The Sistah Vegan Project

On my new novel, funding change, hip hop vegan book, and my birthday campaign

 

Ok, I am going to be more direct. I have had a problem with having enough confidence to ask for help. Here’s the deal: I have 5000+ followers combined, in terms of FB, Twitter, and my WordPress blog. I need SV project to be funded. I have done so much for folk and I am simply asking for $5-$10 per fan (if you can afford it) to help me do this work FULL TIME. If I could get 5000+ folk to do this, I could continue to grow this work and help humans and non-human animals even more effectively. Thus far, I received less than $200 in donations, since asking this for my birthday campaign raising wishes on May 30, 2014. I do appreciate what has already been donated, but I need more for this project to survive and thrive!

Last year I raised $4000 of the $80,000 I need (that is what gofundme shows right now: the combined total, not just the $200 from last week). So, let me know if you can invest in me and the SV Project. I write books, but I don’t get advances and I get about $600 a year in royalties from Sistah Vegan. I had a Research Fellow appointment at UC Davis, from 2013-2014, but it was unpaid(some people have asked why I need a salary for Sistah Vegan when I have a ‘job’ at UC Davis). This is my birthday wish for this year. Consider doing automatic monthly donations of about $5-$15 per month: Go Fund Me : http://www.gofundme.com/33mv2k

If you can’t afford to donate money, please consider donating in other ways: marketing, editing, etc. For example, several women donated their editing and proofreading skills to make Scars possible. I was so overjoyed by such kindness. Others have offered to use social media to market last years Sistah Vegan confernce events.

More about my new novel: Scars: Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England. 

DJ Cavem’s  work and Produce Section album can be accessed here.

An intro to the new hip hop, black men, vegan book project: “Real Gs Got Hoes:” Veganism, Black Masculinity, and Ethical Consumption.

Also, below is the full painting that Sarah Juanita Dorsey painted for Scars. Come on y’all,  admit it: she is dope, brilliant, and awesome. The cover photo is a depiction of Savannah Penelope Sales, the main character.

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The Fork in the Road: Ruminations on My Birthday

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Updated: May 30, 2014 10:25 AM PST

Today, May 30, is my birthday. What a wonderful year it has been! I gave birth to my third child, Kira Satya, on November 5, 2013. Another successful vegan pregnancy, she came into the world at nearly nine pounds. My birthday wish for this year is simple: Can you help me continue doing my work by funding the project or pointing me to people you think would benefit from hearing me give lectures or act as a consultant? Thank you to everyone who helped me reach 4.5% of my goal over the last 12 months.  Thank you to those who donated in other ways, such as editing my new book as well as creating a brilliant cover for (wahoo to Sarah Dorsey who shares the same birthday) the new manuscript, guiding me through difficult times, or watching my children while I was writing a new talk.

Recap of my year

During summer 2013, and under the mentorship of stellar food systems scholar, Dr Ryan Galt, I started my new Sistah Vegan project research: gathering the perspectives of Black vegan men who use hip hop pedagogies for their food, health, and animal rights activism. (Thank you Dr. Ryan Galt for offering me the opportunity to do this work at UC Davis!)  In 2014, I presented my new research at Dickinson College, Oberlin College, and Pacific Lutheran University. I am appreciative that all three institutions provided childcare for my newborn so I could bring her with me to nurse on demand. I am also very grateful for the plethora of people who have inspired me to continue with the Sistah Vegan project, despite me wanting to give up; particularly because I felt so hopeless and questioned my purpose in Academia. Such hopelessness came after I received nothing but rejection letters from all academic positions I had applied to.

The hardest time for me came during the fall of 2013, when I received an email from someone who I had asked to write me letters of recommendations in the past. This person was one of my main professor mentors and someone I really trusted. They had emailed that they would no longer write me letters of recommendations because they had always found me to be “unprofessional” and not “intellectually rigorous” when it came to my pursuit of an Academic career. I had received that email the morning I was in labor with Kira Satya. There was really no way of telling if the letters that person wrote was the main reason I wasn’t even afforded a phone interview anywhere. Interestingly, the letter created a fork in the road for me: I could give up and give in to anger and self-pity…or, I could see the letter as an opportunity to test my commitment to the Sistah Vegan Project and try to find other ways to keep it alive…which would probably mean having to say goodbye to Academe.

After weeks of emotional and mental anguish that I allowed that letter to cause me, I decided that my 25 year goal of becoming a professor wasn’t the only way to keep my critical race, critical food, and critical vegan studies research, writing, and activism alive.  I had to remind myself that I had successfully put together the first Sistah Vegan Conference in fall 2013 and received a lot of emails from people who said the event really shifted their consciousness; the event was not affiliated with any university at all.  In addition, even though one of my main mentors had decided that they didn’t want to support me, I also had to remind myself of the many mentors who have supported me and found my way of engaging in research and activism, beneficial. I nearly let that email from this one mentor make me forget about all the other mentors who have supported me, including Carol J Adams, Psyche Williams Forson, Bryant Terry, DJ Cavem, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Kwanda and James Ford, Riche Richardson,  David Leonard, Martin Rowe , Lauren Ornelas, Katherine McKitrrick and Carolyn Finney to name a few.

So, what was the lesson learned? Not everyone will experience my way of doing things as professional or intellectually rigorous. And sometimes even those that we thought were our mentors and that we trusted may also no longer want to support our vision or our way of doing things. And you know what? That is okay.   Over the past eight months, I have tried to transition into making the Sistah Vegan Project my full time work while keeping these things in mind.

This morning, I also received word that my new novel, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New Englandis now ready for production through Sense Publishers. They are an awesome academic press. It was timely to receive the message from senior editor Patricia Leavy, a professor and a vanguard in the field of social fiction. Patricia Leavy read Scars within a week of receiving it last year. After years of me trying to find a place for my book, it was Patricia enthusiastically who offered me a contract. My work fit Sense Publisher’s new social fiction series which seeks social fiction, in the form of novels, to address societal problems. The key to the series is the use of real qualitative social science research that is translated into novel form.

Overall, I just wanted to let you know that when I receive emails of support from you all, it reminds me why it is important to do what I believe in and to not let obstacles deter me. Every single email I receive from my fans, really fuels me and re-centers me! Much love to all of you for your generosity and belief in my work.

Below is the organic and Vegan cake my husband and kids made for me. Yum!
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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.

“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. :-)

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