[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 ;-)

On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen, and Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post]Race-Consciousness, Food Justice, and Hip Hop Vegan Ethics

Source: http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&docid=-9_zPb5d46VUGM&tbnid=G8qMiGbA9qkGKM&ved=0CAgQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fhiconsumption.com%2F2014%2F07%2Fthug-kitchen-eat-like-you-give-a-fck-cookbook%2F&ei=c9w2VO3vEImtyATn14CwCQ&psig=AFQjCNGGZ3fjt3fwfGc0sRr_SHGjzNqfWA&ust=1412967923374273
Source: http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&docid=-9_zPb5d46VUGM&tbnid=G8qMiGbA9qkGKM&ved=0CAgQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fhiconsumption.com%2F2014%2F07%2Fthug-kitchen-eat-like-you-give-a-fck-cookbook%2F&ei=c9w2VO3vEImtyATn14CwCQ&psig=AFQjCNGGZ3fjt3fwfGc0sRr_SHGjzNqfWA&ust=1412967923374273
Source: http://cdn.hiconsumption.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Thug-Kitchen-Eat-Like-You-Give-a-Fck-Cookbook.jpg

“On Ferguson, Thug Kitchen, and Trayvon Martin: Intersections of [Post]Race-Consciousness, Food Justice, and Hip Hop Vegan Ethics” is the title of the talk I will be giving at Middlebury College in Middlebury Vermont, October 22, 2014 for their food justice oriented conference.

Here is a snippet from the talk I am writing for the event. And, as usual, I video record all of my lectures and post them onto the blog. This lecture will hopefully be a chapter or section in my book I am doing crowdfunding for. My book is tentatively called “G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix).   Also, I’m hoping to add Bryant Terry (Afro Vegan author) and Kevin Tillman (founder of Vegan Hip Hop Movement) perspectives on Thug Kitchen and Ferguson Riots in the lecture as well as book. Tillman and other vegans of color have helped to organize protests against Thug Kitchen book readings in California . Below is the excerpt from my lecture I am writing. Reminder, this is a work in progress and will change.

I [Breeze Harper] can understand how ‘thug’ can be triggering for thousands of Black people in the USA, in light of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown’s murders. Please understand, this is all within a USA context in which the term ‘thug’ as been racialized to mean ‘a threatening Black male who deserves preemptive strike against just for walking around while Black’ . This change in the social/racial meaning of ‘thug’ has happened within the past decade, with great significance. Many have argued, ‘thug’ is the PC way to call a Black male the n-word.

I can understand why the term, ‘thug’, can illicit such pain and suffering amongst a significant number of Black Americans who fear that their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons will be perceived as ‘thugs’ by the White American imagination ensconced in centuries of negrophobia. In fear and anticipation, many of us Black identified folk in the USA wonder if our Black family members and friends will come back home that evening from school or work, alive. “He’s late? I hope an officer didn’t pull him over and shoot him. I hope he won’t end up like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown.” Critical race philosopher, George Yancy, has argued for years that one need not be consciously racist to still have deeply somatic fear of Black male bodies walking around in public space. As a matter of fact, many times it is dysconsious racism and somatic fear that drives ‘preemptive strikes’ against Black males (envisioned as dangerous ‘thugs’) by white institutions, white dominated districts, and white communities.

There are plenty of social science based books and articles that discuss the racialization of the word ‘thug’ in a Post-racial/Obama age. When reading about the controversy surrounding Thug Kitchen and how a group of vegans of color mobilized to shut the Bay Area reading down through protest,  maybe we can understand how this protest wasn’t some random anomaly; that it wasn’t really about Thug Kitchen at all. These protests are not single-issue and social phenomenon does not happen in a vacuum. Thug Kitchen and vegans of color protest is a microcosm that reflects the current racial climate in the USA. The book’s support and ‘post-racial’ comments by a significant number of mostly white people says a lot: it says “I don’t have the trauma of racialized and state violence against my body that Black people do( and other racial minorities do). Why should I care about the word ‘thug’ and the racially violent history and recent events (i.e. Oscar Grant and Michael Brown) that trails behind it? As a matter of fact, I don’t even have to realize that the term has been racialized and used against murder victims such as Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin to justify their deaths.”

To me, as a critical race feminist theorist, it makes absolute sense that one’s relationship/reaction to the word ‘thug’ will illicit different responses in the USA due to racialized embodied experiences. I do not agree that the book reading should have been canceled. It would have been wonderful if the protestors and authors could have agreed to have the book reading and then have an intersectional talk about why a significant number of vegans of color have found the use of thug problematic.  I think it would have been a wonderful opportunity to discuss these issues to try to build bridges and solidarity with anti-speciesist and anti-racist movements.

If you enjoyed this snippet, I hope you can attend if you are in the area. If you want to see the book this lectures reflects, come into existence, please support the project: “G’s Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix). 

If you would like Dr. A. Breeze Harper to come speak at your institution or organization or for your event, please contact her at sistahvegan@gmail.com and Subject Head it: “Inquiry on Speaking Availability and Fees”.  

[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. :-)

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.

Video: “Food, Justice, and Sustainability” with/Breeze Harper,Bryant Terry, Raj Patel, Brahm Ahmadi and Nikki Henderson

Date: January 26, 2012.

Part II:

TTS Speakers Series in Oakland California. January 26, 2012. This was a near 2 hour long, friendly conversation about food, justice, sustainability amongst myself and several other cutting edge food justice activists. It is also the evening in which Bryant Terry debuted his new book “Inspired Vegan.”

WARNING: HORRIBLE ANGLE OF THE CAMERA THE FIRST 45 MINUTES, BUT THEN MY HUSBAND MOVED IT TO A BETTER PLACE. YOU CAN HEAR EVERYTHING, BUT NOT SEE EVERYTHING VERY WELL. MY BATTERY DIED AND I DIDN’T GET THE WHOLE THING, BUT MOST OF IT.