Every black woman I know should pick up the book, Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health and Society: Black Female Vegans Speak. Yes, I said it: black vegans.
Off too often, vegans are portrayed as white, thin, hippie-like folks who can’t seem to release their arms from the trees they’re hugging. Right? Dr. A. Breeze Harper created an anthology comprised of black women’s narratives detailing their individual journeys with veganism. Harper is outspoken on her views about veganism serving as a means to decolonize the black body. Her book “explores food politics, identity, sexuality, health, womanism, feminism, decolonization, anti-racism, eco-sustainability, and animal rights through the lens of the black female vegan experience in the USA. It is the first volume of its kind to address the racial and gender vegan experience in the USA.”
I’ve seen many of Harper’s talks on youtube and she describes her own process of eating healthier, not necessarily as just a “diet” but as a lifestyle. When she was 23, she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids [which is an illness that disproportionately impacts black women]. At the time, whenever she was stressed, she would reach for non-nutritious foods, like cheeseburgers and chocolate. After going vegan, she cured herself and now discusses the intersections of race, gender, class and food. She is also one of the first people to actually discuss how sexist and racist microaggressions can make the black body even unhealthier. She went to a predominantly white instutition for her undergraduate career and experienced an immense amount of racism. She is very explicit in the connections she makes between the body, social stress, and food.
She is also the creator of the Sistah Vegan Project. The site states: “The Sistah Vegan blog isn’t about veganism as much as it is about what life and phenomenon look like through the consciousness of black vegan girls and women.” Within this space, Harper shares her thoughts about certain phenomena, and shares stories about her children who she raises on a vegan diet.
The site is filled with funny stories, painful stories, and educational tips. One of my favorite videos from Harper is called, “Racial Tension Headaches: Kale Smoothies for a ‘Post-Racial Era.” In this, she explicity connects racism and food. She creates a super healthy, delicious kale smoothie with particular ingredients that help the immune system, as well as the reproductive system. I have learned so much about veganism just from Harper’s site and book.
I also participated in Harper’s first ever Sistah Vegan conference last September. It was called, “Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women.” My presentation was called, “PETA and the Trope of ‘Activism’: Naturalizing Postfeminism and Postrace Attitudes through Sexualized Bodied Protests.” It was an amazing web-conference where we discussed issues relating to racism, sexism, classism, motherhood, animal cruelty, etc.
Dr. Harper is currently working on a project that explores the intersections of black masculininty, hip hop and veganism. I would urge you to check out some of her work, especially if you feel like racist and/or sexist microaggressions are impacting your body for the worse. Vegansim can be more than a diet, it can be a means to decolonizing your body.
Check out Dr. Harper’s “Gofundme” page to donate money to help her continue to make more awesome projects!