Category Archives: land reclamation

Liberation Veganism

Why not? Why not a veganism, not unlike liberation theology, that creates, marches, speaks and shakes with messages sparking hope for and actualization of human liberation? Why not conceive of a vegan movement and practice that is intermingled with human rights and sustainable development in “developing” countries and communities? Would it be possible, beneficial even, to expand the liberation aspect of veganism past animals alone? I think so.

In full disclosure, as an activist, much of my work has concerned African liberation and unity, third world internationalism, human rights, sustainable agronomy, complementary and natural medical practices, and at an earlier time, anti-war movements. As most broadly generalized without accepting any concrete labels, my operating socio-political ideology tends toward some manner of radical humanist anarcho-socialism. And aside from being vegan for eleven years, none of my work to date has directly concerned the animal rights movement; I’ve gone to the United Nations a few times, but not yet an animal rights conference. This is not said to remove wind from or disparage the animal rights movement, but just to be completely honest. At the same time, though, given that human rights are so frequently violated everywhere I go or look, whether my own rights as a black man in Gotham or the rights of people who look like me all over the world, as well as the rights of women, cultural/ethnic/religious/sexual minorities, children, the elderly, the landless, people with disabilities, and so on, I lose too much of my breath and tears on the miserable human condition, and find it almost impossible to apply myself to the animal liberation movement as it exists as an isolated campaign with that sole concern.

But enough about where I come from. I say that the development of the Liberation Veganism concept can easily give veganism an element of appeal towards more folks, especially people of color and youth whose thoughts are currently tending towards revolution. These proto-revolutionaries, on hearing about Liberation Veganism, just may consider incorporating veganism into their revolutionary practice because it makes so much sense as pertains to overall human liberation and racial and social justice.

Liberation Veganism understands and blamelessly trumpets the truths of how unsustainable meat production and animal husbandry are, even at pastoral or “artisanal” scales. It acknowledges and clarifies to others that the class war I spoke of earlier includes the conflict between humans and animals through the commodification of animals, as well as between humans who find themselves at odds as laborers or capitalist masters of an industry of blood, cruelty and violence. Liberation Veganism is in accord with those revolutionary thoughts that understand that if we simply want to feed more human beings and actually realize more and sustainable equity in the world, the actual possibility of making of our world “a garden and not a graveyard” suggests that more of us, worldwide, need to start to leave the meat alone.

Liberation Veganism is obviously not THE answer, but I strongly believe it is part of the arsenal of “better practices” in pursuit of revolution and human liberation, as well as animal liberation. I hope not to come off as blatantly speciesist (though I’m sure I already have and won’t try to make excuses for it after the fact), but I’m in the game largely in pursuit of my own better humanity and for human beings. When I went vegan at age 15, it was about both health and ecological issues, for the Earth at large. And now I am trying to think very deliberately about how veganism can relate to human rights. That is why I think Liberation Veganism may be a concept for proto-revolutionary proto-vegans to consider.

If a plant-based diet will both keep millions of tons of greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and feed many magnitudes more human beings, sustainably and consistently, than our current prevailing food regimes, especially since the world is getting hotter and harder on plants, than veganism has to by nature only be beneficial to the entire realm of human rights. This is simply because more abundance, and the dismantling of industries of inherent violence, will result in at least some reduction in the deadly competition over resources that imperil humanity, such as the feared immenent and current wars over water, food, and so on. If transition away from automobile culture, towards renewable energies, and towards composting and water recycling are part of the green movement that might buy us all more time on the world as we know it, than veganism – a veganism cognizant of the human and Earth liberation elements of its actualization – also must be part of that same movement. And it has to be about as many of us humans as possible.

Since we pursue those things which materially and otherwise most benefit us, as do all other creatures, then a veganism that appeals to our longevity and the leveling of the balance of power in human societies should theoretically find mass appeal. Veganism in explicit combination with human rights, or veganism plus human liberation, can be understood as Liberation Veganism. Liberation Veganism as I’ve struggled to define it here has its obvious ethical elements, ecological arguments, and social justice underpinnings, but as a liberation movement, it can and must include all the social capital of successful trends: propaganda, recipes indigenous to our cultures which veganize palates and minds from the grassroots, and the revolutionary gatherings, rallies and potlucks that find ways to intermix all manner of human rights and liberation issues with the way we eat.

So, Liberation Veganism. Maybe it’s a silly, corny idea, but I hope someone out there might be thinking similar thoughts and just might take this meme and run with it.

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.

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

The “Lost Crops of Africa”

In my last blog post extolling durian, I asked where all the Afrikan varieties of “superfoods” were at. In exploring the raw vegan/ fruitarian world, one hears much about “superfoods“/ “superfruits” from the tropics, but they mostly seem to emerge from South America and tropical Asia. I hardly found varieties indigenous to or widely propagated in Afrika discussed in the common literature on “superfoods” by the raw vegan popularizers and commercializers of these plants. But in searching for more info on potential “superfoods” growing in Afrika right now, I have discovered a series of books available online: Lost Crops of Africa. You can read it online for free!

The above link is to Volume III: Fruits. Click here for Volume I: Grains and here for Volume II: Vegetables. These as well can be read online for free.

This encyclopedic series of books is answering many of my questions and is shaping how I want to practice agroforestry (and what I’m gonna chew on) in Afrika when I return. Some of these varieties I now want to look into for local availability (in the NYC region). There are Afrikan markets in Newark (Brick City) and the Bronx I’ll definitely want to peak into now to see if they have any of these curious and promising varieties (I’m most interested in what I’m finding in Volume III, followed by Volume II).

So I’m passing on the knowledge. Hope you find this as useful as I do. We need to plant more trees in Afrika – trees like the ones they’re talking about in Lost Crops of Africa. We gotta get extremely serious about land and return as Afrikans living outside the continent. There is absolutely TOO MUCH OPPORTUNITY in all spheres, too much we need to do to revive Afrika, and too little time in our brief-ass human lives.

Let’s study the trees, take a deep breath of the fresh air, pause for the cause in the soaring Sun, and get to work in the soil of our motherland, folks! Where the black botanists and agronomists at?

Tropical agroforestry rocks!
Towards a sustainable Afrikan agricultural revolution and massive reforestation!
Towards the further greening and fruiting of Afrika!
Uhuru!

Food Security and the Last Billion

atakpame-1983Yesterday, Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Administration, complained that this year, due to the global food crisis, an additional 40 million humans are joining the ranks of the chronically food insecure around the world, and the total for the seriously at-risk is now at least about 963 million. About 1 billion around the world are now at dire imminent risk of starvation and debilitating malnutrition. Needless to say, Afrikan countries, most run by anti-Afrikan, indeed anti-human kleptocrats and neo-colonialists, serve up some of the highest numbers. Likewise for India, China, and elsewhere in the third world.

Perhaps in the wake of the urgency with which Mr. Diouf testified to the UN’s food agency, now may be a time to muse about the implications of our individual eating habits on global ecology and food security. In what I’ve learned of agronomy, it seems vegetarianism is the most ecologically sustainable diet that human populations can pursue. Even in rural settings, runaway grazing eats up land and depletes its moisture carrying capacity far more quickly than even conventional mono-crop rearing. Eating fruits and using herbs from the forest – minimally invasive in practice – seems like the total opposite of grazing, factory farming, and other practices that have led to extreme deforestation and desertification, including the misguided steps being taken in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere to convert old-growth broad-leaf rainforest into vast groves of palm oil for bio-fuel export.

I think the Afrikan that moves away from meat is making a profound move. Not only is it in pursuit of the primal health colored folks will need to fight imperialism and neo-colonialism and establish a united Afrika serving and enriching the lives of Afrikans, but it is also an engagement with the carrying capacity of the Earth, and an acknowledgment of the delicate balance needed for the planet to replenish itself. It suggests we are willing to share and allow what the Earth can bountifully give to us, so long as we don’t take in excess and destroy the ecosystem in the process. It is well documented how much more water, land, food and fuel inputs are needed for even modest styles of animal husbandry to feed one individual, compared to inputs needed to feed one person through plant-based means only. At one extreme is factory farming and agribusiness that rapes the Earth without recourse to the least iota of moral restraint, and on the other, I think, the Afrikan moving towards serious raw veganism.

It is a move for the zealots, most will probably conclude. So be it. It tastes good and at least we know we are on Earth’s side, custodians of ecological sustainability and food security, because of our dietary choices. Already there is enough food to feed the world’s population, just that it’s concentrated in granaries in the West, and its potential to be utilized sensibly in Afrika is thwarted by cash-crop export economies, political instability, pollution, war, runaway urbanization, land privatization and land misuse. How much more could the ability to feed the world be expanded if less of us opt for the most wasteful land-use patterns by going for the meat, especially the factory-farmed meat?

Not that the millennium development goals are worth a damn beyond their pretty letters on conscience-appeasing paper, but if we want to take Mr. Diouff’s grievances seriously and consider how we can contribute to food security, even if rather indirectly, perhaps more of us should consider putting the meat down. This is just a microscopic baby-step into being a bit more mindful of the planet and all its resources we usurp to feed us, given the choices we make, even in diet. We haven’t even begun to discuss the fundamental problem of parasitic capitalism and its imposition of hunger, ignorance, land theft, and wretchedness on the “developing” world.

Don’t you get tired of it being the 21st century and black folks (and Asians, Indigenous folk and Latin Americans too) are still starving, still part of the last billion?

Afrikans – GREEN! Afrikans Must Become Zealous Environmentalists


To expand upon my latest entry at my political blog Project New Palmares, I’ve decided to stress the importance of Afrikan peoples to take global ecological and environmental issues very seriously. Especially in this the month of April, the month of Earth Day. Will we as Afrikans continue to allow others to speak for us when it comes to the fact that climate change will harm the Afrikan continent the most, or regarding the health and ecological disasters faced by Afrikan communities in the ghettos of America and elsewhere due to environmental racism?

Climate change will further expand the Sahara and Kalahari deserts on the one hand, while increasing flooding and torrential rain all across tropical Afrika and coastal Afrika on the other. Environmental racism means France and other European and Northern countries use Afrika as a dumping ground for nuclear and toxic waste, as happened in Cote D’Ivoire in 2006. The situation is similar in the Harlems and Newarks of the world, where asthma rates soar due to the location of waste processing sites, bus depots, and other unhealthy facilities in or near Afrikan communities in America, not in or around white and wealthy communities.

Pictured above is Wangari Maathai, leader of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya. In a nutshell, her legacy to Kenya and all of the developing world, as an environmentalist and political activist, has been the planting of 30 million trees to prevent soil erosion and improve rural woman’s lives by providing shelter, firewood, and access to clean water, among other things. The first Afrikan woman to become a Nobel laureate, I, as an Afrikan who deeply respects the virtues of planting trees and protecting the land, the watershed, the soil, and the whole ecosystem, hereby honor Queen Mother Maathai as a fantastic example for other Afrikans who should and must come to take the state of the natural environment extremely seriously.

I bring up the example of Wangari Maathai – the woman of the month here at Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk – to assert that Afrikans can address our ecological challenges autonomously and in simple ways. Planting trees is one of the most effective and beautiful methods. In Niger, the planting of trees is reversing desertification, as the linked 2007 NY Times article demonstrates. And these fruit trees also provide extra produce while fixing nitrogen in the soil for it to grow other crops. And as I have discussed in other blog entries here at Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk, the example of Yebua Danso at the Ahyiresu Naturalist Centre in Aburi, Ghana shows how effective and beautiful agroforestry can be – in which, to grow food, trees are actually planted, rather than chopped down in the old habit of “clearing the land.”

Afrika and countries and communities predominated by Afrikans – our abodes are not immune to calls to consume less and waste less. Living in Afrika I saw some of the worst pollution on Earth – creations mainly of our own habits and a lack of education on proper, sanitary waste disposal. In urban Ghana or Nigeria or elsewhere, one will notice plastic bags everywhere, clogging up the gutters, floating around even in the woods, all over the grimier areas of the open markets. By just eliminating plastic bag usage altogether and using reusable canvas or other sorts of bags and baskets, how much cleaner would our cities and towns and villages in Afrika and in the Afrikan world be? Even Bed-Stuy and Newark are polluted with this sort of waste and litter.

Solutions and ways to live by example as an ecologically responsible Afrikan – these are not to be found or expounded upon by white hippies on our behalf. We have to own this problem as much as, if not more than, anyone else in the world, no matter who created it. We often do little things and fall into socially engineered habits which reinforce the ecological crisis we all face, especially we Afrikans. So I hope others also contribute to simple practices and organizing tools for Afrikans to respond effectively to the environmental, ecological, and resultant economic crises of the day, which will also boost our food security, land arability, and water availability and quality.

What can we do? Some things that immediately come to my mind:
– Drive less; rely on ones own body and on public transport more for transportation
– Do not use disposable plastic bags; rather use reusable bags or baskets
– Use reusable bottles for water
– Go Vegan! Meat production is one of the greatest usurpers of natural resources, produces immense waste, is viciously cruel, and pastoralism in Afrika is fast expanding the Sahara as browsers chew away the greenery acre by acre
– Reuse ones goods as much as possible
– Consume less, shop less for non-essential things
– Eat more produce and natural foods, rather than heavily processed and therefore packaged foods whose containers cannot be discarded to decompose or compost organically
– Make the most of ones locale in terms of recreation, travel, etc. so as to not tax the environment too often by the heavy pollution spewed by current commercial air traffic
– Eat more locally-grown foods so as to reduce the carbon footprint of food transport over long distances
– Take the lights and other appliances off when not using them
– Live an overall more modest and simple life

Any other suggestions? Feel free to contribute. I only want the world to be cleaner and more sustainable, especially wherever Afrikans are found. And Afrikans MUST take the lead and be fully responsible in that effort. In Afrika, there too, people must consume, waste, pollute, and damage the land LESS. Development, as Frantz Fanon said, must not be into a new Europe or America. We Afrikans can and will make Afrika and Afrikan communities ecologically sustainable paradises, for ourselves to enjoy and raise the next generation within.