted that they know that racism exists and that they do benefit from systemic white supremacy…and they know that he consequence is that collectively, people of color in the USA have suffered greatly. However, many confess that they just lied to themselves, verbally punished people of color who wanted to share their racialized suffering, etc; they realized how violent and ‘pathological’ being part of whiteness could be to their consciousness. One reader recalls how her father reacted to the police beatings of black people in California who were protesting against institutionalized racism. The daughter was crying as she witnessed the brutality and her father didn’t react the way she thought he should: he yelled at her for feeling sorry for such lazy people who should stop complaining and just work hard like he did and maybe they wouldn’t be in the ghettoes without resources. They deserved the beatings from the police, after all, slavery had ended so they had only themselves to blame.

There are countless stories like that above, throughout the anthology: white parents explaining and apologizing for the violence of pathological whiteness to their children, masking it as ‘normal’ and that their children should not think that it is a moral problem. The children grew up to be adults of course, still confused about how racism and white supremacy REALLY function, versus the lies and misinformation their parents had taught them. So many confessed being almost just like their parent’s in response to witnessing later forms of racial violence against Indigenous, brown, and black people; they had learned to react violently (verbally and maybe physically) to people of color who sincerely expressed the pain and suffering they endured BECAUSE of the pathology of whiteness.

But, this anthology is also about how all the contributors changed; it took years, but they changed and are still in the process of transforming their consciousness and going through the pain of acknowledging how their own unconscious collusion with the pathology of whiteness– as children basically forced to accept this ‘normal’ USAmerican ethic– negatively affected their own self-love as well as their potential to love those who were not white during their adult lives. As I read Combined Destinies , I hold in my heart that those who continue to sound like a broken record titled White Post-Racial Utopian Fantasies will eventually go through similar transformations. Then again, there is no guarantee, as plenty of people KNOW racism is a problem but they admit that they just don’t care, or that they LOVE benefiting from it. There were quite a few voices in the book that admitted that they knew that acknowledging racism and then fighting to dismantle it would ultimately mean they would have to be comfortable with letting go of power, privileges, and resources that this racialized system of power afforded to them collectivity; that was scary and unsettling, as who would want to give that up? It was much easier to yell at people of color and tell them that they are creating divisions by simply wanting to share how being racialized as non-white put them in a completely different world; create a completely different consciousness and identity than the white mainstream middle to upper class norm.

My mother has confessed to me many times that she is very scared of the work I do. Tomorrow I will speak about how neoliberal whiteness shapes PETA’s marketing and campaign strategy. I sent my mother the flyer of the event, which will take place at Scripps College. It’s called “‘Never Be Silent': On Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness.” She emailed me immediately that she didn’t think I should be talking about this in public; that it is too controversial and that I could potentially be stabbed, shot, etc if I talk about this. I tried to explain to her that this was from my completed dissertation and that I’m not trying to get myself killed; this is what I do as a social-scientist trying to understand the cultural phenomenon of veganism; how it operates in the USA in a neo-liberal supposed ‘post-racial’ age. But, she didn’t hear that the first 6 times I emailed her, trying to explain my lecture. I know that all she saw was the reality that it is still not THAT safe to talk about racism and white supremacy as a black woman, “Even if you have a doctorate in it.” I know she probably saw the same little 12 year old girl who came home from her first day of junior high, in 1990, in an all white town, crying that someone had called her daughter a “nigger” and that no one said or did anything; that in a crowded hall of white teenagers who must have heard that boy loudly called me ‘skinny little nigger’, no one did or said anything. She couldn’t protect me when I was out there. And she still cannot protect me or my twin brother from the pathology of whiteness that has come to define and uphold the tenets of humanity in the USA.

ScrippsFlyer Breeze Harper

 

[Video] Keynote Talk: Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: Why Vegan Healing is Crucial for Racial [Trauma] Healing

I gave a keynote talk at 330pm in Toronto on Sept 8 , 2013 at 330 pm for the 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival in Toronto. It was called “Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: Why Vegan Healing is Crucial for Racial [Trauma] Healing.”  This was not vegan proselytizing, but rather, a way to show how I use critical race, critical animal, and critical food studies as methods to talk about how systemic racism and capitalism affect health and wellness.

Overall, the festival was an amazing experience. I truly appreciated the openness of the audience of my lecture, the diversity of faces, and the interactive discussion and Q&A session at the end. And yes, I will admit that it is less stressful to be in an environment in which so many people already have a critical race literacy for a post 2000 era that does not deny that systemic racism is still a major impediment to health, happiness, and wellness for many non-white people living in white settler nations.

I also wanted to give a shout-out to Karine’s restaurant where I had brunch to energize me before walking to the festival. I had her decadent vegan breakfast. Here is the photo below.

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Also…
Vine Sanctuary and T.O.F.U. Magazine are our newest conference sponsors for the Sistah Vegan Conference coming up in a few days. Their sponsorship makes it possible for me to offer 10 need based partial-scholarships which covers 50% of the registration fee for the Sistah Vegan Web Conference. The web conference takes place September 14, 2013 from 10am-6pm PST. It is titled “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies.”

If you would like to be considered for one of these partial scholarships, please fill out the quick application form below by 11:59pm PST, September 12, 2013. You will be notified September 13 if you received the scholarship.

Pathologizing the ‘fat body’ as immoral and then experimenting on non-human animals to find a ‘cure’.

I just read an article on the NY Times, “Gut Bacteria From Thin Humans Can Slim Mice Down.” 

This is amazing to me. First, fatness is pathologized in the US. And then, to offer a cure, scientists conduct experiments on non-human animals to prove that they can cure the immoral fat body. I’m just shaking my head over this.  As usual, the lack of critical thinking around the new obsession over bodies that don’t conform to a BMI of 21 is disturbing. The lack of more critical thinking and compassion towards non-human animals being experimented on, in this article, is very sad.

I also started thinking about how fat-shaming and sizeism in the USA mainstream vegan and vegetarian community don’t really engage in critical analysis of the fatphobia in this culture. Even though most animal liberation oriented vegans don’t support non-human animal exploitation, this NYTimes article points to a huge over-arching problem: concepts of healthy bodies continue to be shaped not by objective science, but by normative ideologies of civilized bodies that are constructed by systemic sizeism, classim, ageism, ableism, racism, and sexism just to name a few. These ideologies influence the direction of medical science research. The detached use of non-human animals as ‘experiments’ to cure our anxieties over achieving the perfect healthy body really speaks volumes of how much our minds, at least here in the USA, have been colonized. Even though the collectivity of USA vegans condemn speciesist logic in using non-human animals for medical experimentation, a majority continue to support fat-shaming, sizeist, ageist, as well as ableist and racist/colorist conceptions of how a moral body should look like. There is a reason why Skinny Bitch is a bestseller and why VegNews declared Rory Freeman their “person of the year” for 2008: The majority of VegNews and Skinny Bitch fans sincerely believe that not being skinny is objectively immoral.  For that 2008 issues, VegNews didn’t take the time to even write one sentence that critiques the accepted USA culture of fat paranoia and shaming. As “person of the year”, Vegnews upholds Freeman’s books and her bodily aesthetic (white, class privileged, skinny, young, able-bodied) as the benchmark of a ‘healthy’ vegan change-maker; and they do this without ever questioning how that body type reinforces white supremacist capitalist conceptions of a post-2000 healthy moral citizen.

The intersectional topics of fat-shaming, veganism, and race will be one of the keynote talks at the upcoming web conference on September 14, 2013: “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies.” Click here to find out more.

T.O.F.U. Magazine will be sponsoring several scholarships for people to attend the conference. Please check out their amazing issue this past year that interrogates veganism, sizeism and body types here.


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Updated: Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies

(Updated with times for each presentation)

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1st Annual Sistah Vegan Conference

“Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies”

Date: September 14, 2013

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm PST (USA)

Location: Web Conference Using Anymeeting.com. This means the location is on the Internet, accessible by computer or telephone. 

Registration $45.00

Conference Recordings: The entire conference will be recorded and downloadable 24-48 hours after the event. Those who have already paid for the LIVE conference viewing will have access to the recordings. However, if you simply want to purchase the recordings, that option is available for $25.99. However, this option will not be available until the recordings have been processed. Hence, you cannot register to download the recordings until 24-48 hours after the event.

Please note that anyone can register as an audience member to learn about the critical and embodied perspectives of women of color vegans. Anyone can register as an audience member . One need not identify as a girl/woman/womyn/trans vegan of color to participate. This is open to all.

Click here to register

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SPEAKER LINE UP AND SCHEDULE

(PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A TENTATIVE SCHEDULE AND THAT IT COULD POTENTIALLY CHANGE)

10:00 AM PST

Introduction: How Veganism is a Critical Entry Point to Discuss Social, Animal, and Environmental Justice Issues for Black Women and Allies. 
Speaker: TBD
Length: 10 minutes

In this introduction to kick off the conference, the speaker will introduce how the concept of veganism can shed light on critical issues effecting Black girls and women in the USA. She will explain how veganism, as both method and philosophy, is an often overlooked perspective in a USA society that has normalized the exploitation and abuse of racialized minorities such as Black females, as well as the normalization of violence against the environment and non human animals used for human edification. This talk will be an introductory segue into the scheduled talks and discussions. It should hopefully open up innovative ideas by intersecting veganism, health activism, food politics, animal compassion, and anti racism into the lives of Black women and our allies. In addition, the speaker will introduce what is means to be an “ally” in the context of the Sistah Vegan Project.

——————————————–

10:15 AM PST

Keynote Talk: How Whiteness and Patriarchy Hurt Animals

Anastasia Yarbrough

Inner Activism Services

Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: In the animal rights movement, racism and sexism are treated primarily as separate forces comparable to but not wholly relevant to animal protection, with the exception of leftist pockets inspired by ecofeminist animal liberation thought, the Animal Liberation Front and other direct action groups, and the emerging Critical Animal Studies.  As recent as the 2013 Animal Rights Conference, the “mainstream” animal rights movement tends to treat anti-racist, anti-sexist movements as struggles of the past that inform the new frontier social justice movement that is animal rights.  However, the goal of this talk is not to argue how and why this tokenizing is a problem.  Instead, my focus is to spark a dialogue on how white supremacy and patriarchy directly impact the animals we’re striving to help and protect, thus giving further relevance in the animal rights movement to become more conscious of how racism and sexism operate in society.  As a black woman who is also a long-time activist for animal liberation and justice, I have the unique position to see these intersections and notice that human violence towards animals is rarely ever lacking color or gender, nor is it always simple to tease apart from systemic issues like racism and sexism. Therefore, I hope that this talk can serve as a useful and engaging spark that is relevant not just to animal rights activists but also to social justice activists who are just beginning to consider animals.

____________________________________________ 

10:50 AM PST

Presentation Title: PETA and the Trope of “Activism”: Naturalizing Postfeminism and Postrace Attitudes through Sexualized Bodied Protests

Aphrodite Kocięda

University of South Florida

Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: For this presentation, I will explore PETA’s marketing campaigns that use the trope of “activism”, couched in vegan and anti-animal cruelty rhetoric, to naturalize postfeminist ideas and postrace attitudes about women’s bodies. In this postfeminist space, attaining a white sexy body becomes activist work. For PETA, the ethical aims of the vegan diet (is purported to) coincide with attaining a particular type of femininity that excludes women of color. Women of color are only strategically used in their campaigns as authentic signifiers of “diversity”  where the white framework remains undisturbed. PETA uses “activist” rhetoric in their ads to bolster and naturalize the postfeminist and postrace ideas inherent in their logic.

_________________________

11:25 AM PST

Presentation Title: An Embodied Perspective on Redefining Healthy in a Cultural Context and Examining the Role of Sizeism in the Black Vegan Woman Paradigm

Nicola Norman, B.S. Nutritional Science

Baltimore, MD

Length: 30 minutes

This presentation takes a look at sizeism and how it affects attitudes in the Black community and the mainstream towards Black Vegan Women. Body Mass Indexes calibrated to white norms contribute to producing stigmas and increasing challenges to women whose bodies seem to exist at the intersection of social and cultural pressures/expectations. How big our hips, buttocks, and thighs are, are constantly being put under a microscope by family, friends, community, and the bigger society that we live in. This may be affecting Black women on the fence about trying veganism for its health benefits or deter them already due to these pressurized standards. Black vegan women of all sizes are often chastised for not meeting those standards. Black female bodies are very commonly exoticized in society.  I will give examples of this and look at how sizeism is many times at the crux of this. Lastly, I will offer suggestions on how to combat the challenges of sizeism within mainstream vegan rhetoric in the USA.

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Break 12:00 PM PST

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12:25 PM PST

Presentation Title: Cosmetic Marginalization: Status, Access and Vegan Beauty Lessons from our Foremothers

Pilar Harris

Pilar in Motion (pilarinmotion.com)

Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: The terms ‘Vegan’ and ‘Cruelty Free’ are labels that help lend integrity to commercially produced cosmetics. Yet these labels may also be used for marketing purposes, particularly in campaigns not created with black identified women as the intended target consumer. Although the internet has largely transformed access to cosmetic products labeled ‘Vegan’, there exists a degree of status and exclusivity in terms of the price point and distribution of these products, so that many black identified women remain marginalized. These products include body care, makeup and feminine hygiene items, the things we use daily and that are closer to our bodies than the clothing we wear. One option in taking a stance against cosmetic marginalization is to extract from our histories (personal, cultural and otherwise) the beauty lessons that were intended to nourish, protect and cleanse our bodies long before they could be known as ‘Vegan’.

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1:00 PM PST

Open Discussion: “Why I Relinquished the Gospel Bird and Became a Vegan”: Girls and Women of African Descent Share Their Reasons for Choosing Veganism

Length: 45 minutes

During this hour long moderated and open discussion, Black girls and women will share their reasons for choosing veganism. If you would like to participate, email sistahvegan (at) gmail (dot) com to secure your space to speak. Space is limited to about 8 storytellers. You will have about 5-7 minutes to share your journey.

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1:50 PM PST

Keynote Talk : “Midwifery, Medicine and Baby Food Politics: Underground Feminisms and Indigenous Plant-based Foodways and Nutrition”

Length: 35 minutes (25 minute talk, 15 minute Q and A)

Claudia Serrato

University of Washington

Doctoral Student of Sociocultural Anthropology

www.claudiaserrato.info

During this decolonial era, Indigenous midwifery in East Los Angeles despite the several attempts to dismantle this ancestral practice along with their Indigenous plant based nutritional advice thrives as the alterNative to biomedicine. The Indigenous foodways and nutritional ways of knowing guided by these midwives is critical in restoring or decolonizing pregnancy, birthing, feeding experiences and most importantly health. In placing the decolonial present into perspective, a herstoricalfeminist narrative of early Los Angeles, midwifery, medicine, law, and the baby food industry discloses a critical dimension of the colonial matrix of power, which has neglectedly been overlooked in determining changes in diet, health, and birthing. In recovering Indigenous foodways and nutrition, underground feminist practices in the urban ethnoscape of Los Angeles restores womb and taste healing memories.

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2:30 PM PST

Presentation Title: Constructing a Resource Beyond Parenting as a Black Vegan: Discussing Geography and Theology and Their Contradictions Within

Candace M. Laughinghouse

Regent University, PhD Candidate (Theology of Animals)

 Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: Surprisingly, I receive more support from non-blacks when it comes to parenting as a black vegan. Within the black community, I am guaranteed heavy doses of skepticism and defensive responses if I choose to reveal that my children have never ingested a hot dog, hamburger, bacon, and chicken!  But beyond parenting as a black vegan are the challenges that relate to geography, theology, and even my own appearance. The Sistah vegan movement (as I like to call it) is inspiring as I pursue a doctoral degree in theology of animals and the effects on black theology. As a parent, my job is to protect my children and teach them the road to fulfillment in life involves education, using their talents, and compassion for all sentient beings.  I want to present the above topics as many black parents have a theological foundation that can be seen as contradictory to being vegan.

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3:05 PM PST

Panel DiscussionYoga for the Stress Free Soul Sista

And Radical Self-Care Teaching: Exploring Privilege in Yoga & Veganism for Girls of Color

with Sari Leigh

Anacostia Yogi www.anacostiayogi.com

and

Kayla Bitten

Length: 50 minutes (40 minute discussion; 10 minutes Q&A)

Abstract: Sari Leigh will give black women,  practical yoga tools to help resolve stressful home situations, past racial traumas, heartbreaks and reconnecting to spirit. Participants will learn the 15 second Mind Cleanse, A Soulful Flow yoga sequence and the revolutionary power of Mantra.  Kayla Bitten will address how, on a daily basis, we people of color continue to reap the oppressive consequences of a society who refuses to see us as part of the movement to a society of innovative development and solidarity. Working with young girls and women, Kayla has witnessed first hand the effects of a society whose racist and misogynistic views has stifled them; stifled them in a way that has them questioning their worth, pushing them to participate in harmful ways of nourishment both physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and their all around position as a young girls of color living in America. Advocating ways to engage in radical self love and care is an important practice that Kayla teaches these promising young girls. She achieves this through eating habits and yoga, but she also continues to realize the lack of representation in an area where engaging in such self care is considered ‘for white people only’ (or westernized to an unnoticeable position), blatantly financially unattainable, not having the access, or being taught by those who do not have an ‘all inclusive’ work ethic. Kayla will discuss how we can began to help young girls learn and unlearn ways to decolonize and resist through acts of self care such as accessibility to spaces where we can learn about vegan/vegetarianism/ healthy eating (and ultimately how to create our own spaces where these resources can be attainable) and yoga.

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Break 4:00 pm PST

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4:20 PM PST

Open Discussion: Reflections on the Sistah Vegan Anthology

Moderator: Dr. A. Breeze Harper (tenative)

Length:  35 minutes

In 2010, Lantern Books published Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society. It was the first book of its kind to centralize the Black female vegan experience in the USA. Regardless of racial or ethnic identity, all are invited to openly dialogue about how Sistah Vegan anthology, as well as the Sistah Vegan Blog, affected their lives. How did you end up with the book? What chapters stood out for you? Did you give the book to a friend or family? Do you teach with the book? What would you like to see in the second volume? Email sistahvegan (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to participate. Space is limited, so please reserve your spot.

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5:00 PM PST

End of Conference Keynote Address:

Is Black Decolonization Possible in a Moral Economy of Neoliberal Whiteness? How USA Black Vegan Liberation Rhetoric Often Perpetuates Tenets of Colonial Whiteness 

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Research Fellow

Department of Human Ecology, Community and Regional Development

University of California Davis

Length: 60 minutes (45 minute presentation; 15 minute Q&A) 

Abstract:   For this concluding keynote, I analyze the food that a popular Black vegan guru promotes in order to ‘purify’, ‘decolonize,’ and ‘liberate’ Black Americans from legacies of colonialism and racism. First, through an Afrocentric framework, I show how this Afrocentric philosopher resists anti-black conceptualizations of Black women as “unfeminine” and “breeders.” Such a stance is empowering and a declaration of anti-racism against the mainstream USA narrative that Black women and girls are disposable and worthless. After this analysis, I use Black feminist theorizing to explore how the meanings this famous health activist places on particular vegan commodities, unconsciously reproduces heterosexist, ableist, and black middle-class ‘reformist’ conceptualizations of a ‘healthy’ Black nation. Lastly, I explore how USA Black vegan consumer activism may often be at the expense of oppressing other vulnerable communities (i.e. how certain Black liberation empowering super-foods come to us because of economic policies embedded in neoliberal whiteness).  If we engage in vegan consumerism without regard for how our vegan commodities get to us (i.e. sweatshops, child slavery, displacement of indigenous communities) what does this truly mean in terms of liberation, as well at the limits of decolonization within a USA capitalist moral economy?

Registration Fee:  $45.00

Click here to register

I ask for a registration fee to pay speakers, pay for webinar service, and also to fund the Sistah Vegan project to become a non-profit organization. Go here to learn more about that.

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