The Sistah Vegan Project

Archive for the tag “veganism”

[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)?

Revisioning Food Sovereignty: “Trayvon Martin, PETA, and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness” [Scripps College, Sept 25 2013]

On September 25, 2013 I gave a lecture at Scripps College in Ontario, California: “Trayvon Martin, PETA&The Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness”. Below is the video recording for those who could not attend. It’s part of their Humanities Institute Fall 2013 symposium on Food.

Part I

Part II

I want to thanks Scripps College for inviting me to speak. I had an amazing time and they were very mindful of my needs and making sure I got what I needed (i.e. transportation from the airport and food, food, food, as at this point being 34 weeks pregnant, I’m an ravenous! LOL) .

If you would like to invite me to come speak at your organization, institution, or similar, please contact me at sistahvegan(at) gmail(dot) com. Also, if you enjoyed the content of what I spoke about during this Scripps College talk, feel free to check out the Sistah Vegan Web Conference that took place on September 14, 2013. The entire 8 hours was recorded. You can click here to see what speaker line-up and the talks that were given.

ScrippsFlyer Breeze Harper

Here is the poster of the advertised talk above and also a blog piece you can read that I wrote. Toward the end of the blog posting, I share my mother’s ‘fears’ of me talking about whiteness and jeopardizing my safety; this occurred after I shared the news that I was going to give my talk at Scripps and told her the title and content of it.

On a raw vegan diet, Serena Williams won the US Open for 2013

Another example of how one can get enough of everything on a vegan raw diet and win the US Open :-)

Serena Williams practices a raw foods vegan diet and she won the U.S. Open this month.

It would have been really amazing to have had her be a keynote speaker for the Sistah Vegan Web Conference and speak about being a top athlete on a vegan diet. I mostly only see pieces about male athletes on vegan diets, but I rarely get to hear about women– black women!– who are top athletes eating vegan.

Wow, with her strong bones and healthy muscle tone, How DOES she get protein and calcium!!!? (You know, the same tired old questions directed towards folk who don’t eat animals or animal products). :-)

Critical Food & Health Studies Web Conference: “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies”

Please help spread the word about this Sistah Vegan Project hosted web conference. And you can click here to get the one page pdf flyer to post it somewhere! Thanks.

Critical Food & Health Studies Web Conference:

“Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies”

 

Date: September 14, 2013

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm PST (USA)

Location: Online Web Conference Through Anymeeting.com

SPEAKER LINE-UP AND SCHEDULE

 

10:00 AM: “Introduction: How Veganism is a Critical Entry Point to Discuss Social, Animal, and Environmental Justice Issues for Black Women and Allies.” Dr. A. Breeze Harper, University of California-Davis.

10:15 AM: “How Whiteness and Patriarchy Hurt Animals.” Anastasia Yarbrough, Inner Activism Services.

10:50 AM: “PETA and the Trope of ‘Activism’: Naturalizing Postfeminism and Postrace Attitudes through Sexualized Bodied Protests.” Aphrodite Kocięda, University of South Florida

11:25 AM: “An Embodied Perspective on Redefining Healthy in a Cultural Context and Examining the Role of Sizeism in the Black Vegan Woman Paradigm.” Nicola Norman.

12:25 PM: “Cosmetic Marginalization: Status, Access and Vegan Beauty Lessons from our Foremothers.” Pilar Harris, Pilar in Motion.

1:00 PM: Open Discussion: “‘Why I Relinquished the Gospel Bird and Became a Vegan’: Girls and Women of African Descent Share Their Reasons for Choosing Veganism.”

1:50 PM: “Midwifery, Medicine and Baby Food Politics: Underground Feminisms and Indigenous Plant-based Foodways and Nutrition.” Claudia Serrato, University of Washington.

2:30 PM: “Constructing a Resource Beyond Parenting as a Black Vegan: Discussing Geography and Theology and Their Contradictions Within.” Candace M. Laughinghouse, Regent University.

3:05 PM: Panel Discussion: “Yoga for the Stress Free Soul Sista And Radical Self-Care Teaching: Exploring Privilege in Yoga & Veganism for Girls of Color” w/ Sari Leigh & Kayla Bitten

4:20 PM: Open Discussion: Reflections on the Sistah Vegan Anthology.

5:00 PM: “Is Black Decolonization Possible in a Moral Economy of Neoliberal Whiteness? How USA Black Vegan Liberation Rhetoric Often Perpetuates Tenets of Colonial Whiteness.” Dr. A. Breeze Harper, University of California Davis.

 

Conference Information, Registration Details, and Complete Speaker Abstracts: http://www.sistahveganconference.com

 

Contact Organizer Information:

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

breezeharper@gmail.com

510-564-7870

What could make these babies so happy?

What could make my 2 and this 4 year olds so happy!?

Ice cream. Vegan ice cream from Curbside Creamery in Oakland, California. They had a little stand up in Temescal this summer. I became excited to see that they offered non-soy based vegan ice cream. It is based on nuts and it was fantastic! They open up this fall in Oakland. Check it out here: Curbside Creamery

In other news, Sistah Vegan is gearing up for our first annual critical race feminist oriented web conference, “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies”. It is September 14, 2013. Go here for more details and registration information. 

Abortion as the “Kinder Choice”: Able-Bodied Rhetoric, Veganism, and Reproductive Ethics

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I am stating my social and ability position right now: I am an ‘able-bodied’ USA born woman and have been ‘able-bodied’ my entire life. I know I benefit from structural ableism, and as a child and younger adult, I was unaware of just how much being constructed as an ‘able-bodied’ human being ‘earned’ me privileges of being seen as ‘productive’

In addition, I have had slim-body privilege my entire adult life. I bring this up because ‘being fat’ or ‘obese’ has really shifted in the USA over the past decade: it is now common for a significant number of medical and alternative health communities to suggest that ‘being fat’ equals ‘disabled body’ which are then constructed  as being ‘inferior’ and ‘impure.’ 

I actually want to start a spin-off dialogue about what it means for able-bodied vegans to construct being “kinder” with “harmlessness” (principles of Ahimsa based veganism) and then making the argument that a life of “living with a disability” would be “cruel”; hence, if one can “prevent” this “happening” to a fetus (in utero), they should seriously consider abortion.

“But that said, I do think that sometimes there are times when abortion may be a kinder choice. Sometimes there might be medical reasons for an abortion. Maybe the unborn child gets diagnosed with a really severe disability which will mean a very unhappy and/or short life for the child. ” -emily

Thank you for those of you who joined the discussion “Vegans: Are you ‘pro-life’, ‘pro-choice’, or have an alternative perspective on abortion?” that I posted on June 25, 2013.  The quote above was one of over 40 comments posted on the June 25 blog topic. It made me think of several things:

  • Who determines what a ‘really severe’ disability is?
  • Is a life of happiness only possible if a fetus is determined to meet some benchmark of ‘healthy’?
  • Most importantly, are you a person who was born as being diagnosed with a disability or disabilities, and how has this lived experienced, as well as living in a society of structural ableism (at least here in the USA) informed your own sense of Ahimsa, kindness, living a life of happiness etc, as well as the argument by able-bodied people about promoting abortion for “disabled” fetuses?

Even though Emily’s statement is focusing on ‘severe disability’, I do not know much about Emily. After all, emily could be a person living with disability too, but I’m wondering if this person speaks from the positionality of not being ‘diagnosed’ as ‘severely disabled’.  Furthermore, and even though it is not completely the same premise that reflects Emily’s comments, I have found the rhetoric of ableism quite pervasive in the mainstream vegan movement in the USA. There is an overal fear of how certain eating habits will or will not create a ‘pure’ or ‘impure’ human being. Such ‘purity’ rhetoric not only focuses on ‘disability’, but also traits such as ‘being tall’ and  ‘being slender’ as being an ‘abled body’. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I come across these assumptions about what makes a ‘superior’ or ‘healthy child, particularly through dietary habits amongst those who practice veganism, vegetarianism, and raw foods:

  • Eating a plant-based diet has been shown to increase IQ, so be sure to go vegan or vegetarian while pregnant! (What you’re really saying—> Because only ‘smart’ children, whose intellect is based on a socially constructed test, are most productive and contribute the most to society)
  • Eating a plant-based diet rich in protein and greens has been proven to make sure your child will be tall and slender (What you’re really saying—? Because short and/or children who are ‘fat’ are not going to be happy and are not superior to tall slender children).

(Updated on July 6, 8:35 am PST) So, here’s the thing: I am not asking people to necessarily start a dialogue about whether or not the person carrying an embryo or fetus SHOULD OR SHOULD not abort. This post is more about how particular regions, cultures, eras, etc., in the USA PRODUCE rhetoric around who is ‘normal’, ‘healthy’, and ‘able-bodied. Hence how does this normalized rhetoric influence our perceptions and ethical belief systems when making choices about their pregnancy and birthing? How does this influence how we perceive and relate to themselves (whether they have been ‘diagnosed’ as an abled bodied or a disabled bodied person)? This dialogue, doesn’t have to be focused on the pro-choice and pro-life debate, but rather, it can also engage in serious and mindful dialogue around the reality that here in the USA at least, there is a strong rhetoric of ‘fear’ and ‘panic’ when potential human beings (embryo and fetuses), as well as living ‘post-birth’ human beings, do not fit into socially accepted norms of ‘able-bodied’.

So, let’s talk about this, and I’m going to ask, if you are comfortable, to state you social and ability locations like I did. If you are unfamiliar with the goals of Sistah Vegan, we seriously engage in how our social, geographical, etc locations affect our experiences, consciousness, and how we view our reality.

In addition, if you’re interested in hearing more about applications of disability studies and vegan studies, I invite you to join the first annual Sistah Vegan conference, which takes place as an interactive web conference on September 14, 2013. Click here to learn more about it: Sistah Vegan Conference, September 14 2013. 
If you enjoy the work of the Sistah Vegan Project, please help us become an official non-profit organization. Please contribute what you can by clicking on the GOFUNDME Link below. If you do not want to use this method, but prefer paypal, click on the link on the right upper corner of this blog page to donate via PAYPAL.

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Want strong healthy hair and glowing skin? Black hair and skin care the natural way!

Black women and girls: My name is Dr. A. Breeze Harper. You can achieve glowing skin and strong healthy hair with a few simple steps. I want to share this wisdom with you. Will you join me?

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Dr. A. Breeze Harper without make-up, May 2013.

Dr. Harper, November 2012 with daughter, Eva Luna.

Dr. Harper, November 2012 with daughter, Eva Luna.

  • Learn how to combat breakage and strengthen your hair, no matter how long or short.

  • Discover how postpartum hair loss can be remedied without medical treatment or expensive alternatives

  • Learn how this one simple and cheap natural oil can grow your hair, add hydration, and is also excellent for your skin

  • Learn how easy it is to ‘go natural’, with the right shampoo, oils, herbs, and conditioner

My name is  Dr. A. Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project. I have been complimented often about how much my hair grows and how much my skin glows. I do not go to hair salons or spas, and nor have I worn make-up for about 15 years.  I will teach you what foods and herbs you can take, as well as put on your hair and scalp, that will help your hair grow, become stronger, and healthier.  I will also focus a portion of this webinar to growing you hair back, after giving birth. Postpartum hair loss is all too common amongst women. I know women who had children 2 or 3 years ago and continue to have hair loss and thinning problems. With a few tips from me, they were able to grow their hair back.

Date: June 30, 2013

Time: 10:00 am PST/1:00pm EST (USA Time Zones)

Cost: $30.00

Spaces Left: 27 out of 30.

Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes (approximately)

Technology requirements: a computer with a fast internet connection and a free WebEx account (my webinars are hosted through WebEx, so if you don’t want to call a regular phone number to access it and then pay per minute, you can join the webinar with a password via a free WebEx account). You should have speakers or headphone to hear. I will be using video and audio so participants will be able to see and hear me present. The webinar will be recorded and available to access for free for you who have registered, to refer to as long as you desire. There will be Q&A at the end.

How to pay: please sent payment to my PayPal account. My email associated with that account is breezeharper (at) gmail (dot) com. In the memo field please type in “hairjune2013”

About the Instructor: Dr. A. Breeze Harper is the director and founder of the Sistah Vegan Project, a organization dedicated to critical race feminist perspectives on veganism, as seen through the collective experiences of Black North American females. Dr. Harper started the project in 2005. She holds degrees from Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and University of California-Davis. Her innovative ability to integrate the use of educational technologies to analyze Black female vegans food and health philosophies earned her the Dean’s Award from Harvard University in 2007 for her Master Thesis work: this is an honor only bestowed upon one candidate per program.

Dr. Harper’s knowledge about diversity within the field of food and wellness has marked her as a highly sought after paid consultant and speaker for many American universities. She has given many keynote addresses including at Boston University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Oregon, and Southwestern University. She teaches students, faculty, and staff how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality, and ability. She has published extensively, including Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). She graduated summa cum-laude from University of California-Davis with a PhD in critical geographies of race and food.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified practitioner or medical doctor. Please consult with your practitioner before trying any of the foods or herbs that I recommend.

“Living in post apartheid South Africa inflicts such great wounds on a person of color, especially one coming from a country where the settlers have all but left”

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Dr. A. Breeze Harper

(This post was originally titled: “Not everyone has the ‘privilege’ or desire to practice veganism through the lens of ‘post-racial’ whiteness”. However, I decided to change and update it.)

Sistah Vegan Project is the alternative space for those of us Black women and allies who have grown tired of PETA-type post-racial vegan politics that so dominate not just the USA, but many white-settler nations.

A few days a ago, I received a letter from S—- (i am protecting her identity and she gave me permission to publish her letter), a Black Kenyan woman living in South Africa. I read her email and it made me cry for many reasons. I wanted to share it with you because her experience and her open-heart truth-song are the reasons why I must keep the Sistah Vegan Project going, and turn it into a fully functional non-profit organization. Black women, not just those of use who practice veganism, really need to be surrounded by people who don’t force us to ‘accept’ a post-racial utopia myth the neoliberalism has so ‘brilliantly’ done to the consciousness of so many of us living in white-settler nations.

Dear Dr Breeze Harper,

My name is S— from Kenya, but I am currently living in Cape Town South Africa. I recently embarked on a juice fast primarily for weight-loss but a month in, after watching copious youtube videos, I began to see my journey as one that was broader than just the idea of losing weight for aesthetic reasons. I started thinking about my health and how I just wanted better for myself. I have been overweight for almost seven years now and the birth of my son four years ago exacerbated my condition.  I found a blackhealthvillage video on youtube about Queen Afua and through this medium i discovered you. I am writing just to say thank you so much, you have no idea how much what you have to say has moved me and changed my life.

I started flirting with the idea of going vegan, which especially in a very white post colonial Cape Town, is such a white “hippie”, yoga life concept and is not really considered normal for a person of color. I struggled with the looks of disbelief I got from a lot of people when i spoke about my journey into the raw vegan life style. One of the things that struck out to me the most, was how my boss particularly (who has recently gone vegetarian), only wanted to discuss veganism/vegetarianism in terms of cruelty to animals. I always had a sense that we were communicating past each other. I do hate the extent to which the animal products and meat industry is destroying our planet and also the extremity of the cruelty to which many animals are subjected just so humans can eat abundantly. I find obscene the amount of waste (food) generated by the meat and fish industry.   The conversation around these issues however,always seemed shallow and very basic to me, it just seemed to lack conviction. 

I have been watching your videos and I feel like I am home. Looking at veganism as a way to decolonize my body has provided the conviction I need to proceed on with my journey.

Living in post apartheid South Africa inflicts such great wounds on a person of color, especially one coming from a country where the settlers have all but left. I first really noticed the color of my skin when i moved here 13 years ago. I stopped being “S— the girl in my English class” and became “that black chic, man, the one who sits two rows down in English”. I noticed the segregation, people naturally just hang around with their own kind. I was at a progressive university, where the History department (I majored in History for my BA) was renowned for its work in studying neocolonialism and post apartheid whiteness, but i was still having to defend my lived experiences of racial attacks to white middle class suburban students. These were spoiled and entitled people: They would not acknowledge sprawling townships that existed not too far beyond their high electric fences, where people of color still lived in tin shacks and used buckets as toilets…it was altogether inconceivable that they would ever acknowledge that i experienced racism on a daily basis. I had heard stories where orientation week for black South African student included guidelines to using toilets that flushed; I could not fathom anything more demeaning.

As result of years of this battery I just started letting  a lot slide, i ignored racial comment, acting as though i was unaffected. I worked hard and gave off an air of disdain to all the white folk that dared challenge my prowess and abilities based on my skin color. I had the advantage of being well traveled (as my parents had worked for the UN) and being very “well spoken” in an accent that was acceptable to my white counterparts. I was therefore accepted, i somehow was excluded from the stereo types attributed to black people. My son is a biracial child and thus fact that i married into a white family made me more appealing to the white neo- liberal society. Nothing is more patronizing than being the token and acceptable black person, i am the girl that allows white people to say “I am not racist, I have black friend”. 

I cannot decide what is worse, the patronizing or the out right hateful racism i get form the Afrikaaners (the coiners of the term Kafir). There have also been moments where i feel isolated form the black community because of my choice in mate and my child is hurt (although not intentionally) when discussions about bi-racial children arise – these usually evoke such fierce sentiments from white and black alike.

What I really want to say is that your work has awoken something in me and I feel empowered and politicized again. I know that it is okay to talk about how hurtful racism is, and to let people know that the denial of its existence is such  an insult to a person who lives it everyday. I have pandered to the feelings of white “friends, colleagues and neighbors’” by not discussing my feelings around racism for fear of being deemed militant or too heavy, whilst the very same people have not considered my feelings when they discuss people of color, our cultures and our politics from a place of non compassion and understanding. 

I have been empowered by you to find a safe space to release my anguish, to find like minded sisters and brothers who will help me heal A place where it is safe to discuss my views. My family lives in Kenya and the US so i am surrounded by a white family where my opinions are quietly discouraged. I recall once being asked to step off my soap box as it was dinner time and thus very inappropriate to discuss politics. At the time i was talking about the plight of the immigrant Zimbabweans crossing the South African boarder everyday, looking for a better life; i failed to understand why this was deemed inappropriate politic whereas deeming the new black regime wasn’t.

In a nutshell I am truly grateful for your work and thank you for opening my eyes to so much.

Kindest regards
S—-

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”
 ― Maya Angelou

This letter helped to ground me and recenter me. If you have been following my blog for the past few months, you have read or heard how I struggle with what is the “worth” in doing this work; particularly in this harsh job economy in which a person with my particular ‘skillset’ (that critiques ‘the system’) cannot secure full time employment… But thank you S— for reminding me why I must somehow make the Sistah Vegan Project my livelihood.

I have been doing this work for years, and as much as I enjoy it, I can no longer do it for free. If you enjoy the work I have done, if it has helped you, your organization, your students, your family, etc, and you want to see it go to the next level of a non-profit social justice organization, please contribute what you can by clicking on the GOFUNDME Link below. If you do not want to use this method, but prefer paypal, click on the link on the right upper corner of this blog page to donate via PAYPAL.

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