The Sistah Vegan Project

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.

“G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption Remixed

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I’ll be giving a talk at Oberlin College at 7:30pm EST on May 2, 2014. I am super psyched because it is part of my new research for my new book. The ‘remix’ in the title was inspired by Bryant Terry’s new vegan cookbook Afro-VeganG’s Up Hoes Down was inspired by DJ Cavem’s song “G’s up hoes down.” I’ll be looking at both of these amazing men’s work.

If you can’t attend, don’t panic. I record and upload all my talks to this blog.

Title: “G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption Remixed.

Location: Oberlin College. Science Center’s Dye Lecture Hall on 119 Woodland St.

Time: 7:30pm EST

Description: Vegan mainstream rhetoric often falls into a post-racial mindset; that is, the assumption that since the Civil Rights Acts, racism and legacies of colonialism are no longer significant impediments to achieving equality in the USA. Furthermore, rarely does the vegan mainstream reflect on how structural racism shapes one’s logic, goals, and communication strategies around ethical consumption. For this lecture, Dr. Harper will explore how key Black male vegetarians and vegans are employing hip-hop methods to create race-conscious and decolonial approaches to vegetarian and vegan activism.  These men are examples of alternative black masculinities, cooking up complex and complicated models of ethical consumption, environmental justice, and nutritional activism that you won’t find in the popular PETA campaigns or the bestselling books Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard. 

DJ Cavem is on the Right.

Craig “Doodlebug” Irving (Left), Breeze Harper (Center), and DJ Cavem(Right)

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)

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