Category Archives: people of color

Gotham Parks on Youtube for the Latest!

We’ve been focusing on video content, a mix of urban cycling and veganism, on our channel on youtube Gotham Parks. Subscribe and check it out! Here are just some recent offerings:

On my daily fruit smoothies for the workday hours.

 

On some vegan fitness output.

My review of the Xtracycle Edgerunner cargo bike – a great bike for vegans!

 

On traffic crimes in Harlem/ Washington Heights NYC.

 

Running round the park on good friday.

 

On the Queensboro Bridge Bike/ Ped path.

 

Urban bike safety pro-tip.

 

… it’s cheaper to go vegan, whole foods plant-based, in the long run, always!

 

Vegetarianism (including eggs, dairy) is hardly better ethically or health-wise than not abstaining from flesh. Go vegan, all the way!

 

A basic why I’m vegan video.

 

Subscribe to Gotham Parks! I’ll post more to africanvegans.com going forward to keep y’all in the know. Go vegan, ride bikes and enjoy!

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Sixty-Dollar Finger Food

This blog really isn’t about restaurant reviews, but I’m gonna throw this out there anyway, since I recently went with a friend who, like me, just wants to get out the low-down on this joint. Pure Food and Wine, an all-raw vegan gourmet restaurant on Irving Place near Union Square in Manhattan, is a joke. Don’t go there, raw vegans, if you don’t want to get robbed. They charge an insane premium for presentation, prestige and pop marketing, and they don’t even really feed you. Both of us recognized that the food tasted good, but they have you paying around $25 for a plate of grub no bigger in volume than a fist, maybe a fist and a half.

I had the “Zucchini, Local Heirloom Tomato Lasagna” off their menu. Delicious. Cost $24 and it was one small little plate. My friend had the “Sweet Corn and Cashew Tamales with Chili Spiced Portabella” dish. Also delectable and scrumptious. Cost $26 for a single modest serving. And we were told that these were the largest dishes they served. We were far from full after chomping those. Already the money spent would have paid for like seven bags of produce – fruits and veggies – to fill me for days, not minutes. This was the first blow.

Meanwhile, as we ate, we were bumped from our seats so they could combine our old table with others to accommodate a larger party. My friend wondered if they felt comfortable doing that since we were the only Africans at the time in the establishment, but then the house promised us a single desert dish for the inconvenience, and we held them to that. We decided to share the “Pumpkin Cheesecake” dish, worth $15. And we were astounded when they presented this dish to us, a single slice of this mock cheesecake literally two square inches in size. Not making that up – it was a little square like a Rubik’s cube. And a spoon – one spoon – of the faux “brown ale ice cream” that goes with it. Worth fifteen freaking dollars! This was the second blow, the one that truly knocked our heads sideways. Thank goodness that little morsel was on the house!

My friend had some insightful comments about the food culture this represented, a French or European one that valued presentation over everything, over actually being fed. It’s artisanal food. We as Africans, she remarked, could perhaps do a better job of presenting our food, in the broader culinary world. But as a general rule, we serve food to feed each other, to get full. At African households the world over, people are making food and then hollering “come eat!” in whatever language they may be speaking over the sweet or savory aromas of food prepared with a purpose.

I added that this is a result of successful marketing and the brilliant manufacture of taste that is also a part of culture and commerce. Those who have real money to burn – not us, who did this as a one-time excursion with the mindset of culinary students – seem not to mind paying such a great cost to have the experience of “beautiful food” over which only to socialize and make aesthetic remarks. The rest of us just need to eat and sooth our hunger.

I’m not a calorie-counting, portion-size worrying eater. As a raw vegan and a person who lives a physically active lifestyle, I don’t much need to be. I eat when I’m hungry and until I no longer am. So I need to be fed well and good. And the sorts of portions you’ll find at Pure Food and Wine will not do the trick, nor is it worth the money to take a gamble and see if it will work for you – if you’re anything like us, it won’t.

Furthermore, the sort of premiums a place like Pure Food and Wine present are perhaps what can make veganism, particularly raw veganism, unappealing to the everywoman and the everyman out there struggling to get paid by whatever means. An aloof, wealthy, overwhelmingly white crowd hobnobbing over expensive nibble-food turns my comrades and I the hell off, and every other person from the world I know of working-class folk of color. Veganism should look good, taste good, be practical to prepare, be abundant, and most of all be affordable. Fresh fruits and veggies and other healthy plant-based items are still largely unavailable in all the hoods I know around the NYC area. How much of an extreme is it then to take a stroll out of a food desert to downtown to see what veganism looks like as this fancy highfalutin finger-food experience.

So we learned something through the whole affair, and socialized with one another, and made a pleasant evening out of the wallet-vacuuming experience. The flavors presented to us were excellent and unique, inspiring more curiosity about how to combine spices to match or surpass those wonderful tastes.

But we were also reminded that we’re just fine doing things practically, the African way, in which we eat to eat. Any place you go out for food where they charge Fort Knox money for finger food, walk away, walk to the farmer’s market or grocery store nearest you, get whatever healthy stuff you can get, and do something funky-fresh and dope with it in your own kitchen.

Furtive Movements

The Precision Afrikan, very dark and furtive, doing furtive movements like squatting in an empty room and chewing, indeed chomping, into the innocent white flesh of an apple. Filthy delinquent.

I have wondered about the criteria for NYC’s (and other cities’) stop and frisk policies for some time now, namely that of “furtive movements.” I have been a black man in NJ and NYC for 28 years now. I have been stopped and questioned in NJ once, stopped and frisked there once, and stopped, frisked and arrested in NYC once, that one for riding a bike in the street, all charges dropped of course. All of this happened in the period from my mid-teens to my very early twenties, the early 2000s, and none recently. All of it happened while just walking or standing around somewhere, or in the Manhattan case, bike riding, not on the sidewalk or anything, nor in the opposite direction of traffic. 100% law-abiding casual activities. But I know very few young or older black men in my circle who haven’t had such an experience, as law-abiding, peaceful citizens doing ordinary things in their everyday travels. Neither I nor any of these men have ever been engaged in Uncle Sam’s work of poisoning our community with narcotics, have never engaged in highway robbery nor attempted knocking over a bank, have never abused women nor anyone else sexually, nor perpetrated any other proper statutory crime. Yet we all walk around as suspects automatically as a result of our existential condition as black men inhabiting North America.

The wiktionary defines “furtive” as stealthy or exhibiting guilty or evasive secrecy. The NYPD will initiate a stop and frisk on the basis of, among other justifications, “furtive movements,” which is my favorite. The NYPD has stopped and frisked 4 million New Yorkers since 2004, and about 690,000 in 2011 alone, 85 percent of those stopped and frisked black or latino, the vast majority young men. Only 9 percent of these stops yield arrests, those often for past warrants for minor crimes, along with a very modest number of discoveries of narcotics and even less weapons (read a good Village Voice article on the matter here). So stop and frisk evidently has nothing to do with crime, and everything to do with intimidation of an entire population which the city, the Bloomberg administration anyway, does not want around – young black and brown men like myself.

We can also safely draw the conclusion from the evidence presented that all movements by black men are furtive. Notice the picture above, wherein the Precision Afrikan chews an apple. How furtive! How dare he! What is he hiding? Why is he being so sneaky, squatting in the corner, darkly and rudely, slinking around with mysterious and ominous intentions? He must be about to sell crack cocaine while raping a baby. The image says it all.

If you’re young, black and male and you’re brushing your teeth, you’re guilty. If you’re young, black and male and you’re scratching your nose while reading a newspaper on a bench in Prospect Park, you obviously just flooded the hood with heroin laced with gun powder. If you’re black, young and male and you’re taking a walk, we all know you just molested a toddler before mugging a tourist. And if you’re black, young and male and you’re taking a jog around the neighborhood, you definitely just killed five white people.

Everything we do, by the mysterious, snaky gesticulations of our lanky black limbs, by the odious shifting of our dark eyes, is obviously suggestive of evil intent. Yes, this must be why this happens to us. Existentially, black youth is elementally married to the characteristic of furtiveness. Even the most mundane thing we could possibly do has the flavor of villainy. At least to cops.

That’s why they’re also very quick to kill young black men, even in their own homes, like the teenager Ramarley Graham earlier this month in the Bronx, who was unarmed and assassinated by the cops in his own bathroom in front of his little brother and grandmother. This sort of police terrorism happens ever so frequently and consistently. With us, any commitment to apply constitutional considerations or restraint of force flies out of the window. The “war on drugs” and “tough on crime” policies are primarily about containing and terrorizing youth of color and ruining our lives, not crime prevention or improving our quality of life, not in the least. The police truly work us and our communities like an occupying army.

I go to school at Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights; most afternoons during lunch break I take a walk around the hood, around the Heights and Harlem. And whenever I see the cops, I admit, I hate them. I often feel like wearing this black skin and being a young man is something akin to wearing a yellow star of david in Hitler’s Europe – not precisely like that, but not too far either. The prison-industrial complex, a beneficiary of society’s willful failure to provide a future for youth of color, a beneficiary of the insane war on drugs, and a beneficiary of the criminalization of people who look like me, is literally eating black men alive by the hundreds of thousands in this country. This is how a vile colonial relationship with imperial power works, with mass incarceration of subject populations. This is how a caste system works, where it is assumed that a young black or brown man is a lesser being and a morally depraved being, a convenient conclusion to those who profit from our oppression and destruction.

So is it so far fetched to assume, based on how society shallowly and dishonestly draws its racist conclusions, that when they see me eating that apple, they see rage and dark intentions, solely because I’m a black man?

Naked villainy.

How many other brothers out there, particularly up here in NYC, or in Newark, Philly, DC or wherever, feel me on this? That we are almost made to internalize our own supposed guilt about something, so that we learn somehow to move in “less threatening” ways? I just move however I want, personally, and stare down the cops, cursing under my breath, and watching them close, the same way they do me.

Discuss. More importantly, organize and resist. As Dead Prez said, it’s war.

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.