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All things thought provoking and view-changing.

Let’s Talk About “Black Veganism”

 

This is for my black family.

When it comes to mainstream veganism, it is very clear that most people are left out in the hopes of building a cruelty-free world. Even with the pioneers’ promises and attempts at “inclusion,” there still seems to be a disconnect of what lack of representation does to marginalized groups.

Yes, it’s hurtful at first and feels like everything you learned about veganism is a lie, but then you come to find that it’s not ALL about saving the animals. There are several valid reasons why people choose to live vegan or plant-based; including environmental, food/social justice, cultural, health, spiritual, feminist, or even for a family member; the list goes on and on.

Does this make animal rights vegans invalid for choosing their path? Naw, but it becomes a problem when humans are scratched off their list of beings who deserve respect.

When the mainstream conversation doesn’t extend to those who can’t go vegan overnight no matter how much money they can scrape up, it starts to take an ugly turn and gets repetitively uncomfortable. It’s incredibly tired, and fam, we deserve better.

This is where our own type of vegan community comes into play, one where our cultural uniqueness and disadvantages are centered without an ulterior motive. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives, especially since odds have been stacked against us for quite some time.

With the help of many insightful and talented black vegan celebrities, conversations about the lifestyle have been forming in our favor and feature real folk with our perspectives.

So, in that case, what does Black Veganism look like? Maybe it’s promoting black folk of all sizes and colors, only featuring black vegans in advertisements, talking about our collective and individual struggles, working on food accessibility, considering other forms of injustice including speciesism, or bonding over vegan soul food. Whatever it will be it’s completely up to us, which is the beauty of it all.

Of course there will be those types who feel as though we’re being divisive, and I say fuck their opinion. Like honestly, fuck that noise. Even the ones who cry “reverse racism,” just laugh at their ignorance. We experience actual division on a significant scale, so nothing they will say can negate the awesome work we’re capable of doing.

All in all, there is no one answer to what Black Veganism is or could be, but I know damn well we’re going to make it happen. It’s been far too long that our pleas of recognition have fallen onto dismissive ears and it’s obvious our existence in animal rights spaces aren’t favorable. So we got this, all we truly need is each other to create the compassionate community we deserve.

Are you black and non-vegan? Don’t let this intimidate you, you will be accepted as a vegan despite the belief of it being a “white” thing (which it’s definitely not). For our situation, a proper way to start would be to download a free African-American Vegan Starter Guide from public health nutritionist Tracye McQuirter and see where the road takes you!

Are you black and vegan? Then what does Black Veganism look like to you? Let me know your thoughts!

Are Mainstream Self-Care Tactics One-Size Fits All?

 

When I think about self-care nowadays, I always picture a blonde yoga teacher who swears that the spiritual practice is the only pathway to true happiness. Well, I have been practicing yoga, meditation, and other self-help type thangs for most of my adult life, and I can definitely say that they induce feelings of joy and calm unlike no other. Whenever I feel purposeless and constantly uneasy, it’s nice to know that a little quiet time devoted to being present will shake off some of those nerves; and I emphasize “some” for a reason…

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve experienced depressive moods and bursts of anxiety that I just wrote off for being an awkward kid. You can imagine how hard being a teen was: always hating myself for feeling out of place (mostly because of my skin color and hair texture) while silently worrying that bad things will happen to me. Now that I’m an adult I have no choice but to acknowledge my mental health concerns, especially since I have personal goals that require my full attention.

When I first started doing yoga at 15, it was more for the exercise than the spiritual aspect; but once I practiced yoga as a whole after I went vegan, it felt like a new world had opened up to me. I followed the lifestyle to the best of my ability and even then did something feel off. I’d get so pissed at myself for slipping up and not being conscious with my actions, having weak core strength, or having my mind wander too much during meditation, and I wasn’t focusing on why I felt like I had to be hard on myself all of the time.

Never will I blame yoga or other similar activities, but they are not the cure for ailing mental health. They are great for relaxation and developing positive self-talk but it is not helpful to believe that meditation will automatically resolve severe anxiety just because it sounds cute. Not everyone is able to sit still or complete a yoga pose or even have their mind stop racing, so most typical self-care practices we see today totally leave those folks out. Why are those with mental health issues often left out of the conversation?

I wish to highlight that breathing exercises, regular movement, and positive self-talk/image are all very important ingredients to a better mood, but there are people who truly don’t have control over how they think or feel and should be included in the discussion about self-care. People should be encouraged to do what’s right for them rather than follow a super specific template of finding happiness.

I’ll always have my yoga and meditation routine down, but you can bet your ass I’ll never deny my deeper issues ever again. Sure, my fluctuating depression and anxiety might not go away but it’s the price I pay for experiencing life and I wouldn’t change myself for the world.

For those who are seriously struggling with their mental health, I encourage you to talk to a professional if possible or maybe even visit http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/self-care if it works for you.

Why “Get Out” Was So Damn Real

If you haven’t heard already, the all-too-realistic horror flick Get Out premiered this past weekend and made some serious impact…

Jordan Peele, of the comedy duo Key & Peele, made his film and directorial debut about a black man named Chris visiting his white girlfriend Rose’s parents for the weekend at their remote, seemingly cozy home. Despite Chris’ discomfort with the goings-on at the family’s estate, he stays to be polite and internalizes the microaggressive comments expressed by Rose’s folks and their friends. When Chris gets fed up with the funny business, he attempts to leave the creepy home but is met with violent resistance from the whole family.

What made this film so on point were the constant unassuming metaphors in every scene. I won’t name all of them for the sake of not spoiling this must-see, but my favorite example was the concept of the “sunken place”: where Rose’s psychiatrist mother hypnotizes Chris against his wishes, which leaves his body paralyzed but his conscious mind awake. This, to me, represents black people’s physical inability to do anything about our oppression although we are somewhat conscious of what’s going on.

Another one was the family’s collective act of luring in successful black men, grooming them, brainwashing them, and then, ultimately, becoming them (through a process I’d rather have you find out in theaters, sorry not sorry!). The abducted black people then went on to become servants and soul-less, hollow shells. If this analogy isn’t already clear, it is totally an allusion to modern and historical slavery. We were taken, forced to work, pressured to assimilate, made to believe lies, and we lose a bit of ourselves every time we deny this still exists. And also, this was completely in reference to how white people possibly want to be us; whether it is for our physical and mental strength, natural beauty, or innate talents.

Okay, I wasn’t going to mention another metaphor, but this one is definitely the best! At the end of the movie, after all the shit that’s happened to Chris, the person who saved him was his best friend Rod. Rod totally looked out for Chris the whole time and knew some weird shit was going on at Rose’s childhood home, and he truly stopped at nothing to make sure his friend was still alive. I think this shows that we black people have to have each other’s backs, and the only people who will save us are ourselves.

I’ll admit it, I’ve seen this movie three times since its launch and every time was a different outlook, but the third viewing was the hardest. It feels satisfying to see a movie you wholly relate to but it’s depressing because it pretty much sums up the black experience. We are constantly being told through messages in media that we’re “other” or “sub-human” and once we confront that, we’re gaslighted into believing that we’re exaggerating or that we should get over ourselves. Please, spare me that bullshit.

Hell, sometimes I even believe the emotional abuse that white supremacy has plagued me, because it’s easier to think that white people have your best interests in mind rather than be suspicious of every one of them. After a while, you want to stay silent about your own oppression so that the oppressors won’t belittle you anymore than they already do, but fuck that. Though many black people are vocal about their negative experiences in the U.S., this movie definitely touched on topics we must all discuss.

There was a happy-ish ending though because Chris was able to escape with his buddy, but where’s our escape? How do we release ourselves from this demon called white supremacy? I’m sure there’s no right answer to that, but I wish it was that easy to get out.

What are your thoughts about the movie? Lay it on me!

 

Where Have I Been?? Lawd, Lemme Tell You…

If it hasn’t been apparent already, I’ve been M.I.A (on many things actually) for quite some time now. It’s not my fault, though! A LOT has been going on…

After I graduated from Bowie State University last Spring, I got the opportunity of a lifetime by accepting a position at a mainstream vegan organization. Exciting as hell, right? My job includes grassroots outreach tactics like leafleting, touring the Southeast for HBCUs, tabling, organizing events, community building in Black spaces, etc, which got me flexing my activism muscle hardcore. I never knew I had the courage to do any of this before, but now I can’t get enough of grassroots activism! Organizing, writing, and educating are perfect outlets for my desire to tackle social justice issues, so I’m privileged and pleased to have a platform to do so.

My outreach schedule wasn’t the only thing that kept me from blogging all this time, I’ve also been learning more about myself and my beliefs. In reading my old ass posts I discovered that I’m a completely different person now; I have different opinions and character traits, and use different language to describe them. I am never the same person twice and I constantly evolve based on new information. So good to know!

These wild experiences and newfound biases has me mega motivated to build my own as a confident Black, queer woman. We are totally under-represented in most social justice spaces and deserve to have a voice. Marginalized folk of all kinds (Black and Brown, LGBTQIA+, and differently-abled people, and women) are usually excluded from conversations that especially pertain to them because of the West’s obsession with the straight, white, cisgender, middle-class, male template of a human being. Naw, I’m not going to accept that.

So, I’m going to follow my calling and hopefully watch it grow. I have no choice but to go full-force into it if I want to see progress, so I’m going to keep organizing and writing and educating my peers about intersectional justice until I’m purple in the face! NOW is the time to resist, learn, and undo all the conditioning we’ve endured. I refuse to sit idly by while the world is crumbling and will use my platforms to make shit happen. Best believe.

Are you into social justice, too? If so, follow my activism adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Snapchat!

 

Why Intersectional Feminism is Automatically Vegan

Not your mom, not your milk

Let me just get this out of the way: I am NOT a typical feminist. To me, feminism has kept its ties with its first-wave in America, focusing on the political equality of middle-to-upper class white women beginning in the 19th century. That’s cute and all, but what about the rest of us?? There’s definitely more than one type of woman who needs peer support and equality, then why not include all of them? And that’s where intersectional feminism comes in! The term was established by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, defining it as “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity…Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” 

Although I focus closely on womanism, which is feminism for women of color (mostly Black) and all abilities, intersectional feminism is a great way to understand the challenges of all types of women (and men, too) regardless of our biases. And when I mean ALL types of women, I’m talkin’ ’bout the non-human ones also. Not following me? Well, plainly, I feel that intersectionality amongst females shouldn’t have to be reserved only to humans, especially since it supposedly accepts all ladies despite their differences. Just like denying a disabled woman her rights is ableist, assuming a cow doesn’t have rights is speciesist and should be against the “code” of acknowledging all female issues.

Think about it, all animals have genders just like we do; we are not unique in that. So it only seems fair to recognize and challenge the human-made exploitation of female animals in the intersectional feminist movement. Like how dairy cows are raped repeatedly for impregnation so people can have a glass of milk, how hens are forced to lay close to 300 eggs a year when they would only do so about 10-15 times in nature, or how sows are locked in tiny cages where they can’t turn around with their only purpose being to breed more piglets for slaughter. The list goes on and on, just so we can blindly consume their body parts and secretions. Vegans can’t be the only ones who think this is a huge social error!

And of course male animals probably perform behaviors in nature that seem unfair to their female counterparts, but we have no say in that because those actions are most likely instinctual. We can’t control what animals do in nature amongst themselves, yet we do have control over how we treat them and use them solely for profit. I won’t assume that intersectional feminists will pick up this cause and that the world will go vegan, but I am hopeful that people will see the injustice in the animal agriculture industry (amongst other industries) and will match their morals to their actions.

To wrap it up, it is quite hypocritical for feminists of all kinds to consume animal products, especially if they’re educated about the exploitation of female farm/fur animals. I totally get it if it never crosses one’s mind due to lack of education, but no true practicing intersectional feminist would take this injustice lightly. Don’t forget about the males though! Males, human or non-human, face issues that are similarly daunting, so we can’t leave them out in our message of equality. Regardless of the labels we identify with, we all know that we should treat others with compassion, respect, and love; so it’s time we align that notion with everything we do.

Is Pet Ownership Vegan??

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I can’t speak for other vegheads, but I have never truly been an animal lover. That sounds like a terrible thing to say, but I have always either been scared of them or felt like I was hurting them when I pet them haha. So it’s easy to say that I’ve remained disconnected from domesticated animals, however, that did not tarnish my respect and secret adoration of them. I’ve always found them super cute and snuggly though their living situation with humans made me feel uncomfortable deep down; I just thought it was because I was an apathetic bitch, but being vegan for a while has made sense of those odd feelings…

I just recently figured out that I see domesticated animals as slaves like I do with farmed ones. It took me a minute to come to terms with these thoughts, just because I thought dogs and cats and hamsters needed humans to survive as if they have never sought to be in the wild. But with my new knowledge on dog breeding for entertainment’s sake and their behaviors in the wild, I made the connection that most pets would probably rather explore in nature than to be locked up in a house.

Of course there are situations where these animals are rescued from horrible living conditions, physical abuse, vivisection, or just haven’t been taught how to live solo in the woods, and I can totally understand that. Regardless of my opinion, there are times that call for domesticated animals to be sheltered and I can never dispute that; but I’m talkin bout people who own pets solely to have a plaything. I guess that’s all well and good if someone is truly lonely but no animal should be bred for the purpose of entertaining a human; that’s almost as lame as holding animals captive in zoos or aquariums.

Nowadays when I see a person walking their dog on a leash or getting upset when it doesn’t obey a command, I cringe a little because I feel like it would rather run free without having to follow weird rules. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very impressive when a dog sits on command, but I would be pissed off if someone told my ass to sit down! I would rebel like any other creature though they don’t have much of a choice. And although I can’t relate since I’m not a dog or a cat, I just think it’s really important to put myself in their place to see how I would feel because why not? They’re sentient beings like I am so they deserve sympathy where it’s needed.

So is owning a pet vegan? I mean, I guess it depends on the situation. If someone adopts a domesticated animal for completely selfless purposes, then I don’t see much of a problem. If someone wants one because they’re cute and cuddly, then holy shit…not cool. The issue with that is the speciesism that is so prevalent in our society; it’s as if we see animals as objects or machines rather than lifeforms like us. It’s unfair to use them for our benefit (be it food, entertainment, fashion, etc.), especially when we would complain if we had their exact experience. No one wants to be caged, commanded at, skinned, leashed, raped, tortured, or eaten, so why is it fine and dandy when we do it to our non-human counterparts? Trick question, it’s not. So I advise anyone to re-evaluate why they have their pet(s) and remember that they deserve freedom as much as you do.

How to Go Vegan in 3 Obvious Steps (Overnight Transition on a Low-Budget)

Vegan for Everything

For those who are ready to make the big switch, this will be a total cinch! But to those who aren’t interested, I feel that information like this would be of use anyways because you never know what words will strike a chord…

It didn’t take much for me to want to transition to veganism exactly three years ago. I was already on a basic bitch health kick and would do anything to feel better and get in shape, and the more research I did, the more I found that animal products were possibly the cause of my chronic ailments (like constipation, acne, borderline insomnia, etc.) and decided to cut back on my intake severely. Then, something inside told me to watch a slaughterhouse video to truly see where my “food” was coming from and after that, I went vegan and never looked back! Notice how I describe myself as a vegan and not “plant-based.” When one transitions to a plant-based diet, they are dropping most of the animal products they usually eat (sometimes except for honey) but don’t extend that notion to other parts of their lives; primarily for health reasons. This means they probably still wear fur or leather, do not find animal cruelty as an ethical issue, and will sparingly eat animal byproducts as a treat. Uncool.

Vegans, on the other hand, take animal abuse super fuckin seriously…and I mean that as a good thing haha. They recognize animal suffering as a social error and don’t support businesses that exploit this issue. This means not consuming animal products or its exploitatives of any kind, including food, fashion, makeup, hunting, zoos, aquariums, vivisection, breeding, and a lot more. In my biases, I recognize that I praise veganism and those who live by it, but that does not mean that I think we are superior. Although the lifestyle does alleviate health problems, animal abuse, and planetary destruction, it does not change my philosophy that all animals (and humans too, duh!) are cosmically equal.

Now that I’m done blabbing, lets get down to the nitty gritty! In order to transition to a vegan lifestyle, one would have to:

  1. Get educated.  The reason why most people don’t succeed at living vegan is because of their lack of education before tackling it. It’s too important to do your own research about this serious problem and come to your own conclusions. Of course vegan propaganda exists, where facts and statistics are exaggerated to get people to quit their sick fix; but the more research you do, the more you will notice a consistency in the numbers. Also, the easiest way to learn more about this topic would be to watch the Holy Trinity of Veg Movies: Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, and Cowspiracy; which can all be found on YouTube and/or Netflix. You can also throw in Gary Yourofsky’s “Best Speech Ever” on YouTube if you dare! These awesome films will give you in-depth looks into the health, ethical, and environmental problems that animal agriculture causes; and they’re well-written to the max, too.
  2. Give up the junk.  After thorough research, hopefully you understand the issue at-hand and decide to swap all your animal products with plant ones. This means buying meat, dairy, and egg alternatives instead of using your dollar to support a corrupt industry. But don’t fret, animal alternatives are just as tasty and affordable as the usual stuff! At a typical grocery store, boneless chicken breasts costs about $3.27/lb while tofu is an average of $2-2.50/lb; and if you wanted to be mega healthy, dried beans are around $1.39/lb. Tofurkey sausages, Daiya cheeses, and Beyond Meat chicken strips ring in at about $4-5 max at your local supermarket, but you can also get your proteins in its whole form with beans, plain tofu, and tempeh (and they’re cheaper!). Commercial grocery stores hold inexpensive vegan and accidentally-vegan items also. This step also includes refusing to purchase anything that exploits animals, like animal-tested makeup; fur, leather, down, or silk; going to circuses or zoos; or supporting speciesism in any way. If you just so happen to have an actual leather jacket or makeup from a cruelty-supportive company laying around, it’s up to you whether or not you want to give it away since you were unaware before you bought it; but just remember that it used to be someone’s skin or that someone was harmed in the making of said product, which is freakin horrifying and sad.
  3. Walk the walk.  Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to make this an actual lifestyle! All you need to do is live the first two steps in its entirety, which sounds like an ordeal but it’s definitely not if you give a shit. It may seem like you’re “reducing” your life to constantly checking  ingredients of simple foods, bitching at meat-eaters, and being burdened by the lack of support you get in a non-vegan world, but that is completely NOT true. Think about what you’d be gaining: a clear conscience, better karma, better health, social awareness, more compassion toward your fellow human, some corporate detachment, respect toward all animals, reduced environmental impact, and, hopefully, a new cause! So don’t be a Negative Nancy and think about your sacrifices, just be happy that no one was sacrificed so that you may be comfortable; there’s no better feeling than that. Now go get your veg on!

If I’m missing anything or you need any help, don’t hesitate to holla at me! I’d be delighted to vegify you 🙂

Is There Really Such Thing As Humane Slaughter? Let’s Look at the Facts…

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…Actually, no. There are NO “facts” supporting this oxymoron because it is simply impossible. Have you ever heard of humane rape, humane slavery, humane pedophilia? No? Well maybe because they don’t exist! You see, our egos as humans have grown so large that we believe we can oppress other species in a compassionate way…as if. Some people even believe that animals have been put on Earth for us to consume, and although I will never mock their belief because I have no idea where it stems from, I can’t deny that that is a very narcissistic and sadistic point of view. Amirite?

But really though, why do people truly believe in humane slaughter? Why do they fall for the “cage-free, grass-fed, pasteurized-raised” marketing ploy when purchasing animal foods, as if a farm animal possibly having a well-to-do life before it’s murdered is morally acceptable? As a former meat-fanatic, I can attest that it is most likely due to tradition/conformity, religion, or lack of education or empathy. Shit, even I was raised to think it was my moral obligation to eat animal products since God said it was totally cool, so I get it! It’s just that these animals are sacrificed for our guilty pleasures and we’re desensitized to their suffering. We turn a blind eye to the slavery, death, and torture they face so that we may be comfortable and entertained, and that’s just not okay.

I know there are people out there who seriously don’t give a fuck, and I accept that I can’t change their minds, but killing any being for personal “gain” is just plain sick. And I’m talking about those who have a choice; ones who choose to support animal cruelty when they really don’t have to. Was it humane when Jeffrey Dahmer drugged, raped, killed, and ate dozens of men solely because it felt good? Probably not. So why is it different to do so with another species? They are not inferior because they can’t communicate with us, they were not put on Earth for our enjoyment, and they do not deserve to be subject to the bullshit we put them through. Then what’s the point?

 

A Cure for the Insecure: Why We Allow People to Make Us Feel Like Shit and How to Get Over It

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We all know the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but does anyone truly believe that anymore? I think not, so I call bullshit. Yeah, words definitely do hurt, but nobody truly questions why. Why should we care what another person thinks of us? Why should someone else’s opinion ruin our moods? Why should I let someone browbeat me into wearing a bra again (ain’t gon’ happen, sorry hater!)? I believe it’s because of our desperate need for acceptance, approval, love/community, and to be well-liked. Pathetic, isn’t it?

Actually, it’s human nature to desire such things and we’d honestly be lost without them. I mean, how could one survive without love or being a part of a community? Isolation from the world sounds like a great idea and is ideal for a loner like moi, but the loneliness would literally drive us mad…like Tom Hanks in Cast Away mad. So it’s ingrained within us to want to be loved and have others like us because those are survival instincts, which is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

But emotions, doe! It makes sense why we are so sensitive to other people’s petty opinions, judgments, and remarks, but think about it, those things aren’t completely necessary for our survival. If anything, they keep us from thriving when we become obsessive about our “need” for their approval. For example, constantly thinking about that one time a customer called you a “bitch” while waiting tables 10 years ago will do you no good; the situation already happened, that customer was clearly a sandy cunt, and you have to permit yourself to let it go. We have to understand that hurt people hurt people; no one who is truly happy will feel the need to insult or belittle another person, so it is best to sympathize with the crazy asshole who’s tailgating you on the highway rather than get upset with them. You would do the same thing if you were them, and luckily you won’t have to experience their apparent misery.

In my many years of lessening my monkey mind and practicing mindfulness/meditation, I have developed a few tips for people who really let others’ bullshit put a stick in their craw:

1. Always remember that people are people. They shit, sleep, and eat just like you have to, therefore no one is truly superior or inferior to you. We’re all intimidated by each other to some extent, so just practice the golden rule and take their harsh opinions with a grain of salt.

2. Choose to let it go. Ultimately, happiness and the art of letting go is a choice, so don’t allow someone’s comment about your spider lashes bother you. Of course it was an extremely lame thing for that person to say, but that is something you can change and they’re super weird for staring that hard to notice anyways. Shame on them!

3. Opinions and judgments are ALL subjective. You can’t please everybody! Not everyone is going to like your hair texture, voice, or personality, but that’s totally okay because there will always be someone else who will. So a person’s rude comment to you is basically invalid since it is not factual that all people feel that way. An opinion is called an opinion for a reason; it’s not based on fact.

4. Lastly, have enough confidence and self-love to realize that you are not what people tell you. You are you, you are unique, and you are fuckin awesome. Do NOT let anyone tell you otherwise. Rude people want you to feel just as terrible as they do, so don’t give them that satisfaction and know that you are fabulous despite their tongue-lashing. If you are truly comfortable in your own skin, then it will become a habit to shrug off others’ negativity with ease. Raise your vibration higher than that petty shit!

With mindfulness comes great responsibility. You are responsible for how you let others treat you and make you feel, so don’t fall for their misery trap. Words totally can hurt, and I will never dispute that, but do they really hurt enough that you can’t live your life in peace because of it? Hell to the naw. You should be free to do what you feel without the approval of others (as long as it does not hurt anybody else), so choose happiness, let shit go, and love yourself more because you definitely deserve it.