The Sistah Vegan Project

Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities

I went to the Live Oak Festival in Berkeley today. The only stand that I was really interested in was PM Press, located in Oakland, CA. I knew I was on to something when I saw pro-vegan and anti-racism books on the same table. The man tabling was named Steven Stothard (I will admit it that it is not often that I meet white guys with a BA in Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality studies).

So, folk are always asking me what I am reading to work towards liberation. Well, here are some titles from PM’s table that I will be starting this month. I am really excited about all of them, but am most excited about Don’t Leave You Friends Behind. Here is description of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind:

A collection of suggestions, tips, and narratives on ways everyone can support parents, children, and caregivers involved in social movements, this book focuses on social justice, mutual aid, and collective liberation. One of the few books dealing with community support for issues facing children and families, this reflection on inclusivity in social awareness offers real-life ways to reach out to the families involved in campaigns such as the Occupy Movement. Contributors include the Bay Area Childcare Collective, the London Pro-Feminist Men’s Group, and Mamas of Color Rising.

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Sick of Children’s Music That Promotes Speciesism? Me Too.

As a picky mom when it comes to my children’s musical entertainment, it is hard to find vegan-friendly and non-human animal friendly music! I am glad we have Michal “Peanut” Karmi to help change that.

Michal is amazing and she visited us here in Berkeley, CA a few days ago. We met Michal a few years ago while she was in graduate school at UC Berkeley. A very committed animal rights oriented vegan, she also has the unique talent of connecting amazingly with little kids through song. My children, 2.5 and 5, are obsessed with her first album. She has a new album she is working on and I highly recommend it. It will help kids think in non-human animal friendly ways. And let’s face it: most children’s music albums in the USA are quite speciesist.  Please support her newest album through this kickstarter campaign. Also, enjoy the photos of her singing to our family. She is a wonderful spirit!

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The Best Damn Vegan Oriented Children’s Singer: Meet Michal Peanut Karmi

Michal is amazing and she visited us here in Berkeley, CA a few days ago. We met Michal a few years ago while she was in graduate school at UC Berkeley. A very committed animal rights oriented vegan, she also has the unique talent of connecting amazingly with little kids through song. My children, 2.5 and 5, are obsessed with her first album. She has a new album she is working on and I highly recommend it. It will help kids think in pro-vegan and anti-speciesist ways. And let’s face it: most children’s music albums in the USA are quite speciesist.  Please support her newest album through this kickstarter campaign. Also, enjoy the photos of her singing to our family. She is a wonderful spirit!

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[Dollar] Green Capitalism?: Starbucks, Oprah, and Educational Access in a Cup of Organic Chai

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I just left Seattle the morning of May 9 2014. While at the SEATAC airport, I spotted this advertisement. This is what I thought when I first saw the photo:

Once again, buying objects as a way towards social Justice, within a capitalist moral economy, seems contradictory. As if all you need to do is ‘buy’ your way into a cleaner conscious, through the site of Starbucks; an entity that sources ingredients from largely global South regions through methods that are mostly not fair trade.

So, Starbucks, tell me this: how does one extrapolate resources from certain regions of the world in an unethical manner, and then put up campaigns above that ensure patrons that whenever they buy this Oprah approved product, it goes towards creating better educational access for vulnerable populations? Am I missing something here?

Only 10 percent of the coffee Starbucks sells is Fair Trade Certified. As the largest buyer of coffee beans in the world, it seems like they should probably be trying a lot harder. After all, I am pretty sure that the people working under unequal conditions to harvest coffee beans for Starbucks most likely do not have educational opportunities that allow their communities to thrive, as well as not be so dependent on “green” capitalism.

Just my two cents.

[VIDEO] “What’s Sustainable?” Vegan and Vegetarian Black Men of Hip Hop Tell It Like it Is

 

Title: “What’s Sustainable?” Vegan&Vegetarian Black Men of Hip Hop Tell It Like it Is

Description: My talk I gave at Pacific Lutheran University on May 8, 2014 in Washington. I look at DJ Cavem, Bryant Terry, and Ashel Eldridge. Please note that my battery ran out about 10 minutes before the talk ended. This is the beginning stages of a book I am working out. It is very ‘introductory’ and I know I still have a lot more work to do. Below are the pivotal questions I am trying to answer.

  • How are black men of the hip hop generation responding to living in a nation in which structural racism, negro-phobia, speciesism, and white supremacist based moral system have been the norm since colonialism?
  • How does the Black vegan Hip Hop movement offer different ways of consuming, as well as being a ‘real’ man, from race-conscious, decolonial, eco-sustainable, and anti-specieist points of view?
  • How do prominent Black male Hip Hop vegans use Hip Hop to teach how food and health have been negatively shaped by corporate capitalism and a meat-centered industrialized food system?

“Real G’s Got Hoes”: Veganism, Black Masculinity, and Ethical Consumption(The Remix)

Here is the video to my latest talk I gave at Oberlin College a few days ago, “G’s Up Hoes Down”: Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption: The Remix. Just note that am one of the rare Black folk who didn’t grow up listening to a lot of hip hop or being engaged with hip hop culture to a significant degree in the USA. I was raised in an all white and rural working class New England town Lebanon, Connecticut. I listened to classical music from European and American USA traditions (my twin was much ‘cooler’ and he listened to hip hop and rap). Hence,  there is a lot I need to learn more about Hip Hop as I continued this much needed research. You also should know that this is the beginning stages of my book research and talks on this. What does that mean? Much will change, including my analysis and how I ‘understand’ what is going on with these men’s fabulous work as I work towards finishing this project by 2016. Enjoy.

“Mama, Do Police Eat Animals?” A Preschooler Navigates a World of Contradictions and Confusion

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Eva Luna (2.5 yrs) and Sun (5 yrs)

The other day, my 5 year old asked papa and I, “Do police eat [animal] meat?”
“Yes Sun, most do,” I replied.
“Why? I thought they weren’t supposed to do bad things,” Sun said.
In Sun’s mind, police are supposed to protect and keep everyone safe, including animals. He does not understand why most police officers would eat non-human animals.
Oh my, how to I explain this to a five year old? How do I first explain that we live in a culture dominated by capitalism and that the police aren’t necessarily here to protect people and non-humans animals; that they are part of a system of domination and oppression that keep the 1% and their interests/investments/wealth ‘protected'; that the 1% are invested in speciesism, as well as racism, classism, and sexism to name a few? And how do I then try to explain that eating non-human animals vs. not eating non-human animals isn’t a simple binary of ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’?
But, he is 5 years old, and he and his little sister are the only ones at their nursery school whose ‘protein’ for lunch is plant meat. He notices these things and starting to ask pretty critical questions about what he observes his friends and peers doing.

The other day, I found out that Sun had ‘learned’ from his friends at the playground that ‘squishing ants is okay.’ Me and my husband were disturbed by this. We had both taught him to never kill or harm insects or spiders unless they were obviously hurting him (i.e. pulling a deer tick off of you). He has witnessed us peacefully and politely removing insects and spiders from the house, over a hundred times. While transporting the beings outside, he has heard us explain to him, over and over again, why it is so important to not kill or hurt them. We have spent a lot of time asking questions like, “You wouldn’t want a dinosaur to come along and squish you or your sister, would you?” And he has agreed with us many times that that isn’t something he would like to experience. We have even heard him explain to Eva Luna, his 2.5 year old sister, that she too shouldn’t hurt insects or spiders because, “Eva, how would you like it if someone squished you? Then you’d be dead and never see us again. We ‘d be so sad.” He seemed to get it.
But then, on Easter Sunday, while walking on our family hike, I heard him tell Eva Luna not to step on a beetle crossing in front of his feet. He said, “It’s not okay to step on insects….but it’s okay to squish ants.”
Hold up! Say what!?
I knew several of his friends at the playground were squishing ants for fun, and I had told Sun that what they were doing was wrong and not to do it. He seemed to get it at the time. However, after telling Eva Luna this during our hike, I said, “Where did you learn that from? Have you been killing ants at the playground?” He admitted that he recently had because his friends had done it. I asked him how many times he had done it and he said it had been more than once.
I told my husband and we both told him we were very disappointed as well as upset with his actions. We explained to him that what he had done was uncompassionate and that we didn’t care what his friends do: you simply don’t kill or harm insects and spiders.
Later that night, Oliver (my husband) sat with him to find videos of dying ants on YouTube so Sun could understand what it means to kill another being. However, I don’t know if he really understood the implications of “killing for the sake of killing”, even if it’s “just an ant.”
My mind has been spinning around on how to address his questions about police, animal meat eating, and also his own actions that contradict everything I have told him and everything he has seen me do. Yes, I know he is only 5 years old, and yes, though I’m his mom and telling him all these things, he will ‘stray’ and be influenced by a mainstream world in which it’s okay to eat animals without thinking deeply about it, it’s okay to treat females as sex objects, it’s okay to be hetero-sexist, etc.
Any suggestions on how to give him the tools he will need to think critically and act in a way that is more compassionate and mindful, despite what everyone else is doing? I’ve already read him Ruby Roth’s vegan books for children, many times. I know I can only do my best, as it may very well be that he still decides to do the exact opposite of everything I try to teach him.

Afro-Vegan Book Launch Party and Bryant Terry: Video of Speech and Photos.

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I love Bryant Terry’s spirit. What a truly awesome being with endless talent and dedication. At the beginning of April 2014, Terry’s book launch party for Afro-Vegan took place in Oakland, CA at Impact HUB. It was a packed house of lots of people of color supporting this brother’s 4th book. Below is the video of Bryant giving his speech, along with two other folk whose Richmond, CA work inspire him. I also attended the event with my family and took photos.

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Luna and Sun Harper Zahn.

Luna and Sun Harper Zahn basically ate kale chips 1/2 the time.

Me and Kira.

Me and Kira.

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Ashara Ekundayo.

Ashara Ekundayo.

Bryant looking 'sharp' as my mom would say.

Bryant looking ‘sharp’ as my mom would say.

Tastes of Africa Serving up Vegan yumminess.

Tastes of Africa Serving up Vegan yumminess.

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Was honored that Bryant placed my book on the alter here in front of the stage he spoke on.

Was honored that Bryant placed my book on the alter here in front of the stage he spoke on.

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I'm laughing because I asked him to sign her instead of his cookbook.

I’m laughing because I asked him to sign her instead of his cookbook.

Lucky baby. Kira has gotten to meet Angela Davis and Bryant Terry within several months of being born. :-)

Lucky baby. Kira has gotten to meet Angela Davis and Bryant Terry within several months of being born. :-)

What Would Jesus Do? Easter Dinner and Lamb as Sites to Understand One’s Jesus, Compassion, and Consumption

Several things happened today, while I was walking with Kira Satya today, my five month old daughter. We were walking down Euclid St. in Berkeley, towards University of California, Berkeley. In the window of the convenience store at the corner of Ridge and Euclid, there was a poster up. I decided to take a photo of it:

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I thought it would have been more effective to type in ‘them’ instead of ‘him’, if the poster is implying that Christ or Buddha have reincarnated and are alive amongst us today. I wondered what the question assumed. I wondered what most people assumed the answer to be. Would Christ or Buddha reincarnate into a human? If so, would the human be a ‘him’/man/male? What if they reincarnated into a non-human being, like a blade of grass or the lamb taken away from his or her mama to be eaten by some humans who are celebrating Jesus for Easter dinner?

Then again, I am asking these questions as someone who is not a practitioner of Christianity, but have been born and raised in a culture in which Christianity is the national norm. Since I can remember, I have been bombarded with images of “Easter”, which have included chicken eggs, chocolate treats (usually via child slavery from wonderful corporations like Hershey and Nestle), and lamb dinners. It wasn’t until I encountered the scholarship of critical animal studies and critical consumption studies that I stopped accepting these traditions as non-problematic.

While walking down Cedar street, at the intersection of Shattuck Ave, I passed by the new butcher shoppe, which teaches those who can afford it, how to butcher the non-human animals. It really seems to be a trendy practice amongst ‘hip’ Easy Basy/SF people, tauted as ‘sustainable’, ‘local’ and ‘more humane’ than non-human animals raised for consumption in standard industrial agricultural space. The shoppe had this sign up:

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I am intrigued by the phenomenon of eating lamb for Easter dinner as a way to celebrate Jesus. I think of how in Christianity, the image of mother Mary holding baby Jesus is very sacred for millions. I also think of how that same type of sacredness is not afforded to the lamb and mother sheep who are torn apart to celebrate Easter. I invite people to discuss this with me, as well as my perception of what I find very contradictory to the construction of a Jesus that was supposedly all-loving and wanted to teach people how to alleviate and avoid perpetuating suffering and pain.

I also thought about Kira Satya and me and how it would be ‘insane’ for her to be taken from me to be eaten in order to celebrate the life of someone’s deity who supposedly embodied love and compassion.

The same can be said for the hundreds of thousands of Easter eggs that come out of the mass exploitation of chickens, whose babies are taken away from them. It’s amazing how here in the USA, these realities are made invisible to the plethora of children (and adults) who eagerly await celebrating Easter through the consumption of Easter eggs, lamb, as well as chocolate treats sourced from child slavery in the Ivory Coast.

What would Jesus do if they saw this sign hanging in front of the Butcher Shoppe? What would Buddha do?

These are hypothetical questions, as I know they are not going to have a ‘universal’ answer, but I’d like to start the conversation.

When ‘All you need is a good fuck’ doesn’t get you fired.

WARNING: May be triggering for those who are survivors of sexual assault and harassment.

This is a short message, but it’s been something on my mind this week and I’m not really sure why.

When I was attending Harvard as a grad student, my friend told me that at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard, there was a faculty and staff meeting. One of the few women in the department attended this meeting. She expressed her concern and complaints about something. One of the white male professors responded to her, “Maybe all you need is a good fuck.” He didn’t get in trouble. He didn’t lose his job. All though this happened about 8 years ago, I think about this story often and wonder why he did not get in trouble; I wonder how it made this woman feel. How unsafe she may have felt. It’s disgusting, but not surprising that this man did not get in serious trouble. I wonder if anyone in that room– any men– said anything to that sexually harassing man.

Just a quick post and thought.

(sigh)

Pineapple Mint Sorbetto: What is Your Favorite Vegan Ice Cream or Sorbet Place in East Bay/SF Bay California?

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This morning we went to Almare Gelato in downtown Berkeley, CA on Shattuck Ave. They have freshly made gelato and sorbetto every day using natural ingredients. Today Luna (above in the photo, 2.5 years old), Kira (5 months), and Sun (5 years) had Pineapple Mint sorbetto and it was fantastic. They also had kiwi as well as strawberry sorbetto, but our favorite was the pineapple mint combination. There were even fresh mint leaves in the sorbetto, not the fake crap.

Almare Gelato’s sorbetto flavors are very rich and creamy. I have never experienced such creamy soft sorbetto in the USA. We had this type of sorbetto when we were in Italy (of course), so I’m pleasantly surprised that we have

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                                (Sun and Luna)

access to similar experiences here in the East Bay area of California.

Do you live in the SF Bay/East Bay area? If so, what are your favorite vegan frozen dessert places?

Happy Kale Kids: How My Preschoolers Enjoy Their Greens

Luna and Sun devour kale in every form. Today they devoured a bag of Alive and Radiant Foods Quite Cheezy kale flavored snacks. Raw, organic, and yummy snacks at the playground. They were on sale for $3.50 as opposed to $6. I usually like making my own kale chips because of such high cost, but today I treated them. I recommend trying this on finicky little eaters.

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A Vegan Driving a Hummer vs. Omnivore driving a Prius: The Writing’s on the Wall

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Check out the photo above. I took this photo on March 15, 2014, just before I gave a talk at UC Berkeley for their Activists at the Table conference. This was on the stall wall of a bathroom. Perfect timing. I won’t analyze too much. Instead , I will leave it up to you to read and comment.

[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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Angela Davis on a revolutionary perspective

Dr. A. Breeze Harper:

Angela Davis on veganism, nonhuman animal cruelty, and commodities in a capitalist culture

Originally posted on KVARM:

I wonder why Hochschartner didn’t link the transcript from the 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference in his article which is basically a series of quotes from Angela Davis. Oddly he linked the wrong blog when quoting Dr.Davis again from a blogpost with video A. Breeze Harper uploaded. Hochschartner is a rubbish writer and uses ‘blind’ as a slur, but what to do, the existing talk and Q&A are getting more attention just because he writes for money, or something. Is there a bias that perhaps gets put on hold from reading a non-vegan publication or one that has a version that costs money? Here are the quotes (not a rehash of his article) from “On Revolution: A Conversation Between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis”, part of the 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference, ‘A Holistic Approach: Justice, Access and Healing’.

“I usually don’t mention that I’m…

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How I Got to the Podium: Ivy League Vegan Conference, Breastfeeding in Public, and Being Professional

This past weekend I gave the keynote talk at the Princeton University hosted Ivy League Vegan Conference. My talk was titled Oppositional Bodies of Knowledge: Black Feminist Perspective on Race, Gender and Embodiment in Vegan Politics. Here are my thoughts and the recorded talk.

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Below are the notes I wanted to use to start an interactive dialogue around [invisible] whiteness. However, I didn’t get a chance to do that but wanted to share the notes with you anyway. These notes are the vegan oriented version of Peggy McKinstosh’s famous essay about white privilege (Also, for more thoughts on this, look at Emptying the White Knapsack that was just posted.). Let’s use these tools to continue the conversation, okay?

Unpacking

Oppositional Bodies of Knowledge: Race, Gender, and Embodiment in Veganism

I will be giving the keynote address for the Ivy League Vegan Conference this weekend, in Princeton, NJ on Feb. 8, 2014 at Princeton University. My talk is titled: Oppositional Bodies of Knowledge: A Black Feminist Perspective on Race, Gender, and Embodiment in Vegan Politics. it is from 230pm to 4pm.

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I am very honored to be speaking at this event about these topics. When I first started The Sistah Vegan Project and anthology in 2005, the idea was not well received by the mainstream. I received comments and rants about how race, whiteness, and power had nothing to do with veganism or animal liberation work. My inquiries were seen as pointless and even racist (because apparently interrogating the phenomenon of racial dynamics through social science training is ‘racist’ [shaking my head]). However, I stuck to my scholarly research and got the Deans award for my Masters thesis work at Harvard. Six years later, I graduated summa cum laude from UC Davis with a PhD in intersections of critical race and critical food geographies. My dissertation pushed the envelope further about racial power dynamics and whiteness within the landscape of veganism , during a global era of racial neoliberalism .  I am honored as well as looking forward to returning to my old stomping ground of Princeton, where I lived from 1998 to 1999.

Go here to learn more about the conference, speakers, and more.

Sometimes I feel I’m being punished for daring to have children

Sun (4), Eva Luna (2), and Kira Satya (12 weeks).

Sun (4), Eva Luna (2), and Kira Satya (12 weeks), in the stroller yesterday while we took a snack break, walking to the playground.

Here is a snippet from my journal entry from yesterday. Just a moment of frustration I’d like to share.

After walking up a hill from Totland playground for 75 minutes, I get to the 65 AC Transit bus stop with my stroller [, at Cragmont and Euclid]. My 2 preschoolers are in the double stroller and I have my 2 month old attached to me in the ergo carrier. The bus pulls up 3 minutes later, the door opens, 7 people exit from the bus. The driver looks at me and the stroller and says, “I don’t have room for you. Sorry,” then closes the door and drives away. Am just amazed that the people sitting where the stroller would go can’t move they asses and make room for me and my kids. Yea, the bus had a lot of people in it, but room COULD HAVE BEEN MADE. I would have and do make room for similar situations. But no, just sit on your asses and stare at us from out of the window; don’t stick up for me or tell the bus driver that some of you can MAKE ROOM. Oh Berkeley, if not here, then where?

Once again, feeling punished for daring to have children. 

The next bus wouldn’t come for another 35 minutes. I think that the bus could have fit us. It was not packed; especially since about 7 people had exited the bus. I am sure the bus driver isn’t a horrible or bad person, but I’m wondering how or why this can happen. Maybe he was just having a bad day? Perhaps he felt stressed and needed to ‘be on schedule.’ I jsut don’t know.

In terms of the folk who just ‘stare’ when they could be doing something to remedy a problem….Berkeley is supposed to be this progressive and social-justice oriented region of the USA, but there are many moments like these in which I feel like something is amiss. I have had several challenges with taking public transportation while with my children who were in our double stroller.

Does anyone else have experiences like this with public transportation, or is it really just me?

‘Speciesism: The Movie’ | Review + Further Recommendations

Dr. A. Breeze Harper:

About Speciesism the movie.

Originally posted on The Broccoli Bulletin:

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Mark Twain

Speciesism: The Movie

Last week, on January 23rd, ‘Speciesism: The Movie’ made its Texas premiere at The Magnolia theater in Dallas. The documentary was written, directed and produced by Mark Devries, who was present at the screening.

Walking into the film, I expected an exposé about the way humans treat nonhuman animals, along with a philosophical discussion. I wasn’t wrong, but I also wasn’t expecting much humor. While I had heard that the movie had some humorous moments, I was surprised to find myself (and other attendees) truly laughing out loud several times. Devries himself narrates the documentary, managing to articulate and raise important questions about complex and heavy issues without boring the audience. He made us laugh, without belittling the issues. For those wondering, animal abuse footage was kept to a minimum.

Speciesism: The Movie

Devries, who was not…

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Dear Dr. Angela Davis….

Dear Dr. Angela Davis,

I saw you at the Farmer’s Market in Oakland, CA yesterday. I was too shy to approach you myself. However, my lovely husband convinced me to go up to you and introduce myself briefly. I know you must get scores of people each day, coming up to you. Who can blame us, as you have been an inspiration for so many!

The last time we had a brief interaction was back in February 2012, at the University of California Davis, where I was earning my PhD. You had given a talk as part of the social justice teach-in, initiated by the university after the 2011 pepper-spray incident. I asked you to give the audience more explanation about your take on the treatment of non-human animals. I was so pleased to hear your anti-speciesist take on the suffering that goes into the production of a chicken meal. You reminded us that most people’s lack of awareness around the suffering was a dangerous sign of how our minds have been colonized by capitalism. It is rare that I find scholars who are both black feminist oriented and conscious of how speciesism is imbricated in USA capitalist moral economy. I often have felt lonely and the ‘sole’ black feminist scholar who understands how both anti-capitalism and anti-speciesism do, and must, fit into social justice scholarship and activism.

Yesterday, I didn’t think you would remember me; but, you said that you did. I wish I had had a copy of Sistah Vegan on me to give to you, as I am sure you would enjoy it. Though we may never meet in person again, I just wanted to let you know that you have made a tremendous impact on my life and I know for a fact that my children will feel that impact. The photo of you, me, and my youngest newborn daughter Kira Satya is a moment I will treasure forever.

Kira Satya Harper-Zahn (2 months old), Breeze Harper, and Dr. Angela Davis. Jan 25, 2014. Grand Lake Farmer's Market, Oakland, CA.

Kira Satya Harper-Zahn (2 months old), Breeze Harper, and Dr. Angela Davis. Jan 25, 2014. Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, Oakland, CA.

On this 26th Day of January, 2014, I want to wish you a happy 70th birthday. I feel truly blessed that you were birthed into a world that truly needs a spirit such as yourself, to help transform our minds and start the necessary process of decolonization that includes both the lives of humans as well as non-human animals.

Best,

Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper

Going beyond “What’s your excuse [for not being skinny like me]?”

Even though this is posted Jan 26, 2014, I wrote this about a month ago.

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I have 3 kids  under the age of 5, what”s your excuse?

I have 3 kids, so whats your excuse…?

Oh wait, wrong photo… That was before I had kids. LOL.  Today I just wanted to share with you that bodies change; my body changes and I’m okay with that. I think it’s detrimental to most of our mental health and happiness to start asking ourselves or even others, What’s your excuse [for not looking a certain way]? 

I videoed myself about 5 1/2 weeks ago, and showed how my belly looked more like I was 7 months pregnant. My uterus was still huge, 10 days postpartum.  So, right now, it is December 21, 2013. I am about 7 1/2 weeks post partum. We’re going to celebrate Winter Solstice tomorrow at Limantour Beach. I will be wearing my orange bikini of course, and this is what I’ll look like.

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December 20, 2013. 7 weeks postpartum.

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December 20, 2013. 7 weeks postpartum.

Stretchy, leathery, multi-colored, post-partum pouch belly: this is after 3 full term pregnancies. My belly looks like I’m about 4 1/2 months pregnant. I have mentioned this before, but plenty of people (even those who have had babies) publicly chastise women for revealing their postpartum bellies in public if they have stretch marks, are ‘pouchy’, don’t have hard abs, etc. That’s just not cool. A fellow Sistah Vegan wrote that she posted her photo of her post-partum bikini body on Facebook and more than one friend told her that she couldn’t believe that she would display her stomach because her stomach had the typical loose skin, pouchy, discolored look that most post-partum bellies look like. Wow, why would you tell your friend that and what exactly is wrong with anyone being out wearing their bikini with their unique and changing body type, period? My husband bought me this bathing suit 8 years ago. The first photo at the beginning of this post was from 2005 and the first day I wore it. It was my birthday present.

My bikini and I have been through three pregnancies, to Mexico, Italy, Plum Island, and California to name a few.  No matter what, I wear this bikini whenever I can, pre pregnancy, during pregnancy, and postpartum, whether I am 121lb with no stretch marks, or 144lb with stretch marks; whether I have a flat tummy, or have a beautifully stretched out post-partum belly, you can’t take me away from wearing my bikini!

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Fall 2013, pregnant with #3.

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Fall 2013, pregnant with baby 3.

In Mexico, Jan. 2012 with Eva Luna. 5.5 months post partum.

In Mexico, Jan. 2012 with Eva Luna, baby #2. 5.5 months post partum.

When in Mexico (see above) , I looked about four months pregnant and I didn’t care. Anyway, the point of my blog post is to basically share that all our bodies change, we all live our unique lives and situations and shouldn’t be bullying anyone about ‘What’s your excuse’? It’s just plain rude, unmindful, and cruel. Most likely, my body will never look like it did before I had babies, but I just thought it was important for me to share that this is what it looks like now, and despite being trained in this US culture to hide it and be ashamed of it, or have to answer to certain people who demand, “What’s your excuse for [not looking like me], I have 3 kids under the age of 4?”

Back in 2012, I wrote a comical blog piece about how most of us women who have had babies, can look like Beyoncé, several months after giving birth. Click here (Look Like Beyonce at Giving Birth) for a little laugh.

Artist Sarah Juanita Dorsey on Black Lesbian Experience, Class, and Race in Cover Art Inspiration for Scars

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Sarah Juanita Dorsey created the artwork (see above) that will grace the cover of my new book Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers, 2014). Below is a 5 minutes video that explains Dorsey’s inspiration behind the gorgeous and intricate work of art. I am psyched that the cover was designed by a like-minded woman of color and that her creative genius so well suits the protagonist of Scars, Savannah Penelope Sales.

More about Scars

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

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

Chia seeds: How do I maximize their nutritional power?

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So, I have a simple question in which a Google search reveals complicated and confusing answers: how should I prepare and eat chia seeds to absorb their nutrients?

For the past three years, I soak the seeds for ten minutes in water. I have put 2 ounces in a blender with 20 oz of water and blend for 2 minutes on high. I have a Vitamix. I do this because I thought one passes seeds without absorbing anything if they are eaten whole and not ground up or chewed thoroughly.However, every where on the internet that has information about how to eat them says to eat whole. Huh?
If I wanted to eat them for fiber and hydration I get why I would eat them whole. However, the chia seed is marketed to be packed with nutrients like Omega 3, calcium, and boron, hence, I assume one absorbs those nutrients once they eat the seed grounded or milled.

What is the right way to eat chia seeds for maximum nutrition absorption?

Product Review: Earth Balance Vegan Aged White Cheddar Puffs

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Finally, a vegan white cheddar puff snack! I have not had cheese puffs, made from cow dairy, since 2005! So, Earth Balance makes a vegan one and that is pretty cool.

Pros:

They use navy beans powder for the ‘cheese’. 180 mg of sodium per serving, which isn’t bad. I hate salty things, so this was a pleasant surprise. 3g of protein per serving. A full bag has 4 servings but I can easily eat the whole thing in one sitting. They use non GMO corn and no soy.

Cons:

Earth Balance , why is your packaging not recyclable or compostable? Also, at nearly $4 a bag, I would expect all the ingredients to be organic. None are organic!

Overall, great taste, texture, and size! A nice step up from Veggie Booty, but since it is pricey, I will probably buy it a few times per year! Would buy more often if it were organic and of the company had better packaging.

What are your thoughts?

10 Things You May Not Know About Sistah Vegan

Ten Things You May Not Know About Me (Not that you asked…)

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1) Beyonce has a new album. Everyone is using social media to say how brilliant it is…also asking if she is or isn’t a ‘feminist’. [Updated Dec 17, 2013 16:55 PM PDT]. I kind of don’t care because I expect to be disappointed. For some, Beyonce  represents neoliberalism/corporate capitalism feminism that doesn’t challenge structural inequality the way black feminists such as bell hooks , Audre Lorde, and Patricia Hill Collins have defined a canon of [black] feminism……But girl know she can sing and dance and I totally LOVE the video “Single Ladies” because I think the dancing and choreography are brilliant. :-)

2) I’ve never watched a MLB baseball, NBA basketball, or NFL football game (on tv or in a stadium) in my life.  Nor do I have any desire to do so.

3) Am impartial about ‘the holidays’ and have never participated in Black Friday. I honestly don’t get the point of Black Friday. I am not comfortable receiving gifts, let alone gifts for any holidays that, for the most part, have been commercialized and exist to make CEOs richer in the USA…But I bust out the Nat King Cole xmas album every holiday season listen to it a gazillion times.

4) Have never watched Scandal or Breaking Bad. I guess it would help if I had a tv and cable I guess.

5) I wrote my first porn themed story when I was 11, yet didn’t lose my virginity until I was 25.

6) I have never had a cup of coffee nor do I wish to drink a cup of coffee. The smell of coffee has made me feel sick, since I was a child.

7) I can’t dance (despite being Black). LOL.

8) I am an agnostic and was raised in an agnostic household.

9) I use a bidet and poop with the door open (hey, how else can I monitor my newborn, 2 year old, and 4 year old?).

10) Am an introvert and am incredibly uncomfortable in social situations, but have ‘learned’ to be a better social animal.

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