The Sistah Vegan Project

Archive for the tag “breeze harper”

Dear White [Vegan] People, Whiteness Matters Too: Books that Make You Go Hmmmm

Dear White [Animal Rights and Vegan] People,

Whiteness cannot be ignored.  I have been asked by many of you, what resources are out there to help you become aware of the consequences of being ‘post-racial’ and/or assuming anti-racism solidarity has nothing to do with your pro-vegan philosophies. Below are two phenomenal new books I just read, by white vegan anti-racist allies, pattrice jones and Martin Rowe. Please check these titles out to not only understand how ‘whiteness matters’, but how to create your own role as an ally of anti-racism and anti-speciesism.  Start now with the brilliant and engaging titles below.

Oxen At The Intersection: A Collision by pattrice jones.

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This is a brilliant book by pattrice jones. jones tries to understand what led to the death of one of two oxen (Lou and Bill) who had been living at, and exploited by, Green Mountain College in Vermont. Written in the style of a murder mystery novel, jones brings in intersectional understanding to how Green Mountain College, as well as Vermont itself, has been mythically constructed as having always been a agricultural region based on ‘animal husbandry.’ Unraveling the mystery of the ox’s death means to unravel the mystery of how colonialism, white supremacist ideas around non-human animals should be treated, and the myth of ‘locavorism’ have greatly mis-informed and mis-educated the white Vermont imagination around ‘ethical’ and ‘green’ living for a post-2000 age. Also, many time the ableist rhetoric goes unchecked in mainstream society. Able-bodied vegans are not exempt from promoting ableist notions of heath, food, and ethical consumption either. I like how jones talks about eugenics and ableism and purity of whiteness are fused together when Green  Mountain College representatives sincerely believe and tell her that when an animal is injured and is no longer ‘able-bodied’, they need to be euthanized when their injury permits them from being a ‘good slave’ for people; yet the injury isn’t life-threatening. Below are two excerpts from the book that were very central themes for me:

Skiers and leaf-peeping tourists notwithstanding, Vermont is dairy country. Even more than the state economy depends on cheddar, the state psychology rests upon the presumption that blond boy over brown cow is the natural order of things. Vermonters need to believe that this state of affairs is not only non-injurious but righteous. (location 91 in Kindle version of the book)

Meantime, thanks to advertising by the tourism and dairy industries, the mythic white male settler with his livestock came to seem to be the only authentic ancestor of Vermont. And so we come to the Green Mountain College “farm,” at which a white man sporting and old-time had and beard raises an old-time buggy whip over the back of Bill and Lou. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that the farm manager or any of his acolytes were in any way aware of the implicit whiteness of their version of rural purity. Nor do I mean to say that Green Mountain College or its friends in state government in any way  endorse the past program of eugenics and disinformation by which dairying and other forms of animal agriculture came to seem such a natural and venerable aspect of the Vermont landscape. But I am suggesting that the existential quality of the struggle over Bill and Lou– the emotional fervor with which college and state officials defended animal agriculture as if the very soul of Vermont depended upon the right of men like them to control and kill animals– was rooted in the history by which people with other ways of relating to animals were displaced by the ancestors of those who now see themselves as the rightful owners of the land and its wildlife. (location 986 in the Kindle version of the book)

You can purchase Oxen at The Intersection here or by clicking on the photo above.

The Elephants in the Room: An Excavation by Martin Rowe.

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The Elephants in the Room: An Excavation was written by Lantern Books co-founder, Martin Rowe. Another brilliant book, The Elephants in the Room guides the reader through how colonialism, white supremacy, and conservationism come to together within the sphere of human and elephant relationships in Africa. Rowe tells the story of two women from very different backgrounds: Noble Peace Price winner indigenous African Wangari Maathai, and Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the daughter of white male African imperialist. However, author Rowe does not exempt himself from the equation: as a storyteller and a man of white, class, and male privilege from England, Rowe engages in critical reflections around how his own layers of racial privilege shaped his [mis-]perceptions around his relationship to England, as well as the people and non-human animals of ‘the Dark Continent’. The book is an intelligent and thought-provoking work that brings the problems of colonial whiteness into the conversation about animal rights, conservationism, and the consequences of ignoring racial privilege during colonial and post-colonial times. Below is a notable quote from the book

Above all, I would have to confront a number of elephants: from the actual creatures we continue to slaughter, the bones of whose ancestors were stitched together in the Hall of Extinct Mammals, to the metaphorical ones that are apparent now but were, despite their seeming unavoidability, once invisible…and even now are hard to meet head on: the poisonous prejudices of racism, the troubling legacies of empire, and the noxious assumptions of patrimony and misogyny. I also needed to look at the other elephantine quality, memory, and more particularly of the evasions and occlusions that occurs when any of us try to tell our stories or those of others, and the fantasties we project onto the ‘other.’ (location in the Kindle Version of Elephants in the Room).

 

The Elephants in the Room can be purchased here. If you get a chance to check these titles out, I’d love to know what you think about them.

Best,

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Finally, a FAIR TRADE Vegan Butter that is ORGANIC and More SUSTAINABLY SOURCED!

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A lot of vegans I know use Earth Balance for their vegan butter. I stopped using Earth Balance awhile ago, after I wrote my dissertation and discovered that, at least for me, they are not as ‘ethical’ as they market themselves to be. The sourcing of their coconut and palm oil was not transparent. I did not know if the human laborers harvesting their ingredients were being treated fairly (actually, I don’t like the word ‘fairly’ so much. I like the words ‘mindfully’, ‘lovingly’ ,and ‘compassionately’ when describing the conditions in which human beings should be entitled to work/exist within.)

At the market, I saw that the company Nutiva is offering a vegan butter spread that is  organic, more sustainably sourced, and “Fair For Life” certified. I have been enjoying Nutiva’s products for years, as they offer healthy, organic, vegan and sustainably sourced items for quite a while. Their hemp products have been consumed by my family, for years. I have blogged about how I grew all my babies on Nutiva brands of hempseed oil, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. I found this new buttery product by Nutiva to be quite good and not nearly as salty as Earth Balance  ( I personally do not like salty butter spreads). I’m also grateful to see that the packaging is non-BPA (however, people are so focused on BPA-free I am wondering about other potentially harmful chemicals in packaging that not only effect the consumer, but also those who must make it in factories and the environment it usually ends up polluting). I’m just hoping that eventually these containers can be compostable. One of my biggest gripes about vegan products that tout themselves to be ‘so ethical’, is that the packaging is obnoxiously wasteful. I know a lot of resources are used to even make compostable packaging, however, I’d argue that this is far less cruel to the environment than the current packaging options used by many companies making food products, vegan or not.

(But, this post isn’t really directly about Nutiva’s buttery spreads, is it Breeze?)

It is safe to say that many of us privileged vegan consumers need to understand that MOSTLY everything we eat( unless otherwise noted via fair labor/trade practices) is mostly likely sourced via CRUEL methods. Yes, a non-human animal may not have been directly harmed in many our favorite snacks, drinks, meals, etc., but what about the human animals? There has been a lot of focus on fair trade and organic cocoa and coffee for years, but one must understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We live in a globalized capitalist world economy. By default, capitalism = exploitation of non-human animals, human animals, and what human beings (at least here in the global North) call natural resources (i.e. water, land, minerals, etc). I get a lot of people arguing with me about my definition of capitalism = exploitation as being just plain pessimistic. For the record, I draw my understanding and definitions from Henri Lefebvre, Neil Smith and Angela Davis to name a few; critical thinkers who have written and researched extensively about how capitalism is the anti-thesis of cruelty-free. Capitalism CANNOT exist without exploitation and abuse. Hence, if you are buying vegan certified products, because they are within the globalized system of capitalist economies/commodity chains, there is a very small chance that they are actually ‘cruelty-free’ beyond ‘no non-human animal was directly killed for this product to be in existence.’ I talk about this in my blog post from a few months ago, in which I critique a pro-vegan meme that suggests strawberry harvesting and ‘cruelty-free’ in comparison to watching videos of slaughterhouse animals.

Anyway, I just wanted to leave you with a few of the things that were going through my head while testing this new Nutiva product out. I really have no answers about how to create cruelty-free products that really encompass my definition of ‘fair’.  I perhaps am pessimistic, but it would seem that is is capitalism that is the problem. Even with ‘green capitalism’, it is unclear to me that that is ‘fair’, as there are many communities that are forced to sell their resources even under ‘fair’ and ‘green’ practices when they’d rather just not be part of any economy based on capitalist logic; however, because it may mean poverty or not, many of these communities must become part of ‘green capitalism’ in order to survive versus just doing their own thing outside of capitalist logic.

I would love to hear what people think about this. I know comments may already be heavily biased towards the consumer-privileged end, as it’s rare that I have any posting as the person who harvests vegan resources (because I’d imagine that would be a completely differently embodied knowledge about the commodity chain that is not romanticized through the eyes of neoliberal capitalism).

Anyway, I just wanted to give a shout out to Nutiva brands anyway. They may not be perfect, but I think so far, they are a better example of ethically sourced and produce vegan products. But, unless you are the person working on that plantation in which these ingredients are sourced, you will never know how cruelty-free and ‘fair’ it is. And I think that is what a lot of people on the ‘privileged’ end of vegan consumerism need to ALWAYS REMEMBER. Just because a company’s label claims it is ‘fair’ or ‘cruelty-free’, doesn’t mean you should accept it without thinking more deeply about it. I know I probably won’t be buying this product again, but wanted to check it out and let people know about it. I use local sourced olive oil for our family’s ‘buttery’ needs. What is the likelihood that people working on these plantations have access to using social media to constantly tweet and Facebook about the conditions in which they work and live? Thus far, all the ‘information’ I receive about new ‘ethical’ products come from the consumer/company end and not the end of the actual people harvesting and living there. I do not want to imply that Nutiva is dishonest– I just wanted to put it out there that you just don’t know if you aren’t there where the resources come from.

(IF YOU SEE ANY TYPOS IN THIS POST, FEEL FREE TO POINT THEM OUT. MY COMPUTER SCREEN IS BROKEN. I NEED TO SEE THROUGH PINK AND PURPLES LINES IN ORDER TO TYPE. ) 

 

[Video]: “‘Nigger’ Hurts, and Never Heals”: Scars, A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England

Below is a video from me reading the first chapter from my new book Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England. I also need new reviewers for the book. Also, if you would like to invite me to speak at your event, institution, book store, or on your media outlet (i.e. radio show, blog, etc), please contact me at bookingbreezeharper@gmail.com.

The book can be purchased by clicking on the image of the book below.

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[Video] On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen &Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post] Race-Consciousness, Food Justice and Hip-Hop Veganism.

On October 22, 2104, I gave a lecture at Middlebury College. It was called On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen & Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post] Race-Consciousness, Food Justice and Hip-Hop Veganism.” 

Unfortunately, the recording quality of this video isn’t very good. The audio is very low, so I do apologize to the hearing impaired. I usually bring my own camera to record but I lost my SD Card, so the university fortunately recorded it. I do suggest that those who can hear well enough, to wear earphone on high while listening to this. I also had problems with trying to play various YouTube videos. The audio simply wouldn’t work, so I do apologize for that.

I really felt at home at Middlebury College for the brief time that I was there. I stayed at the Middlebury Inn. A 1/2 block away was the Middlebury Coop that had plenty of yummy vegan goods to select from. As usual, I brought my baby with me, across country, so I could nurse her on demand. At 11 months old, Kira has been to about 6 of my lectures now. I am incredibly thankful for all the students who helped to make my and Kira’s stay very nice.

Thank you Charles Griggs for initially inviting me to speak and organizing a dinner at the eco sustainable student coop. Charles and other students cooked an amazing vegan gourmet dinner. Vegan plant-meat based stroganoff with three different types of mushrooms, a golden beet and red beet fennel salad, an artichoke spinach dip, and for dessert, a chocolate smoothie made using sunflower seed butter. It was a delight! Thank you Andrew Scott Pester for helping with all the logistics, like hotel, contract signing, and hotel. Thanks Nina for watching Kira while I gave my talk. Thanks Matt for picking me up from the airport, so late at night.

Anyway, I really enjoyed giving this talk. It was challenging to take an intersectional approach to social justice issues surrounding race and food, but I wanted to do this so badly. I decided to use Thug Kitchen as a springboard to discuss issues ranging from white privilege, to Tupac Shakur’s “geographies of thug life”, to how race-conscious Black male vegans are using hip hop methodologies to promote racial justice, food justice, and combat the prison industrial complex.

I also wanted to share that one of my Sistah Vegan followers wrote me a comment that she didn’t understand what that big deal was about Thug Kitchen. I wanted to share my response to her comment which can be read fully here on this post. I thought it would be helpful to share my perspective and am thankful that she offered her take on ‘thug’ to engage me in thought-provoking conversation.

From Lorrie:

I don’t get this protest.

Going by the above post (especially the second paragraph), the disagreement is based ONLY on personal opinion. Some people DO like their cookbooks. Why protest just because you (you, I mean in general anyone) don’t like their cookbooks. To each their own. Were there complaints BEFORE they identified themselves?

Also, who cares what color they are? I know very little about them but I had assumed they were white all the time, because most vegans in America are white. Did they ever lie and say they were black? Had they been black then it would be OK for them to say “Thug” and use street slang, but being white it’s not alright?

Thug, to me, by they way they had used it, meant someone with a positive confident attitude.

Sorry, I just don’t understand all the negative hoopla about the authors and their book.

Breeze’s Response:

Lorrie

Thanks for posting your comments.

You wrote: “Thug, to me, by they way they had used it, meant someone with a positive confident attitude.”

There are thousands — and I mean thousands- of Black and Brown people who experience the word ‘thug’ differently, including myself– and [I figured this out] after I spent a good 6 months on my dissertation chapter, researching about Trayvon Martin and then making intersectional connections to the violence enacted upon him because he was demonized as a ‘thug’ who ‘deserved’ preemptive strike. This research came out of an entire canon of critical race studies that shows how ‘thug’ is part of a long history of words with a socio-historical context that are strategically used as tools of white supremacist based violence against Brown and Black people. As a social scientist focused on critical issues of race, feminism, and food, I’m interested in the fact that there are a significant number of Black and Brown people who have the exact same feelings that Liz does about Thug Kitchen…and that there are plenty of academic scholars who have written about the problem of using ‘thug’ as a code word for a ‘scary black man’ (See George Yancy’s critical race philosophical work like Look, A White!.)

Yes, there are a lot of people who like the Thug Kitchen blog and cookbooks— I’m not disputing that… But, there are also a lot of people who like to do and say things that will illicit horror and pain from us that are clearly speciesist. When we vegans protest it, we too are asked things like, “Who cares what people eat?” or “Who cares that that chef wrote a cookbook about how to eat veal and lamb?” I know these are not the same as your critique of Thug Kitchen controversy, but I know that you have mentioned in the past that you won’t read certain books that have speciesist language in them , even though these books don’t seem to traumatize nearly everyone else. I totally understood where you were coming from and would have understood why you would protest a book (not that you did that, but if you wanted to) because of that language used, in order to make people aware of the suffering the underlies such privileged use of speciesist language/behaviors.

It’s not that they are making a big deal about nothing, in my opinion. The book, the author’s white racialized consciousness around their use of the word thug (and not knowing why some people find it upsetting), simply reveal a more interesting microcosm about how race is lived in the USA for MOST white people; it says a lot that over 75% of white people in the USA only have white friends in their close friends network/developed intimate relationships with. I don’t think the authors are ‘bad’ people at all; as a matter of fact, I don’t even think that that is the point of this controversy. But, after nearly a month of this controversy and the the authors still haven’t even said something like the following, is a little confusing for a lot of us who support Liz’s stance—> [What Breeze would like them to say]—> “You know, not everyone experiences the word thug the same way. However, over the past few weeks, I realized that my own whiteness has pretty much protected me from the racialized history of ‘thug’— I would never be Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, or Jordan Davis because my whiteness protects me. It has protected me so much that for the past month, I simply could not understand how ‘thug’ could also be traumatizing for many– especially for those in Ferguson who are currently there to symbolize that Black and Brown people are sick of being born into this White settler nation in which they are immediately racialized as a ‘thug’. I had no idea that I could quite possibly be promoting blackface at a deeply unconscious level– I didn’t even know what it was or that it could manifest in different ways PAST literally painting a white person’s face with black paint…Even though we put a lot of effort into making this blog and cookbook fun for everyone, these past few weeks have allowed me to realize that there continues to be a lot of physical and emotional pain experienced by Brown and Black people in the USA, due to structural and systemic racism that I never really understood was still a problem because, like I said before, my whiteness protected me from it. Maybe I can start looking at how I can merge vegan activism with being a white ally anti-racist activist for my next book project. ”

My fantasy response above is called “cultural humility”, and is discussed in the book Pondering Privilege.

Just my two cents.

Thanks for discussing ;-)

Fashionable Resistance: The Art of Critical Thinking and Change Making

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My new custom made earrings arrived in the mail the other day. Many of you know that I’m into earrings that make a statement and usually depict my favorite Black “change makers”, such as Malcolm X. Well, the brilliant and fellow sistah vegan Mercedes Martin helped me continue my “fashionable resistance” by designing and making a pair of Zora Neale Hurston earrings for me.  I told her that I wanted Zora Neale Hurston on earrings. She took a famous photo that most of us Hurston fans know, and did her magic. The result is the above image. If you look closely you’ll notice that there are actual gems around Hurston’s neck that Mercedes glued onto the earrings. And on the other side of the earrings are these words:

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Mercedes used recycled material to make her jewelry and other fashionable items. She made my earrings out of repurposed event flyers. Click on the images above to see more of her work.

If you don’t know who Zora Neale Hurston is, consider reading her book Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Also, for a future Sistah Vegan endeavor, I will be collaborating with artists and designers to make a new line of Sistah Vegan “approved” jewelry called “Fashionable Resistance”, which will showcase the activists and scholars who have been influential as critical thinkers and change makers for my scholarship and activism, such as the Malcolm X earrings I am wearing in this photo below, designed by Charisma Eclectic, another fellow sistah vegan. I would love to showcase folk such as pattrice jones, Angela Davis, Bryant Terry, DJ Cavem,  Lauren Ornelas (Food Empowerment Project), Octavia Butler (vegan by the way) and Queen Afua (with proper permission from them of course). A Kickstarter campaign will be coming soon for that :-)

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Also, check on my newest book project G’s Up, Hoes Down: Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix). 

Watching Slaughterhouse vs. Strawberry Harvest Videos: How Plant Harvesting is Often Romanticized as Cruelty-Free

I was on one of my FB sites dedicated to anti-speciesism. Someone posted this photo below.

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Source: Facebook

I do understand why they posted this.  But…

…I felt compelled to mention that strawberry harvesting, though not nearly as visually ‘gruesome’ and as directly ‘cruel’ as slaughtering non-human animals, does not mean that the harvesting of strawberries is cruelty-free (as applied to those of us who buy strawberries vs. those of us who have the ‘privilege’ of growing our own to pick). Thousands of human laborers, mostly brown people from what is considered Latin America, harvest strawberries (and many other vegetables and fruits) in cruel conditions. Being sprayed with pesticides, not having access to clean water and toilets, working for poverty level wages, etc are what a significant number of what these folk must go through. I don’t mean to throw a wrench in this image and text’s meanings, but I really think this is something I often see being elided within talks about how one’s conscious is more ‘clean’ by eating vegan diets of fruits and veggies in North America. Once again, I am not saying or equating the slaughter of non-human animals as the SAME as exploited and abused human farm laborers; both practices are disgusting and cause a lot of pain and suffering. However, I just want to point out that the former (non human animal slaughter) is always made visible amongst the vegan mainstream in the USA, while the latter (harvesting strawberries or other plants for human consumption under horrible and insufferable conditions) is painted as something one need not think deeply about [since non-human animals weren’t directly harmed].

Here is a book that can help us think more about not getting swept up in what looks like an ‘easy’ binary to make. The cover has a laborer picking strawberries. Click on the title to learn more:

The Food Empowerment Project, a pro-vegan organization, also advocates more awareness around the human cruelty endured by farm laborers.   Lauren Ornelas, ED of the Food Empowerment Project,  discusses these issues in this video below:

Enjoy this article? See what Dr. Harper is doing for her next book project and how you help fund it. Click below.

gofundme

Surviving Through Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Eva Luna and Sun, healthier and happier in spring 2014.

Eva Luna and Sun, healthier and happier in spring 2014.

In January of 2014, my kids (a newborn, 2 year old, and 4 year old) all got Coxsackie A Virus at the same time. Better known as Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD), this virus is something most kids in the USA get by the time they are ten years old. Though usually benign, HFMD is a miserable experience in which one gets a blistering sore throat, slight fever, and throbbing headaches for 1-2 days. After these symptoms have subsided, the virus produces painful and itchy blisters in and on the mouth, hands, and feet. It is about a week of hell wrought with sleepless nights.

Having not caught HFMD as a child, my body had no immunity against it. However, I didn’t end up getting HFMD past a sore throat. The sore throat only lasted about 3 hours! My secret weapon against this virus was a holistic anti-viral dietary regiment that I put myself on as soon as my sore throat hit me. Allopathic practitioners will tell you that there is no cure for HFMD. That may be true, but just because you get the virus doesn’t mean you have to get the full-blown symptoms. I am living proof that you can avoid the supposedly unavoidable! As a matter of fact, within a few hours of starting this regiment and then taking a 2 hours nap, I started feeling much better. My sore throat vanished, and I felt brand new. I stayed on this dietary regiment for 5 days.

Take the sugar and coffee out of your diet. Replace with mostly high quality plant-based proteins and lots of greens like kale.

 

Sugar weakens the immune system so take it out. I removed the sweets and replaced most of my meals and snacks with mostly dark leafy greens and protein. Viruses love caffeine, so take it out of your diet. Below is the super green smoothie I drank with my breakfast and lunch. Using a high-quality blender, like a Vita-Mix, is highly recommended to finely grind the kale and ginger root. Ginger is essential to boost the immune system, but it also helps most of us digest raw  or lightly steamed cruciferous vegetables like kale.

  • ¾”-1” cube of fresh ginger root.
  • ½ bunch of raw Dino kale
  • 1 tsp of Organic Hawaiian based Spirulina
  • 30 oz of water
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 apple (optional to make it sweeter)

 

Apply Neem Oil.

Though it smells strongly like a mixture of sulfur and garlic, don’t let it deter you from using it. I rubbed it all over my face, hands, and feet 2 times a day to prevent getting the blister outbreaks. I recommended applying about 3-4 drops on your face, as well as 3-4 drops for the hands and feet. If you have sensitive skin, mix the Neem oil extra virgin coconut oil. You can do a ratio of Neem oil and coconut oil that is 1:4. Add several drops of Lavender essential oil to the mixture to decrease the pungent smell. I ended up mixing ½ ounce of Neem oil with 2 ounces of virgin coconut oil. I highly suggest using coconut oil because it is anti-viral and anti-bacterial as well.

 

Elderberry.

 I made Elderberry tea and drank it 3 times a day. Elderberry is a superb anti-viral and immune system-boosting berry. I buy my organic Elderberries in bulk because the syrup they have in the stores are pricey. Be sure to decoct your Elderberries for at least 20 minutes, as sometimes Elderberries can cause illness if they are eaten raw. I always use organic Elderberries. However, if you prefer to use a high quality Elderberry syrup over making your own tea, that is fine too and a little more convenient.

1000 mg of Vitamin C per Day.

I took 1000mg of vitamin C each day in two increments, at 500mg per dose. I took 500mg of ascorbic acid based Vitamin C in the morning and evening, with food. Don’t take 1000mg all at once, as your body can’t really make use of more than 500mg within a few hour period.

 

Goldenseal.

 

I took a Goldenseal tincture 3 times a day. Like Elderberry, it’s a superb immune system booster and anti-viral herb. My brand of choice is Herb Pharm. I prefer the glycerite, as alcohol-based tinctures tend to make me feel sicker.

Apple Cider Vinegar.

I drank 1tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with 8 ounces of water, 3x a day. Apple cider vinegar helps to prevent the virus from replicating any further, once it enters your body. You must use apple cider vinegar and not any other form.

Good luck and happy wellness to you and your family!

If you enjoyed this article, check out my new book project about ethical eating, hip hop, and black male vegans.

Bio:  is the director and founder of the Sistah Vegan Project. Her emphasis are in the the intersections of critical food studies, critical health studies, and multi-culturalism. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis and is currently a research fellow in the human ecology department of University of California. She is passionate about teaching how plant-based diets can help pregnant and lactating women thrive. The Sistah Vegan Blog and her official website, A. Breeze Harper, are the two websites you can go to in order to be updated about her writing, speaking, and videos.

 

Vegan Secret #1 For Minimal Menstrual Pain and Heavy Bleeding

So, I started my period today. I am going to be honest with you. There is no single nutritional and health regiment that will work for every single person who is menstruating. However, I wanted to share with you what I do so I can have a pleasant menstrual cycle each month.

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I made a white bean, kale, ginger soup. Kale is my go to herb for just about everything that ails me. Kale and ginger are anti-inflammatory. This is important, as an inflamed uterus means lots of bloating and pain. Kale is also high in nutrients such as lutein (great for eye health), Vitamin C (awesome immune system booster), and Calcium. When I do not have time to make a hot meal like soup, I will make a smoothie or lightly saute a half bunch of kale in a little olive oil and sea salt with fresh ginger slices. My favorite way to eat kale is via a smoothie. Whether it is my period or not, I eat kale nearly every day, but also take a break in between to be gentle on my thyroid. So, I will be on kale for 3 weeks and take 1 week off.

Stinging Nettles is another great herb to have in your diet, whether you are menstruating or not. I usually make a 1/2 gallon of nettles tea per week so I have enough to last me the week. I take a big pot, put 1.5 cups of nettles (dried. If you use fresh, wear gloves so you don’t get a rash. Don’t worry, the heat neutralizes the stinging component) and about 75 ounces of water into it. I bring to a boil and then once it boils, I turn low and simmer for 5 minutes, and then I turn it off, cover, put to the side, and let it infuse over night. This is called an infusion and this process allows the minerals and vitamins to be drawn out the stinging nettles. An anti-inflammatory plant, it is great for toning the uterus, cleansing the kidneys and liver, and provides Calcium and vitamin K to name a few. It is also excellent for fertility as well as achieving beautiful hair and skin.

Exercise four times per week . I hike or power walk with weights on me (a baby in an Ergo carrier) 3-5 times per week.

I also found that eliminating sugar and refined flour from my diet, the week before and during my period, is an excellent way to ensure low inflammation. Eliminate caffeine as well.

Of course there are many other things one can do, but these are my core dietary and exercise principles.

For the past 2 years, I’ve basically been listening to Stic.Man’s The Workout . It’s a brilliant pro-vegan and holistic health album. While pushing my babies up the steepest hill in Berkeley, Marin Ave, I like to have the song “Let It Burn” on repeat. As a matter of fact, Stic.Man will be one of 6 amazing black male vegans I’ll be writing about for my latest book project. This book will be book number 3 for me. My first two were Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010) and Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014).

My new book is tentatively title Gs Up, Hoes Down: Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix). Don’t worry folk, the first part of the title is from DJ Cavem’s song of the same title which talks about Gs as “organic growers” and “hoes” as the garden tool. Go here to find out more.

Green Spirulina Avocado Monster

I have three preschoolers and they love Spirulina. Kira Satya is seven months old and loves my homemade popsicles. This morning she had avocado, fig, and Pacifica Hawaiian Spirulina popsicle I made yesterday using Zoku silicon Popsicle molds. I highly recommend Zoku mini pops mold for preschoolers. All other molds are too big and they never finish the pops.

In my Vitamix blender I added 1 medium Hass avocado, five figs, 1 tsp of Jarrow baby probiotics, and 1 tbsp of Spirulina in the blender. I then blended everything on level 10 for about thirty seconds. I filled the molds and froze.

Eva Luna (2.5 yrs) and Kira Satya loved it.

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Luna refers to herself as the Spirulina monster. Scary, no? LOL.

Sun is five now and I grew him on Pacifica Hawaiian Spirulina. He is in the photo below with me, mama. He started on Spirulina in utero!

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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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[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.

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. :-)

[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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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

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.

Eating Your Own Placenta vs. Eating Another Animal’s Kidneys: How Culture Teaches Us What is Normal and What is “Gross”

Here is a quick video about some reflections during my post partum period. I’m 4.5 weeks post partum. I had an interesting experience with one of my relatives over what should be done with my placenta.

On Public Speaking about Black Lesbian Social Fiction, Alternative Black Masculinities and Vegan Hip Hop Culture

Book Project I

Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White NewEngland (Sense Publishers, 2014)

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.

Book Project II

“Living Bling, Going Green”: Redefining Black ‘Manhood’ Through Hip Hop and Veganism 

(I already have a an academic press taking this book. Once I receive the contract this or next week, sign it, and then mail it back, I will officially let you know their name.)

Introduction (draft)

            Meat eating in American society has been equated with being a true man for centuries; vegetarianism and veganism have been equated with femininity (Adams 1990; Potts 2010). However over the past five years, there has been a strong emergence of males promoting veganism and vegetarianism in the USA as a ‘better’ way of being masculine or a man. Though not part of the mainstream media depictions of veganism and vegetarianism, the Black vegan Hip Hop movement reflects such alternative masculinities. How does the Black vegan Hip Hop movement offer different ways of consuming, as well as being a ‘real’ man, from race-conscious, decolonial, and health activist 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?; both which are seen as detrimental to, and non-sustainable for, people of color?

This book will be about how veganism is being reshaped and reformulated through ‘race-conscious’ Black American men of the Hip Hop generation.  What makes this book project unique is that mainstream vegetarian/vegan philosophies are usually represented through a white and middle class ‘post-racial’ and animal-rights oriented framework (Harper 2013); missing from this mainstream framework is the significance of how racism, whiteness, and colonialism deeply impact everyone’s relationship to, and construction of, veganism. Alternatively, Black vegan Hip Hop activists collectively engage in consumption from a ‘race-conscious’ and human-health perspective first, educating and mobilizing people of color about health disparities caused by corporate capitalism and legacies of colonialism (i.e. environmental and institutional racisms).

Methods I will be employing are narrative research (i.e. personally narrated histories of the subjects) and discursive analysis of popular Hip Hop vegan media (i.e. books, music videos, and songs). Methodologies used will most likely be drawn from the canons of critical race and decolonial studies. These canons suggest that racism and colonialism have, and continue to organize, power, resources, as well as shape the collective consciousness of the global North, including how one consumes.

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.

On ‘traumatizing’ your children by telling them the truth about speciesism and other systems of oppression.

When Ruby Roth’s vegan oriented book,  Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action was published for children, I remember reading how an expert psychiatrist (or maybe it was a child development specialist) made the claim that her book is damaging to children. Many other folk thought it was harmful to children (see here as well).  I was taken aback, disappointed, but certainly not surprised, as of course this “expert’s” view echoes a society in which systemic violence across species (humans and non-human animal species) is normalized and rationalized. I think it is traumatizing to lie to children and even punish them for not subscribing to the violences that they KNOW is wrong. There are countless stories of young children finding out about the food they eat (i.e., “You mean my burger is a cow! Like a real cow!?), confronting their families about it, and instead of it opening up ways to think differently about the world– more compassionately about their world, they are verbally or even physically punished for pointing out ‘the obvious’ contradictions they see. You can listen more below by clicking on the video I did for this blog piece:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1y_g0RDvxg

Enjoy!

Stretch marks, bikini pregnancy, and public displays of belly affection

 

 

This is my third pregnancy. I like to show what my growing womb looks like. I have met a lot of women who say that they were ashamed to show their bellies because of stretch marks, discoloration, and weight gain. I know body issues are complex thing, and pregnancy and post-partum body changes come with a whole host of issues that many of us in the USA struggle with.

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Dr. A. Breeze Harper, Third Trimester, Bolinas CA Fall 2013 with her two year daughter, Eva Luna.

I have chosen not to hide my belly and wear a bikini whenever we make our weekend trips to our California beaches. I get a lot of comments from people who have never seen a real live pregnant belly in the nude. Some folks have even enjoyed the pleasure of watching the baby moving vigorously under the skin. I get appreciations from women and girls mostly, who thank me for showing them what it looks like. I also get comments like, “Wow, I don’t think I would ever be confident enough to do that.” It’s too bad that I get comments like this, as it really reflects a society that can be very rigid and cruel in teaching girls and women that they should be ashamed of displaying their bodies in public, if they don’t meet an acceptable standard of size and shape. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had and struggled with these issues like most females throughout my life, and admit that I did have shame and embarrassment about my body during the post-partum period after giving birth to my first child. But, since then, I have become gentle, loving, and kind to myself; I am still decolonizing my mind around public displays of body, skin, bellies, etc., but I have come a long way. And I feel like when people see what some pregnant bellies and bodies can look like, while in public, I can start talking about it without shame, but with love and and acceptance. I used to be so ashamed of my permanent stretch marks, as they have increased more with each pregnancy. But now I simply don’t care what people may or may not think.

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I gained 41 pounds during this pregnancy.  I have several weeks left, so I assumed I’ll probably gain about 4 or 5 more pounds from my plant/mineral based diet packed with hemp seeds, spirulina, kale, olive oil, tempeh, okra, maca, nettles, algae based calcium, and vegan dha to name a few. My babies have been ‘big’. Sun was 8.5lb and Luna 9.5lb. Will this one be 10+? My friend did all vegan pregnancies. Her third and last baby was home birthed at 10lb 13 oz. Wow!

We are having a third home birth. I assume it will be easy. I am a pro at this! November 10 is my due date. Folk often ask what I eat during my pregnancies. Here is more information about that here: pregnancy nutrition.

Anyway, I just wanted to share.

‘Authentic Blackness’ as Christian, Speciesist, and Heteronormative: Brief Thoughts on Being a Non-Christian Black Woman

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Dr. Amie Breeze Harper, 2013

Unlike most Black folk I know, I was not raised in a household that subscribed to any particular religious beliefs. My parents were basically agnostic, but my parents were always open to my twin and I exploring religious philosophies. Many members of my extended family are or were Jehovah’s Witnesses or Baptists. One of my aunts gave my brother and I the gift of Watchtower subscription, a magazine dedicated to Jehovah’s Witness faith, when we were children. I found the stories and lessons both entertaining and confusing. However, for me, it just didn’t feel like the right path.

I remember I was at a family event one year. I was in my early 20s. My father was talking to one of my male family members who is a Jehovah’s Witness. Somehow, they started talking about animals. “Paul” (I’m just calling my male family member that to protect his identity) told my dad his interpretation of the Bible when it came to non-human animals: “God says we have dominion over them, so that means we can eat them.” My dad just shook his head and laughed to himself that one could interpret ‘dominion’ as ‘domination’ so they didn’t have to acknowledge and/or admit that non-human animals feel and suffer. That they can lie to themselves that animal are not sentient and can used for any human desire. Suffice to say, “Paul” simply didn’t care, because that is what his Bible said, case closed.

I also have the feeling that when I tell most Black folk that I am not Christian, that my Blackness and loyalties are questioned. The other week, I received a private email from a ‘fan’ who seemed very disappointed that I did not even talk about the importance of Christianity and healing in Black communities during the Sistah Vegan conference…and she also suggested that my new social fiction novel Scars marginalized ‘regular’ Black Christian straight girls like her (since the main character is a Black lesbian). You can go here http://sistahvegan.com/2013/10/21/the-black-queer-experience-is-not-our-experience-breeze-harpers-new-social-fiction-novel/ to read the post about her reaction to Scars .

Even though I do know that blackness is not a monolith, Black folk in the USA are stereotyped to be all Christian and heteronormative. This fan’s email got me thinking about how much not being raised as Christian– or with any form of organized religion– has deeply impacted my interactions with those [Black] people who can’t fathom a type of authentic Blackness WITIHOUT it being connected to Christianity, speciesism, and heteronormativity. My practice of Zen Buddhism often confuses Black folk.

Do you have a religious faith or not? How has having a religious faith (or not) impacted your sense of animal compassion and/or vegan philosophy? Did you grow up in a household in which religion was used to justify/rationalize the eating of animals (as well as perhaps other oppressions, such as racism, white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, or ableism)?

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.

Harper to give talk at UT-Austin: Challenges and Opportunities in Using Critical Studies of Food to Discuss Race and Whiteness in a ‘Post-Racial’ USA

I’ll be participating in the Food for Black Thought Annual Symposium, hosted by the University of Austin-Texas tomorrow (October 4, 2013). My talk is scheduled for 1130am until 12pm on Oct. 4.  The talk is titled: “Challenges and Opportunities in Using Critical Studies of Food to Discuss Race and Whiteness in a ‘Post-Racial’ USA”. 

Location: Warfield Center for African and African American Studies – ISESE Gallery, 201 East 21st, Jester Center A232A 

It will be 20 minutes long and then a 10 minute Q&A session. The poster and more information is below.

FFBT_Harper

[Video]Diversity Rhetoric as Healing or Hurting? Decolonial Politics, Self-Care, and Structural Change in a ‘Post-Racial’ Era

I gave a talk at Occidental College  Sept 30 2013, 430-6pm. It was called Diversity Rhetoric as Healing or Hurting? Decolonial Politics, Self-Care, and Structural Change in a ‘Post-Racial’ Era. I video recorded it and it’s been uploaded to this blog in 3 segments (see below). There is a suggested reading list at the end of this blog.

Part I

Part II

Part III

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  1. Harper, Amie Breeze. 2011. Veganporn.com & ‘Sistah': Explorations of Whiteness through Textual Linguistic Cyberminstrelsy on the Internet. In Cultural Identity and New Communication Technologies: Political, Ethnic and Ideological Implications, edited by D. N. Wachanga. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
  2. Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana. 2007.Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance (Suny Series, Philosophy and Race) Albany: State University of New York Press.
  3. Lipsitz, George. 2006. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition Rev. and expanded ed. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  4. Jealous, Ann Todd, and Caroline T. Haskell. 2013. Combined Destinies: Whites Sharing Grief about Racism 1st ed. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books.
  5. Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. 2006.Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America 2nd ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  6. Ahmed, Sara. 2012. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham ; London: Duke University Press.
  7. Zuberi, Tukufu, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. 2008. White Logic, White Methods: Racism and Methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  8. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, Second Edition (Critical America (New York University Hardcover))

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