Category Archives: african revolution

Veganism and the Class War

What follows is a thought exercise.

My own definition of a vegan is a human who eats fruits and vegetables [as well as whatever nuts, seeds or legumes he or she may desire], and never eats or uses animal products. For starts. For my purposes and for the purposes of this post, this vegan is not so heavily involved in extremely elaborate recipes, in highly-processed ingredients and additives, in soy and grains, etc. That can come later. I’m simplifying and scaling down for the purpose of understanding what this post wants to address, which is the skeletal basics (though in full disclosure I’m pretty much a fruitarian). A vegan, firstly, is someone anywhere in the world where fruits and vegetables are affordable and accessible who eats those items, eats produce. That sort of vegan, who isn’t strictly dependent on special products, mock meats, packaged goods, and so on, who could be just at home eating the fruits and veggies available in Kinshasa or Kisangani as are available in Karachi or Kansas City, might be said, for the purposes of this thought experiment, to be a universal vegan, or even a vehicular vegan, and I will use either term interchangebly going forward.

As for the class war, I define it as the conflict between workers and bosses, between capitalists and proletariats, between landlords and tenants, between elites and all us riff-raff, even between humans and animals, over access and claims of ownership over land, infrastructure, the means of production, the structure of our economy, the production of culture, and so on. It is the imperative of oppressors to oppress, to exploit, to profit, maintain ignorance, maintain illiteracy and food scarcity, maintain the divisions amongst working people, maintain ideological, religious, and political zeitgeists of constant histeria, and yet eat well and live comfortably all the while. It is the imperative of workers, of women, of ethnic or sexual minorities, of those rendered landless, to maintain unity in struggle, to vie for and claim power, land and freedom, to achieve self-determination and societies of fairness and justice, to collectivize resources, to build and practice pro-human cultures, and to, at a spiritual maximum as it were, prefer death to slavery. The class war is very real and it is everywhere and, whether or not we acknowledge it, we are all class warriors of some stripe, all over the world. If we find ourselves hating our banks and landlords and tiring of our bosses, that much makes us class warriors, just as a Naxalite Adivasi struggling against planned and perpetrated genocides and land thefts and who actually engages in armed struggle is a class warrior. The bosses that like exploiting and polluting and dominating – whether at Goldman Sachs or British Petroleum or Tyson Chicken or General Motors or Lockheed Martin or Uncle Sam himself – they’re all class warriors for their side.

So how can we mix veganism – as practiced by the universal vegan – with the class war? We start with the manner in which prestige is applied to certain objects to make them desirable, even when they aren’t healthy or necessary. Possession or consumption of these articles of prestige are then used to define who is of what class, or at least who aspires to more elevated social rankings. Yes, commodity fetishism includes propagating the meat prestige – look at the most extreme sorts of hamburgers the fast-food industry invents, or at the Heart Attack Grill.

So, all over the third world, even where meat is scarce or pastoralism is irrevocably destroying land, meat is a prestige. Automobile usage is another. The wealthiest eat the most meat and drive the most, and are often the most gorged and overweight, hence the typical gut of rich and powerful elites in Africa and elsewhere in the third world. (And thanks to the zombifying power of marketing and mass media, a million other useless, wasteful and dangerous products are rendered prestigious, and we must use our own voices and propaganda to fight this, but that is another topic.)

But if a society hedges closer to veganism, that means more calories will generally be available to its individual constituents, since growing plants is far more sustainable and efficient than growing animals which eat plants. So that society would naturally enable an environment of greater equity and less classism. On the other hand, if a society hankers hard after meat, that means fewer people will eat of the greater resultant scarcity in overall available calories. The meat-centric society will inevitably breed the conditions for less equality and for harsher stratification, just because of how much meat production usurps of limited environmental resources.

That’s macro-level. What about individual vehicular vegan class warriors?

Conscious vegan workers remove themselves partly from an equation of exploitation by striking animals from a hierarchy of exploitation and brutality from their own lives. They help keep the class war between humans and from involving non-humans, who have enough of their own struggles and class wars in the wild without having to worry about human consumption.

Conscientious vegan workers keep from supporting aspects of the elite apparatus and cash machine by non-participation in the meat-industrial complex and, should veganism keep them healthy, the medical-industrial complex. The industries of violence and slavery are among the largest which support class and caste structures worldwide. Not endorsing the meat prestige and engaging in veganism means one is using one’s own labor and consumer powers to directly disempower the most odious aspects of the system.

It could be observed that much of veganism, as it is known particularly in North America, is associated with upper classes and privileged populations, but veganism at the grassroots is actually potentially most revolutionary. In the US, poor communities of color are often bereft of access to fresh healthy foods, and disproportionately find themselves afflicted with the diseases of Western diets and lifestyles. This is part of class war, as I see it, keeping the most chronically impoverished from being able to be healthy, long-lived and highly functioning, and from excelling as human beings. The elites don’t really care to ameliorate this problem.

Thus it is up to grassroots universal vegan workers of color, aware that existence in a human society configured such as ours means lifelong class war, to promote healthy lifestyles, to strive and struggle to increase access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables in our communities, and to speak loudly and widely on the benefits of non-meat consumption and the fallacies of the meat prestige and meat addiction.

Thoughtful vegans should make natural class warriors. Their veganism empowers them to escape relationships of oppression and violence with both humans and non-humans, while granting them the vitality and awareness to struggle for just power and representation for as long as necessary. The vehicular vegan revolutionary can be a revolutionary of stamina and substance, of vision and actualization, actually practicing diplomacy (with non-humans) and militancy (against industries and economies of subjugation).

And that is how, and why, veganism can relate to the class war, and why vegans, especially working-class vegans of color, should consider themselves class warriors. But it’s just one small open-source theory that still needs help (or refutation) from y’all.

Veganism can indeed be revolutionary, and we must make it so if we are serious about social change, food sovereignty, Earth and non-human justice, and human freedom and equity.

Poverty Contests

An article published in today’s New York Times reports on efforts in India to enshrine access to food as a constitutionally protected right, a law its proponents expect could enable the food-insecure to make their own market choices to purchase food with food coupons or cash, instead of waiting for monthly 77 pound bags of grain, sugar and kerosene under the current regime. The article also goes on to highlight statistics about how India’s poverty is more widespread and intense than Africa’s, despite the “Tiger” rebranding and annual economic growth rate. A report compiled in India Current Affairs in July also highlights these poverty rankings, comparing the one Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in the country’s center with the entire Democratic Republic of Congo, both of similar population (though the Congo’s size is more comparable to India in its entirety), and finding the same levels of deprivation, even with DRC’s wars (though Madhya Pradesh is not without Naxalites and other struggles for land and resources between communities and multi-national mining and other interests, not unlike DRC).

On the one hand, the expectation around the world seems to be of Africa as the world’s eternal poverty yardstick. This in spite of similar levels of conventionally measured economic growth in a number of Sub-Saharan countries that approach such activity as seen in India in recent years. By comparing favorably to Africa, a government should have license to claim progress in the war on poverty – that’s the ridiculous, racist assumption, an assumption of development stasis.

On the other more important hand, these rankings and contests, especially as presented in the links mentioned above, are patently absurd in themselves, ignoring the basic fact that most of the annual GDP growth measures the rise in income of mostly exclusive urban, male, elite high-end sectors which determine and direct mining, cash-crop, real estate (land displacement), and [cheapest] labor configurations which exclude vast rural populations, whether in India, Congo, or Colombia. Human beings are impoverishing other human beings – not continental geographies. And the story is similar in most geographies including those concerned in this essay – Adivasis in rural Chhattisgarh struggle to hold on to their land in the face of “Memoranda of Understanding” signed by illegitimate politicians to mining interests to violently displace the people from their land, similarly to how Niger Delta militants attack oil infrastructure and kidnap oil workers in response to land displacement and ecosystem destruction by a half century of oil exploitation by foreign corporations in happy concert with local state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Once you understand neo-colonialism and neoliberal market economics, these patterns can be easily understood as to how they determine poverty and struggle around the third world. Malnutrition and poverty propagate fastest and most consistently wherever governments fail to prioritize enabling peripheral population groups to exact their own capacity to cultivate, live and eat of the land. Changes in the environment, and dietary demands which may place undue stress on the ecosystem and reduce its carrying capacity, may further impede nutrition and food security, as predominates in Sahelian countries that currently suffer serious drought. But policy-makers in much of the third world more often than not do not care, since they do not share the same fate as those far beyond the capitals, the urban and privileged spaces where they bury their heads, forgetting what rural populations go through, forgetting they exist.

I think that in itself, that food security should become a constitutional and human right anywhere is excellent. But a shifting in societal priorities would be a more lasting solution, towards actually considering the plights of women, of agriculturalists, and enabling their self-determination while the wealth of the nation focuses first on human and ecological needs rather than profit for exploitative corporations and salaries for ministers and bureaucracies.

Why focus on these poverty contests, with Africa at level zero? These statistics only measure those who, already in positions of control over powerful economic interests, are getting richer as they exploit more underpaid, vulnerable workers, and the land those workers may have been displaced or evicted from. These statistics don’t measure women’s reproductive work, don’t measure broader levels of quality of life that get inflated by those at the very top, even while the masses at the bottom suffer more dispossession and malnutrition year after year.

Human solidarity is to be encouraged instead. The same problems in Nigeria or Congo are found in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Peru, the same exact identical types of fierce corruption, the same exact types of high-official sellouts, the same exact identical types of Western aspirationalism and mimicry, the same exact types of ideological and religious extremisms and hysterias which cripple the masses from thinking critically and boldly enough to challenge the regimes that cause their suffering, the same exact multinationals praying on their resources, human and natural, to be exploited to the lowest common denominator. The same exact types of ignorance forced upon the masses with the absence of schools and the tolerance of illiteracy, despite official claims to the contrary. The exact same types of oppression of labor activists and human-rights campaigners and journalists. The exact same types of classisms and casteisms that compel generations to accept their designated desperation. The same exact types of false democracies in which the people do not have choice or voice in the structural economic questions of society, only at best over the latest personality who says the prettiest things or just looks pretty, but in power does little to nothing of the good he or she promised.

Thus I reject poverty contests. Instead, I move towards human collaboration and solidarity in the third world in pursuit of revolution! Towards the African revolution, the South Asian revolution, the Latin American revolution, the world revolution! Towards human-based economics! Towards the end of rapacious capitalism, the end of the rush to privatize water, seeds and land! Towards human and community-level self-governance and self-determination! Towards the humanization of labor such that people are not reduced to pack mules to produce Wal-Mart products at competitively lower and lower wages in ever more dangerous workplaces!

Towards human development work which is interested in human development, not numbers nudging and statistics masturbating.

Ubuntu: Afrikan Humanism (and my Further Thoughts) *bump*

I posted the following essay on my original blog waaay back on November 28, 2007. I was thinking a lot about the Congo this morning before work and came back to this piece, which compels me to conclude that thoughts we’ve had at earlier phases in life are sometimes more clear and articulate than our current thoughts. And I doubt anyone really looked at this back at the time, so here it is bumped up (with some fresh edits) for your current review. Would seriously like your feedback on ideas in this little philosophical tract. Talk about it!

Towards BUMUNTU! Towards KIMUNTU! Towards UBUNTU! Towards the end of hate and the culture of violence! Towards sisterhood and brotherhood between black folks, and no more horizontal violence in the streets or in Afrika! Rasta nuh chat Rasta! I’m talking about human beings, trying to be humane, just, fully realized, cooperative and free!!!

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

What is Ubuntu? It is the notion, expressed in Zulu and present in other Bantu languages, that “a person is a person through other people.” It is the notion that an individual is born into the community and will always be a part of the community. It is a statement of interdependence and communalism, that the welfare of the individual is dependent upon the welfare of the community, and vice-versa. I claim Ubuntu as a guiding philosophy of mine, inasmuch as it is obvious that I am because we, as Afrikans, are. Having once been a serious student of Buddhism, one reads in the notion of [inter-]dependent co-arising and the “interbeing nature of things” that, in acheiving awareness of anatman or not-self – the absence of any independently existing entity of a “self” – one fully understands that he or she does not belong to his/her supposed “self.” Our physical bodies are little more than compilations of stardust animated by the life-force, genes and cells given us by our parents and all of their ancestors. Everything in the world and in us can only exist because of everything else, and if the forest which provides the wood for the table, or the food that the table-maker’s parents ate before they even thought of conceiving the table-maker, are removed from the table, the table cannot exist. Likewise, humans cannot exist without all the elements that precede us, all of our ancestors, all the elements of nature and the world that permit being, and so on. To live symbiotically with the world and with the community we are born into only makes perfect logical sense. Ubuntu, interdependence and Afrikan humanism, must therefore be more than mere positions on how to animate and organize a society, for they emerge from deep scientific truths. Interdependence with the elements of the natural world to perpetuate a sustainable and balanced life-cycle is called deep ecology in some circles, a radical and proper conclusion based on an understanding of the symbiotic form that living in the world should assume. Ubuntu is practiced in the very same vein, based on a fundamental understanding of how reality works and what beings like us bring into this universe as we come and go.

In his book African Cosmology of the Bântu-Kôngo, Dr. Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau discusses African communalism in Bantu societies and how that concept, which he derives from his native BaKongo context but which is clearly analogous to the Ubuntu practice, is applied in the organizing and governing of a community. In doing this he shares an aphorism which is often recited by some traditional BaKongo peoples (in KiKongo) before community meetings of social, political, economic or judicial significance:

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mputu

There is no room for poverty

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mvwâma

There is no room for ill obtained wealth

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mpofo

There is no room for blindness

Mu kânda

Within the community

Ku mukadi mfumu

There is no room for “order-giver”

Bobo mfumu na mfumu

All are masters, and only masters

Bobo ngânda na ngânda

All specialists, and only specialists

Mu kânda

Within the community

Bilesi

Young generations

Mu kânda

Within the community

Mwâna mfumu

Ancestors’ sons

Mu kânda

Within the community

Busi/ nsâng’a kânda

A sister, the community shoot

Mu kânda

Within the community

Nkasi a kânda

A brother, a future leader

Mu kânda

Within the community

Kinenga ye dedede

Equilibrium and equality

Mu kânda

Within the community

Kingenga/ kimpambudi nwânana

There is no room for separatism/ privacy

Mu kânda

Within the community

Sèkila kumosi

All sleep at once

Mu kânda

Within the community

Sikamana kumosi

All wake up at once

Mu kânda

Within the community

Mbèni ku mbazi

Enemies stand out

(Fu-Kiau, 80-82)

These aphorisms reflect the extremely advanced, deliberate, sophisticated, and humane philosophy that we Afrikans developed to survive and thrive in pre-colonial times and which are the birthright and inheritance of all Afrikans today. It is our responsibility, indeed our necessity if we are to survive on this planet, the only world we’ve got, to live this. All we need do is continue our organically humanistic lifestyle and reconstitute a truly humane, progressive, democratic, tolerant, gender-equal and open society for the Afrikan, in which our economic life never fails to meet human needs and where land and the means to produce are commonly owned with no private property in the hands of the few to disfranchise and exploit the rest. Fu-Kiau, in this very important and recommendable text, informs us that in the world-view of the Bakongo, “individual wealth is an abominable crime” (Fu-Kiau, 76):

“Individual wealth of all kinds above the accepted standard of necessary goods, is considered a crime. One says that this kind of wealth could not be accumulated without  exploiting [wuka/ yiba] other members of the community. In that case, the wealth itself  is called kimvwâma kia muyeke, wealth that betrays, yekula, the community and its members. The owner of such excessive properties was often killed or hoodooed [lokwa]. African communities believe strongly that the individual accumulation of property has  always had negative effects on the traditional social structure and on policy- making institutions.”

Afrikans need to think critically about the way of life into which we have been socialized under the contemporary regime of capitalism, neo-colonialism, and the myth of individualism. This regime has removed us from what living reality otherwise would make clear – that we cannot exist apart from or at the expense of our world or our communities, and thus ought naturally to seek to live in harmony with nature and our communities. For Afrikans, the practice of Ubuntu must begin at home, amongst Afrikans. May Afrikans practice Ubuntu with other Afrikans and across the third world, and exclude from Ubuntuist Afrikan communities all those capitalistic, bourgeois aspirant, individualistic, reactionary, intolerant, narrow-minded, knuckle-headed, selfish, greedy and malevolent negroes.

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Bonus video: Rasta Nuh Chat Rasta by Queen Ifrica. Enjoy and Learn!

An Interview

The good folks over at La Terre d’abord or Earth First in France requested an e-mail interview with me the other day and sent over some good questions. Here are my responses, in case you won’t be able to understand it by the time it’s translated into French on their side. Please let me know what you think of these ideas – I’d really like some discussion and building out of this one.

—————————-

Comment allez vous?

Here is a response for our interview:

1.What is your website about?

“Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk” basically seeks to demonstrate that black vegans, including black raw vegans in particular, exist, are becoming visible, and are having relevant experiences and success as vegans across the African world, whether on the continent or in the diaspora. It also seeks to actualize and document the notion that being African and vegan is a critical and progressive part of our liberation struggle and the desire to humanize our existence while cherishing our singular and delicate planet.

2.How did you come about it?

I’ve been a vegan for eleven years now, and when I started this website in early 2008 I wanted to see more black vegan presence and commentary on the Internet, especially from the perspective of experienced, long-term, confident and determined vegans of color, not only blog diaries of 30-day trial vegans trying to lose weight, even though that is important as well. This blog represents an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-white supremacy, humanist, activist, radical environmentalist, Pan-Africanist, African-centered and third-world perspective that is hardcore, straight-edge and long on the scene. This is third-world veganism that is very engaged with society from the perspective that revolution is necessary and veganism is an empowering and liberating part of the human transformation necessary for the survival and progress of this primate species.

3.How do you see the culture that developped in Black Africa as connected to veganism?

I am not a practicing archaeologist or anthropologist in this matter, but much anecdotal and historical evidence presents some of the people of Kemet, also known as Ancient Egyptians, as vegetarians. In general, pre-colonial diets where of whole foods, whether or not meat was included, and pre-colonial lifestyles in many parts of black Africa were seen, by Western anthropologists of the time (mid-19th century), as among the healthiest in the world. Now our life-spans and quality of life are the shortest and most miserable, largely due to neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism and rule by criminal governments. We are aid-dependent, and land tenure in Africa is at a state of perpetual crisis, while cash-crops prioritize growing cacao, coffee, and flowers over food. We even sell immense hectares of land to foreign countries for them to grow food for their own populations! Animal pastoralism is another problem, destroying vegetation across vast swaths of land and accelerating desertification. If all that land grew fruits and vegetables, many of our dietary and food security problems could begin to find resolution. And all these tendencies greatly exacerbate gender inequality as women struggle to grow kitchen gardens to feed families and tend to the crucial but totally unpaid task of reproductive labor, while men tend to focus on cash-crops and preferentially receive implements and resources from governments, multinationals and some NGOs to grow them.

Overall, transitioning towards veganism in Africa will ease malnutrition, raise production levels, increase self-sufficiency and I think reduce tendencies towards conflict and needless aggression. In terms of food policy, we can grow so much of our own fresh fruits and vegetables, organically and sustainably, if we focus on that goal at the continental and grassroots levels. In terms of societal outcomes, I think veganism improves social tolerance, physical well-being, reduces stress, makes the brain work more efficiently, improves immunity and reduces illness, reduces cancer levels, and so on. People will be more cooperative and conscientious of proper land stewardship and societal responsibility and cohesion in a vegan society – at least. Veganism in Africa would probably be far more revolutionary than that.

4.In France, we have people of african origin, and they are in a way or another culturally connected to Africa. But if the elders have often a very wise point of view, a very critical one, which stress that justice will necessary prevail even if it will take time, young people are quite far away from veganism and from a cultural critical stance of what we may call Babylone. What do you think about that?

I have faith in the youth. I’m 26 years old. I’m still considered a youth. I would almost say I have more faith in youth than in the old generation, which in many ways have failed us, failing to realize the promises of Pan-Africanism or Civil Rights. It’s young people who are becoming vegans, who are becoming critical thinkers, who are questioning the old ways and rightfully disposing with useless traditions that have no value and make no sense. I don’t have an innate respect for tradition, personally. I say, choose reason over custom. Babylon includes not only white-supremacist and capitalist society, but also anti-human, divisive, anti-intellectual, reactionary, authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic and stupid traditions and tendencies in Africa and the black world. Many black youth are lost, many youth are hopeless, due to the failings of society which lead them to go after what they need at the expense of each other. The self-hate, ignorance and poverty at the root of the lives of the youth lead to many poor outcomes, which are all too visible. Less visible are the visionary youth, the revolutionary youth, the organized youth building art, building armies of wisdom and change. But I think the visionary youth hold the reigns of the future and will courageously confront the immense challenges of the present and near future, mostly given us by our often greedy, stubborn and foolish parents and grandparents.

5.In France, when we think about revolutionary afrikan position in North America, we think about Move or Dead Prez. Nevertheless, we would have a criticism: it seems that a poisonless perspective was the central aspect, not really nature, the animals, the Earth. What would you say to that?

For Africans, there is little time to focus on animal liberation alone. It makes no sense, when humans are in so much misery. Someone like me could never get behind the white animal liberation scene, because they act like it is the central problem of injustice in the world, which from my perspective is absurd and laughable. Oppressed people start at the perspective of their own oppression. Of course, everything else is included when we consider the foul human trends that lead to all kinds of exploitation. Aggression, greed, ignorance, violence, dominion – these are applied to create hierarchies and exploitation amongst humans and between humans and animals. But someone like me and I think Dead Prez or the MOVE Organization sees an urgent need to focus on human problems, and cannot in good conscience focus on animal liberation alone. Only a very privileged person can afford to only focus on animal liberation, so for a lot of people of the revolutionary African position in North America, that sort of thing is very alien, and rightfully so in my opinion. We don’t have the luxury to focus on one single issue, especially one that is tangential to our own suffering and oppression as black human beings. It all must be included – human liberation, Earth liberation, non-human liberation.

6.You stress the importance of raw food. Can you tell us about it?

Raw vegan food to me is so healthy. It liberates a person from dealing with disease and worrying about health, in large part. I haven’t been even slightly sick in many many years. In the US, especially among African peoples, disease is practically the central concern of life, whether it be obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, impotence, stress, and so on. Raw veganism, particularly low-fat raw veganism that mainly consists of fresh fruits and greens, is practical, affordable and creative. And it requires discipline and consistency, tendencies that we need as peoples who consider ourselves revolutionary. Raw veganism is both extremely healthy, and also builds people to be more hardcore and serious about life and work. Raw veganism is about vigorous health and uncompromising mentality.

7.Africa is a continent waiting for revolution. Do you think veganism is the key for that?

Yes. Veganism is a potentially important part of revolution everywhere, and we need revolution all over the world. We need vegan warrior spirits that consider the whole picture in terms of how humans coexist in the world with all other beings, while correcting the social contradictions in human society. A more humane society will emerge with veganism in the picture, during and after the revolution. And also a much healthier, just and sustainable one.

ONA MOVE!

-The Precision Afrikan

Fresh Produce in the South Bronx by Ownership Societies (Not the Bush Kind)

This is Professor Dennis Derryck of the New School in NY, as profiled in this very good NY Times article from Tuesday (“For a Healthier South Bronx, a Farm of Their Own“). At the very least, it highlights the power, the empowering sense inherent to feeling ownership of the means of one’s life, whether that means the building one lives in, the land where one’s food is grown, or the means of production (as we build the global ubuntu step by step). When the people find opportunities to feel in true fundamental control of their livelihood, social space, the streets, and their economic structures, conditions inevitably improve where they live. The bourgeois class has a sense of stability where it dwells in comparison to us proletarians precisely due to the security of control. By control I don’t mean dominion and domination. By control I mean being able to act the agent who defines and arranges one’s means and chances of survival, for better or worse. To be impoverished and disempowered is to be deprived of this sense of control, which at the psycho-social level initiates destructive forms of desperation within environments that are materially, dietarily, educationally, and judicially impoverished.

It’s no accident that the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn, Newark, Detroit, West and South Philly, and on and on are what they are, disparaged at leisure by the white supremacist establishmentarian mainstream zeitgeist. A friend of mine who used to live in the South Bronx constantly referred to it as a reservation, depressing to just live there amidst its oppressed ambiance. People are disfranchised and pushed into disowning any sense of fundamental ownership of their circumstances – as immigrants, as refugees, as oppressed peoples.

The human project at hand for we of the reservations and slums of the world is to claim our lives, claim our lands, our social spaces, our food sources, as our own. It may seem that the very notion of self-actualization is made foreign to us within the anti-human, anti-African, anti-Latino, anti-Indigenous, anti-freedom education system – corporate training camps and prison seeding centers. But this is why we must un-school into the mindset that, as Nas said, the world is yours.

The world is yours.

The world is yours.

Whose world is this?

A revolutionary assertion indeed. From another reservation called Queensbridge, Nas in the simplest terms told us to claim our world boldly. Claim the land, including every NYCHA project and every street and household and body deemed rejected and flotsam by the likes of the NY Times.

I’m often anxious when I read the NY Times and they talk about us. This past Saturday they ran a showcase of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the heart of Afro-Caribbean BK and where my heart lives. Whenever they do shit like that it’s like they’re claiming space to push out poor people and bring on the hipsters, bluppies and yuppies and their damn coffee shops. The Real Estate section is often a lens to the newest front-lines of gentrification. With critical eyes we must stare down attempts to get us to disown our lives, land and liberty further.

It’s war out here. While Prof. Dennis Derryck’s work is not pure non-monetized socialistic exchange, it is proper for the world we live in, and for the South Bronx. As a black man and homebody to the Harlem/ So. Bronx world, his practice is relevant, buying farmland collectively on behalf of his community, in partnership with farmers upstate, to bring the freshest food to this utterly neglected and poisoned community.

He is claiming the resources that we need on behalf of the people.

To me he is already winning on behalf of all of us.

We only begin to win when we claim ownership over our minds, bodies, lives, homes, communities, and planet, the type of ownership that places us in full responsibility to realize human potential as fully as possible. It is by owning the land for the people that the people may consume actual food in greater quantity and quality. See how this works?

Whose world is this?

The world is yours.

The world is yours, fool!

Let us join the battle.

——-

Blog written while listening to “Walk Alone” (and some other tracks) from How I Got Over by The Roots.

West Africa’s “slow-motion” famine

This is why Pan-Africanism or African Internationalism is the answer. And I don’t mean at the level of the institution of the nation state, as I’m an anti-fascist anarcho-syndicalist and ubuntuist (all useless labels). I’m talking about at the level of the grassroots in a situation where borders are erased and collective well-being is recognized as crucial for the prosperity of Africa. Africans in the regions of Niger or Chad don’t have to find themselves trapped inside those map boxes as food runs out in those countries over climatic and geological time and in the very near future and present. As climate changes, landlocked Sahel countries, whose existence was precarious to begin with, will only get drier, more arid and less agriculturally productive. It is all but inevitable, thanks to the profligate pollution of the stubborn West+China and their erstwhile refusal to arrive at a climate deal that would cap carbon levels in the atmosphere at 350 parts per billion, a threshold beyond which would essentially broil Africa in the long run. When, over the course of the coming months, years and decades, Sahel countries realize even more desperate climatic circumstances that are irreversible short of the construction of the great “Green Wall” of Africa which, given African corruption, will probably never happen, where will its people go if they are prevented from moving freely across borders? Will they be expected to starve into extinction due to the accident of their geographies of birth? That is why borders must be erased in Africa, borders imposed by imperialists at a conference in Germany 125 years ago at which not a single African was present.

Climate change is going to dry and fry the already delicate ecosystems of the Sahel especially, while rainfall may increase in other ecosystems. The same is true for dry savannah regions in other parts of the tropics/ third world such as parts of Mexico, Southwest Africa, India, the Middle East, and even some parts of the Mekong River delta in Southeast Asia which is reporting record drought and low river depth (to the point of unnavigability) this year. Each consecutive month this year since February has been the warmest on record.

Pastoralism is also a huge, HUGE part of the problem. I’m not a cultural relativist about this, in fact I’m not a cultural relativist about anything and I criticize everything that doesn’t work and is stupid, even if people have been doing it for centuries. It’s gotta go! Having animals browse the land and eat off every last speck of vegetation, only to slaughter and eat them, and then ask what happened to the arable land, is the mark of woefully uneducated and ignorant people. Education is the answer here, to demonstrate in no uncertain terms how destructive and unsustainable pastoralism is. This will prevent the inevitable and often violent conflicts that so frequently occur at the meeting of pastoralist nomad and settled agriculturalist (i.e. Darfur, Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, etc.). So does this mean I am guilty of privileging the permanently settled farmer of vegetables, produce, fruits and so on? Hell yes! Especially when incorporating the best practices of sustainable, organic, high-yield agronomy and agroforestry. In the Americas, in countries like Brazil, we already know how rapidly we are losing the Amazon rain forest to giant cattle ranches that supply burgers to America and its fattening waistline. This is why veganism is part of the solution for humanity, considering how much more we can feed ourselves eating vegetables grown on the land instead of waiting for other non-human animals to eat them before slaughtering them mercilessly and consuming the most unhealthy products known to the human palate.

Will Africans use this opportunity, at the grassroots civil society level, to overturn centuries of top-down tyranny, capitalist division, unsustainable pastoralism, irrational meat prestige, and export-oriented cash-crop production to realize a borderless and human society of cooperation, collectivism, sustainability and food security first? Will the world? Humans have a lot of work to do on this planet, as we may be either its most inventive beings or its most destructive, selfish and irresponsible children.

Shoutout to Great Black Vegans of Our Time

At this time, I would like to show respect and love to just some of my favorite and most inspiring contemporary vegans of the African world. Beginning with the sistas:

Tracye McQuirter

This is the genius and beauty who has just dropped the instant classic By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat. The title alone is iconic and historically legit and literate to the urgency with which Africans must change their diets if we wish to actually enjoy our existence on Earth and thrive at being productive and exemplary human beings in the process. In 2010 and beyond, more Africans are awakening to the nutritional and culinary excellence of abstaining from animal products and eating herbivorously and frugivorously. The great Tracye McQuirter speaks the language of the longevity and beauty that veganism furnishes and enables for African people. I recommend her book to brothas and sistas alike.

Koya Webb

This is a raw vegan sista whose career as personal trainer, writer, lifestyle coach, fitness model, and beyond is inspiring a generation of sistas and brothas to consider how physically liberating and empowering the raw vegan lifestyle can be in combination with vigorous, righteously sweaty exercise from day to day. This is physical culture + raw veganism in action. She embodies the fulfillment of what, in an ideal world, should be easy: radiant health and genius thinking (in a beautiful black body and soul!).

Note: For me personally, the likes of Koya Webb and Tracye McQuirter to me are in the chamber of angels – dark-skinned black vegan intellectual creative critical-thinking physically-fit warrior-goddesses who never let up, waking people up all day. When I look for a wife/life partner one day, they’re the prototype, most definitely. The sista below also belongs in this same chamber:

Breeze Harper

Genius!! Her awesome book Sistah Vegan is now just out. She analyzes the intersections of race, class, gender, ideology and forms of oppression and exclusion as pertains to women of color who live veganly, and she allows black vegan women to speak for themselves. This is the critical thought lens we desperately need as we interrogate and improve our lives as vegans of color in a world whose institutions of power and economic influence still trend towards the capitalist, the meat-centric, the exploitation-oriented, the consumption and waste-based, the arrogance of the white male and female. I plan to write a comedic/ satirical novella called Brotha Vegan in the coming months, just to stir up the pot even more; for that I owe inspiration to this gorgeous and wise sister and mother.

Now for some brothas:

Jericho Sunfire

This gentleman is an everyman bodhisattva. I remember him back when he was Richard Blackman, the fruitarian one, and he was a massive inspiration for my own movement from veganism towards raw and then low fat raw/ fruitarianism, years ago. He is a most impressive teacher, fitness trainer, athlete, scholar, spirit-genius. Jericho Sunfire might be the ultimate soul brotha one hundred. This is a man worth listening to, even if you have doubts about breatharianism and such. He has walked this walk and he is doing his thing for real. He is a leader in this black vegan, black health, Afrikan revival and revolution, Afrikans in true harmony with the planet and one another, renaissance. There are very few people in this planet I would call genius, let alone bodhisattva. This guy is dead serious, as are all the other geniuses on this page.

Storm Talifero

This is a true family brother and a man who, with his wife Jinjee, brings great raw vegans together to spread human evolution as the revolution towards fitness and clean, maximally nutritious eating. This genius has raised / is raising six children who are all themselves demonstrating genius-level capacities as young vegans. To me, he is so revolutionary in the grandness of his home, his home-schooling successes, his vigorous lifestyle, the excellence he expects and receives from his children, and his radically pro-Earth and pro-human ideologies and practices. Pro-Earth: planting fruits and vegetables sustainably, planning and building sustainable homes, promoting renewable energy, minimizing negative environmental impacts and consumption and waste. Pro-Human: practicing harmony, peace and celebration within the household and beyond, sharing and teaching the art of maximal living in harmony with our rare and singularly beautiful planet. This is what I’m talking about! I wanna do it just like him when I start a family – open-minded, creative, tolerant, harmonious, loving, raw vegan, growing food, teaching the offspring everything I know so they surpass me and outdo me in their time and protect the planet, humanity and non-humans; building things together, giving birth to an army and generation of geniuses who will invent things and ideas that even young people like me in our era can’t even imagine. Hats off to Storm Talifero and his wife Jinjee for their incredible example of what is possible in a raw vegan family.

All these cats above? Pure Generals of this movement. They are so human! Writing, teaching, doing the right things. This is what it’s about. I only wish to be as serious, productive and sharing as these African vegans. Check them out and learn from them. More later.

The Prototype

Time is limited, when considering the atrocious nature of the stewardship we as a species perform on this planet. Planet Earth. None like it in the cosmos. The one and only. We may now be finding ‘super-earths’ out in the local arm of this spiral galaxy, but we ain’t going anywhere near them for centuries, nor will we be terraforming the Moon or colonizing Mars any time in our great grandchildren’s day. This is the only world that can host our species and every other creature and being on its little surface. It would seem that humanity can be said to be damn near its biggest bane: massive destruction of habitats and land, spillage of toxic hydrocarbons previously locked in the bowels of the crust, destructive conflicts that destroy human societies, habits of consumption that pollute and shorten human lives and the life of our environment all the same, mass extinctions of flora and fauna forever. It would seem that we as a species, after tens of thousands of years of behavioral modernity, have yet to deal with the fundamental problems and contradictions of the human condition and the sustainability of our home planet for all life. And yet we think ourselves the most sophisticated of the great apes.

I have yet to answer many such questions as an individual. I have made some introductory moves. I try to admit my ignorance every time it comes up. All I want to do is learn and practice methods and behaviors that collectively benefit us all and maintain joy and wellness with the most balance across our ecosystems. Cities, suburbs, forests, mountains, deserts and oceans alike are ecosystems, environments, habitats for multitudes of species, plant and animal. What are the best practices, technologies and attitudes, suitable to our budgets and environments, that can begin to address the fundamental contradictions of humanity’s most needlessly negative impacts on Earth and other people and creatures? I am just starting to take an inventory as applies to myself, a wishlist if you will.

I am nothing but a writer, a starving artist at the moment. Incomeless until (hopefully) I finish this first novel in a few weeks (and inevitably return to the workforce). And in all likelihood I’ll go back to being a student for the umpteenth time in the near future, further rendering me a person of leanest means. But I do try to dream.

I dream that I could afford a long-tail utility bike with mad racks (ala Big Dummy) and top-notch components and completely eliminate not only the very limited driving I do, but also cut out a lot of train riding and rely all but completely on my own body for transportation. I’ve been salivating over making this transition in transportation complete for a very long time now.

I dream of living in a community far denser than where I am, where community in itself is a concept pregnant with significance and actualization. A suburb like mine severely lacks this, and it is all the more isolating when the prevailing values of consumerism and material excess have long been rejected vigorously in my personal chamber. A community with more thoughtful people of color, not only the conforming ones hard-wired to their bad and destructive habits.

I dream of establishing and practicing even more meaningful relationships with a wider body of truly like-minded and like-practicing people. Why not? I’m not trying to convert anyone to how I do things. But after just about eleven years of veganism, I’m still the only vegetarian I actually know personally.

I dream of pushing the younger generations, or at least those with an open mind, toward engaging the world. Engaging the world includes hiking its lengths everyday with eyes fresh open. Engaging the world includes talking with others meaningfully, constructively, humorously. Not destructively. Not in the most shallow and empty ways. Engaging the world includes challenging oneself in this world. Engaging the world means actualizing oneself fully, given one’s sincerest aspirations, like Che Guevara. Engaging the world means recognizing ourselves in other people and respecting everyone and the diversity of identities they carry with the fullness, transcending the limiting, bigoted, intolerant, and ignorant impulses pushed by societies and traditions no thoughtful and humane person should practice if humanity is what they value. Engaging the world means recognizing one’s unity with all that is in this world, and seeing the oceans, the mountains, the cities, other people, as like an extension of one’s own body.

We don’t own the world. Even our bodies are not just some gift we have the reasoning to claim fully and exclusively – all the food we’ve digested, the seed and egg of our parents, the passage of time and accumulation of experience, they compose what we think we can call a “self.” We don’t have dominion over things. We can at best constructively participate in the process of nature and society on this wonderful planet.

Constructive engagement – perhaps that is what I most dream to do.

With our bodies, exercising daily and eating only the best food to the extent that we no longer feel hungry.

Then, fighting so others do not have to suffer hunger.

Then, fighting so that we and ourselves do not have to suffer ignorance.

Then, fighting so our planet does not have to suffer the results of our human excess.

Then, dancing with each other and ourselves in the celebration of being born not on Mars nor Venus, but beautiful and brilliant planet Earth, the one and only.

Or we can do these all at once.

I am trying my best to execute the practice of constructive engagement. I am only a beginner so bear with me. I hope others can check this same idea and give it a try, see if it works, and if not, offer constructive criticism.

Small steps with a small axe. At least we humans can try that. Else, well, time is limited on planet Earth, the one and only, and the same goes for our one life.

I am an African Vegan.

Pep words for Afrikan vegans: You can come out. Be visible. Show your healthy glistening black self and stand up proud. You are an African. Your skin is some awesome shade of anything sienna to super dark-chocolate. Your hair is tightly curled, strong, black as the universe. You own it like a million dollars. We are Africans. We come from the most beautiful land on this beautiful planet. We have a deep and profound responsibility to the people, sentient beings and land of our continent and planet, but we walk harder because we know we will save the world, full and proud in our blackness.

And we are vegans. We are vegans. We are the black vegans. Okra and spinach stews all day for me. All y’all West African vegans make that egusi soup tight and chop with the best fufu. You know how hype that meatless joloff rice is. I used to roll gari all day in Ghana. Brown rice and groundnut stew. Ethiopians be rocking that njera with black bean stews and all. Then raw vegan fruitarian types like me eat warrior-class mangos in the middle of New Jersey on a warm sunny day and instantly recall a hundred  days in Ghana and Nigeria three years ago. Have to get back to Afrika ASAP and eat all the colorful tree-grown orbs and pearls that make us superhuman.

Eleven years strong as an Afrikan vegan. I’m only 26 so I’m just off the starting line. I maintain beginner’s mind – Zen mind, beginner’s mind. In the beginner’s mind anything is possible, including the will to practice the healthy and happy life nonstop. Struggle does not need to negate happiness. We are Afrikans, we WILL struggle. Yet young Afrikan vegans know how good they feel. Thus they should feel so proud and powerful. Young, gifted, black, vegan!

I’m a Nigerian vegan. We exist. We can come out. All that pastureland chewed off by browsers, we could feed so many more Africans with what we could grow on it than what is fed by the brutally slaughtered animals. Spare their lives. Make Africa the garden that can feed ourselves and the world. Not by giving Nigerian land to white Zimbabwean farmers and displacing black folk all over again. Not by bulldozing the rainforests, nor flooding the Delta with blood and oil.

Maybe African vegans are too sophisticated, too futuristic, too iconoclastic for this world right now. But we are coming out. We exist. We are dedicated. We know about racism and speciesism and sexism and patriarchy and neocolonialism. We know how awesome eating stacks of fresh veggies and fruits makes us look and feel, preventing disease, preventing the African dictator-/ corrupt official-gut. Africans not addicted to meat, nor to rage and anger. Africans loving their own selves, their land, their bodies, their families, the collective Afrikan.

Our body is the temple. Can’t fill it with junk. If we do that we won’t feel like Africans anymore, we won’t have the vigor to do that mandyani, that sabar dancing, that iron sculpting, that inventing. African vegans know this.

African vegans are here. From Dakar to Maputo, Africans are becoming vegan. From Lagos to Lusaka, fresh fruits and vegetables are being taken very seriously. In the lands between Abidjan and Addis, Africans are staying away from the meat. In Kinshasa and Kumasi, black people are getting down with some veganism. I’ve seen it. I’m one of them.

What is awesome?

To be Afrikan, to be Vegan, and proud.

We are not from the future. We are here.

The Novel

I’m writing a novel on a blog, called Doc Ouagadougou and Young Dessalines. It is a Pan-Africanist literary project. Reach it here at http://doyd.wordpress.com/. I’ll be updating it at least twice a month, and in practice much more often. The project should last up to a year. The first chapter is finally up. Check it out, comment and follow. Chapter 2 is already in progress.