Oregon Adventures: Talking about scars and whiteness, racial micro-aggressions from a Sarah Palin supporter, and ‘the clap’ doll.

I had a fantastic time during my book talk tour in Oregon this past week (May 6-10 2015). I read from and analyzed my new novel Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England . I read the food object in my novel and explained how they can tell us about current racial power dynamics in the USA. Highlights to share include ending my University of Oregon-Eugene talk at the podium while nursing my 1 year old, Kira Satya, on my right boob while answering questions. Kira Satya came with me on my 5 day trip throughout Oregon. The adventure included 2 talks, 1 workshop I led, and 1 panel discussion. If you’ve been following my work for awhile, you know that I think it’s ridiculous that I have to ‘hide’ nursing my baby– or even argue that I can take her with me since I nurse on demand (like every other mammal on the planet). I am glad that PSU and UO Eugene supported me. And duh, I’m a food justice activist and scholar. Being able to nurse on demand (if one can) is a food justice issue; a social justice issue; a reproductive rights issue; a public health issue. If you watch the end of the video, you can see Kira’s arm wiggling above the podium as I nurse her and answer questions. After I placed her down, she even made a big loud poop in her diaper and the audience heard since she was next to the mic. Plenty of folk laughed (while I’m sure plenty were disgusted, but hey, better than being constipated!) LOL. Below is the UO Eugene talk.

On Saturday at the Eugene Public Library, I was on a panel with Novella Carpenter, Diane Abu-Jaber, and Donna Henderson for the 4th annual Women’s Writers Symposium and the theme for this year was food and women’s stories of resilience. During the panel, us authors answered questions thrown at us by the moderator and we were also asked to read passages from our work. I selected excerpts from an interview I gave about the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter. Also, I centered anti-racism and critical race feminism whenever I’d answer most of the questions or give a comment, making it clear that I don’t think ‘post-racial’ response makes any sense and to remember that for many (especially since it’s largely white Eugene OR where the mainstream may not think about race), ‘whiteness’ is NOT the norm for everyone and can be very violent (discursively, overtly, and systemically). The audience was 90+% white. Each panelist was supposed to read something, so I read my interview from my most recent The Feminist Wire interview about the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter. The first person who rushed up to me after us panelists were done was a white person whose answer to my critical race vegan oriented scholarship was that Sarah Palin is the only person that they will listen to. They said something like, “Sarah Palin goes out and shoots animals and eats them and would be the best president for the USA. I believe anything she says over anyone else.” It was an obvious reactive racial-microaggressive response to how I had explained to the audience that my writing and critical food studies inquiries interrogate neoliberal whiteness, speciesism, as ways to dismantle systemic racism and support Black Lives Matter. I didn’t feel like taking the bait and simply responded, “Well, thank you for sharing your opinion.” They promptly turned around and walked away. However, plenty of white folk did some up and thanked me for providing introductory knowledge to this timely issue of systemic racism and how to be allies to Black Lives Matter movement. After participating on that panel, I learned that 6 extra people who attended that panel discussion signed up for my workshop in the afternoon. Several told me that they had originally signed up for another one but then wanted to challenge themselves as white people to take the plunge and learn about whiteness and Black Lives Matter. So, I gave my a workshop called “Narrating Racial [In]Justice Through Critical Food Writing” that afternoon. It went quite well I think since it was my first time doing it.

Before Kira and I arrived in Eugene, I had given a talk in Portland at Portland State University. Kira and I ate our way through vegan cafes and restaurants of the area and ended in Eugene, after we took the bus there, at Cornbread Cafe. Here are some lovely picts after the written portion below. The first photo is a doll given to my baby on the plane from SFO to PDX. Kira wasn’t feeling well and vomited, so the woman next to us gave her a doll from a conference she had gone to. It was an OB/GYN conference and she got ‘the clap’ in the form of a doll. I learned that ‘the clap’ was short for the French ‘clapier’ where people contracted the ‘the clap’. So, she gave the doll to Kira.

I gave my talk on May 8 2015 in Portland at the Walk of Heroines event. Kira and I had been sick for the past 36 hours with non-stop stomach issues which resulted in the baby vomiting a billion times and giving me the same disease. I couldn’t hold anything down and was wondering how I’d have the strength to give a talk– especially since the baby just wanted to nurse non-stop (which is hard to do when mama can’t hold anything down and the body eats itself to make breastmilk). Kira finally passed out and took a long nap in the afternoon (about 4 hours) and woke up as if she had never had the stomach virus. I somehow made it through the talk (see below) despite me feeling very weak throughout the talk. I think the energy probably came from the audience’s energy and enthusiasm to have me there :-)

On Friday in Portland, we tasted many vegan treats including a vegan bratwurst made from chickpeas (yummy!) as well, a strawberry sorbet popsicle, vegan gluten free cupcake, and a green smoothie. Kira seemed happy. On our way back to the airport from Eugene, I was on a shuttle service. A white guy going to the airport also asked what I did, once he found out I was going to SFO and that I lived in Berkeley. I said critical food studies looking at race and whiteness . 9/10 times, this is the response I’ll get  “Oh, so you must know Michael Pollan’s work. He teaches in Berkeley. Have you ever take any of his classes?” And yes, I got this response from this guy as well….

Ok, I’m just going to say it: I’m so amazed by the gazillion white people I meet whenever they find out what my field of studies and then they talk about Michael Pollan. Why is Michael Pollan the [white] face of food studies all the time!? Even after I’ll tell people that I am looking at how race and whiteness shape ethical food consumption culture, I’ll get, “Oh, so you must like Michael Pollan’s work?” My internal monologue is screaming inside, “When did Michael Pollan ever critically engage with systemic racism or even question his own neoliberal whiteness and male privilege? Oh yea, that was in his latest bestselling book that came out in the fall of—NEVER!!!!” (Breeze falls off her soap box). Ok y’all, enjoy the photos below.

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To access the conference recordings to the Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter click on the image below

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From Critiquing Thug Kitchen to Revealing Vermont’s Speciesist White Agricultural Narrative: pattrice jones tells us about her Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter as a White Ally

UPDATED LIST OF TALKS for the Sistah Vegan Online Conference.

We just added this talk with the wonderful pattrice jones: From Critiquing Thug Kitchen to Revealing Vermont’s Speciesist White Agricultural Narrative: pattrice jones tells us about her Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter as a White Ally”. 

A few months ago, I wrote about pattrice’s brilliant new book Oxen at the Intersection, which I highly recommend to many people– especially those who want to understand the narrative that white Vermont created for itself in terms of locavorism, a ‘natural’ dairying state, and its collusion to white supremacist ways of thinking about non-human animals and ‘being green.‘ pattrice jones also wrote a critical essay about Thug Kitchen a few months ago.

See below the other talks and discussions we have in store for you as well.

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DATE: April 24-25, 2015 Sistah Vegan Online Conference

“The Vegan Praxis of ‘Black Lives Matter': Challenging Neoliberal Whiteness While Building Anti-Racist Solidarity Among Vegans of Color and Allies (Before, After, and Beyond Ferguson )”

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Click Here for Full Description of Conference

Workshops, Discussions, and Talks (Tentative and Growing)

  • “Funding Pro-Vegan Anti-Racist Projects: Challenges and Strategies in a ‘Post-Racial’ Era” | Panelists: Alissa Hauser and Dr. A. Breeze Harper”
  • “Locating Intersections and the Decolonization of Veganism through Black Womanist Theology” | Candace Laughinghouse, PhD Candidate (Regent University)
  • “From Critiquing Thug Kitchen to Revealing Vermont’s Speciesist White Agricultural Narrative: pattrice jones tells us about her Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter as a White Ally” | Speakers: A. Breeze Harper (interviewer) and pattrice jones of VINE Sanctuary
  • “‘The Pig is a Filthy Animal': Challenging Speciesist ‘Race-Conscious’ Black Liberation Rhetoric (Before, After, and Beyond Ferguson) | Speaker: TBD
  • “Dear White People, Black Lives Matter: An Introductory Workshop For White Vegans on Being an Ally”| Speaker: TBD
  • The Origins of the Criminalization of Blackness in the Context of a ‘Race Neutral’ Analysis and how it Helped Shape Policing Policies” | Speaker: Liz Ross
  • “ALL Black Lives Matter: Dismantling Transphobia and Heteronormativity in Mainstream Black ‘Conscious’ Plant-Based Dietary Movement” | Speakers: TBD
  • “Black Lives [Don’t] Matter: Michael Vick and the Demonization of Blackness Among White Vegans and Animal Rights Activists”| Speaker: Harlan Eugene Weaver, PhD
  • “Animal Liberationists for No More Prisons and No More Police”| Speaker: Dr. Anthony J Nocella II
  • “Dispelling the Myth of ‘Cruelty-Free’ Commodities Within the Context of Black Lives Matter and a Racist Food System: A Dialogue Between Lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project and A. Breeze Harper”
  • “Pro-Vegan Self-Care for Racial Justice Activists: Building a Long-Term Community of Support”| Speaker: Jessica Rowshandel, LMSW
  • “Memory and Betrayal: An Inquiry into Race, Empire, and Relationship During an Era of Black Lives Matter” |Speaker: Martin Rowe
  • “Ten ways to combat racism effectively in the vegan community and mobilize activists to be advocates of intersectional issues.” | Speaker: Christian Sebastian McJetters
  • “Abolitionist Veganism and Anti-Oppression Within the Context of Black Lives Matter” | Speaker: Sarah K. Woodcock

For Speaker Bios CLICK HERE

Nominate the 2015 Anti-Racist Vegan Change-Maker ($1000)

WANT TO SPONSOR THIS CONFERENCE? CLICK HERE

OR, CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO MAKE THE CONFERENCE AND OTHER SISTAH VEGAN PROJECTS A SUCCESS BY CLICKING BELOW:

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The Vegan Praxis of “Black Lives Matter”. 2nd Biannual Sistah Vegan Conference

The Sistah Vegan Project Presents Our 2nd Bi-Annual Conference:

“The Vegan Praxis of ‘Black Lives Matter’ : Challenging Neoliberal Whiteness While Building Anti-Racist Solidarity Amongst Vegans of Color and Allies (Before, After, and Beyond Ferguson )

Conference Date: April 24-25, 2015

Location: Online Web Conference

Please go here to official website for schedule, registration, and more: URLhttp://www.sistahveganconference.com

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Conference Organizer: Dr. A. Breeze Harper

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:

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Source: http://modernfarmer.com/2013/07/fresh-fruit-broken-bodies-the-true-cost-of-our-produce/

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.

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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.

[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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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.

‘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)?