Category Archives: raw vegan

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!

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.

Dinner – Nori Rolls

Look at this nice dark-skinned food. Fair and Lovely can’t touch this!

In recent weeks I’ve been making a lot of nori rolls for dinner for my evening savory dish in the latter part of a week. The sauce base is like six tomatoes, an onion, a bell pepper, ginger, celery, and sometimes fresh basil or cilantro, all blended. The “meat” that goes into each roll is a handful of shredded or julienne-sliced zucchini (where rice would be in a cooked California roll), and then a stick or two of asparagus, a slice of bell pepper and a few slices of tomato (make sure the bell pepper and tomato filling is sliced slenderly lengthwise so it fits nicely in the roll). But it can be done however with whatever – there are plenty of other tasty veggies under the sun.

You take a sheet of raw untoasted nori paper (I order these online in bulk so it’s affordable), slap it on the bamboo nori roller, dap a big spoonful or two of the sauce and spread it around the bottom two thirds of the sheet, put the zucchini down on the bottom third and the other veggies on the middle third, and then cover the naked top third of the nori paper with more sauce (and throw some sauce atop the zucchini) and roll it up quickly before the paper wilts and deforms as it hydrates. Don’t over-fill each individual roll or it will be too fat and won’t close up nicely and securely. I make like fifteen or more of these at a time, because I’m a hungry man and I eats ’til satisfaction (that’s out of the shreddings of four to six good-sized zucchinis). I don’t bother slicing the rolls up into little sushi-like buns or sections. I prefer to eat them burrito-style, plus why go through all that extra time and trouble getting fancy when I already done spent all that time with all the other dang steps?

So that’s a zucchini-based raw nori roll done the Precision Afrikan way, handled and eaten burrito-style, long-wise. Some good savory nice filling nutritious food for the low fat raw vegans out there that be hungry.

Finally, all praises and respect due to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I leave it to the ancestor Charles Mingus and his jazz to contemplate the ongoing struggle.

The Problem with XX#-Day Diets, Exercise Programs

Combat-ready fruitarianism.

Always hungry for carbs and iron.

I think 30-day vegan diets, 28-day raw cleanses, 90-day workout routines, and other time-compartmentalized agendas for radical lifestyle change are atrocious. If you want to stay lean and green, plan to be vegan for the rest of your life; if you aim for fitness, plan to work out, well, forever. Raw veganism, power-lifting, calisthenics and kung-fu are among the manifestations of my commitment to health and discipline – and each one of them requires proper eating and vigorous exercise every day until I’m dead. Flat out. That’s my take on the matter. I’ve been vegan for over 12 years, almost half my life. I was a young teenager when I started and I think there were times when my moms thought it would be a passing phase, and folks casually asked when I would resume eating garbage and trashing the planet (not in such colorful language though). So if I came into any of this with the mentality or within the conveniently escapable constraint of it being a 30 or 60 or 90-day “program” or “cleanse,” I doubt I would have been so motivated and committed to remain in the game all these years later. I question why there are folks out there even promoting these sorts of programs, but I have a strong inkling as to the reasons – money and marketing.

When some fitness “expert” or health “guru” out there thinks they’ve arrived upon some new holy grail of fitness or diet, and they want to sell it to others and monetize their system, it is highly convenient to package it as a special, esoteric but fast-gratifying XX-day program of some sort. If they were to be honest and straightforward about it, they fear, people might not be interested in paying for their idea or consultancy. But this is underestimating the people. Why not be real? Tell cats that health is a life-long commitment from which there is no vacation or retreat. I’m into just freely sharing what works, what is practical, and what is sensible to the instincts of most people. I trust that people will get it, even if it somehow makes the enormity of the task that much bigger. But that’s the beauty of it – it’s a lifelong mission, an endless adventure, and it only rewards you day by day, with unparalleled health, resilience, lightness, compassion, wisdom, and so on. If you want health, do healthy things, from right now this day until your very last. Fitness and health are for life – there’s no 30-day shortcut into it, nor any vacation out of it.

It’s very basic. And if this sort of honesty is too brutal, then so be it. But if you’re gonna do P90X, as beautiful as its workouts are, ditch the “90” part and do it forever, until well past your 90th birthday. If you want some sort of “cleansing” by becoming a raw vegan, don’t fool yourself thinking like it’s a 30-day vacation from meat, junk and drugs. Raw veganism is for long-haul truckers only. Good health is only for long-haul flight captains. Massive vitality is only for life-long and storied generals. There are no shortcuts or breaks; you just do it and don’t stop, period.

I also don’t think you can get much out of doing something new, something you want to get really into, for just a few days. It takes years to master something, and then decades to master that mastery. So start now, today, this instant. And never, ever stop. Don’t even think about it.

Veganism is forever. Physical fitness is forever. There’s no way around it. Discipline is the only way. And any vacation from healthy eating and healthy living you think you want because you crave garbage and a lazy day, just ain’t worth it. I’m not talking about periodized exercise programs – of course, there are times to slow down, particularly during the off-season when you might take a short break from the rep-max power-lifting and stick to the basics, lighten the weights, do shorter runs instead of half-marathoning every time, etc., preventing physical burn-out. But the off-season is no excuse to revisit poisonous, cruel foods, drugs, or shameless sloth – veganism continues; ample sleep and stress-minimized living are not interrupted. The off-season, a month or a few weeks’ duration in a year-long periodization program for all athletes of the sport of life, corresponds with the life-cycle of hard work followed by moderate work and taking off a load; it does not correspond with partying hard and forgetting ones principles. Even in general, you don’t lift heavy every day – alternating days you lift moderate or light, or don’t lift at all; the light or off days are not to be days of backsliding, irresponsibility and excuses. So, even the “off-season” excuse doesn’t count. Matter of fact, forget I even mentioned the “off-season.” I’ll be in-season until I stop breathing. All of life is the in-season.

When you figure on going vegan, incorporating vigorous consistent exercise into your life, and all around assuming the healthiest lifestyles there are, look at it like you’re entering the point of no return, all doors behind you locked shut for good, and don’t look back. Then you can only move forward into success after success, mastery after mastery, in the endless, joyful, glorious pursuit of unrealized human potential.

We live but once. Live victoriously.

Breakfast.

Good Food.

For all the indomitable fruit-mavens.

Being a busy grad student may have slowed down the blogging, but never interrupts the good eating, the good breathing, the good life. We’re still repping the fruitarian way, the low-fat raw vegan lifestyle, all day and forever. Gonna bring way more content down the pike going forward. Here’s to today’s breakfast – papaya, oranges, apples, grapefruit, and hella bananas not pictured – that might be more fruit-porn than most can handle. Staying fresh, clean, hydrated, active, fit, positive, in the sun (no matter the season), proper and nice. Ona move.

Fruitarian Musculation and Philosophy

I’m moving towards adding a fruitarian fitness and body-building page to this blog. Until I launch such a page, I thought I’d again weigh in on my dietary philosophy with regard to basic well-being. For me, all I eat is fresh raw whole fruits (including non-sweet fruits) and vegetables (leafy greens). It is my conviction that fresh fruits and vegetables are the ideal foods for humans, and that they also make the most ethical sense to eat. That’s all I eat. What I eat is that which I see in front of me at farmer’s markets and produce stands and which suits my palate and hunger. No dried fruits or nuts – they don’t interest me. Nothing exploited or ripped from animals – they are cruel to animals and human physiology alike.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, and by far mostly fruits in proportion to the greens (why I claim “fruitarian” now) – that’s my whole game and song. Historically, I grew up on rice and occasional fish and chicken and milk and cereal and such in a Nigerian household in North Jersey. I went vegan in 1999 (at age 15) and started with soy-based milk and meat replacers, moving in time towards more and more fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains and less stuff that was reminiscent in any way of the old animal-based regime. I went raw-vegan in 2007 in a regime both fresh fruit/vegetable heavy and nut heavy, including exotic stuff like hemp-seed, cacao, trips to pricey raw restaurants for nori-rolls and nut patties, and so on. Since the start of 2009, I’ve been all about just fresh fruits and veggies that are in season and accessible from farmers markets and produce stands where I live.

I don’t eat organic much, both because of the expense and because where I can get produce – family-owned produce joints in my corner of North Jersey – there are few “organic”-labeled varieties. At the chain supermarkets, everything is 30-50% more expensive. Organic varieties (which I can only find at the big franchises) are way past even those aggressive markups. I’m not gonna bother for now.

But all in all, it’s a simple food regime. I eat fresh – stuff that’s not in boxes and packaging, stuff you have to pick and bag yourself – including bananas, watermelon, oranges, mangos, apples, tomatoes, spinach, okra, cucumbers, bell peppers, pomegranate, guava, zucchini, etc. It’s simple, yet quite satisfying.

I don’t count calories. I don’t supplement for micronutrients I’m supposed to fear deficiencies of (i.e. pressed oils or protein powders or B12 – haven’t knowingly had any vitamin or fortified source of that in my body for years and have never been anemic in my life, and haven’t been ill in any way in years). I eat when I’m hungry. I drink water (the only drink) when I’m thirsty. I sleep when I’m tired. I wash with black soap and moisturize with unprocessed raw shea butter. I floss and brush with a soft toothbrush and non-fluoridated toothpaste, I squat when I shit, and for now I don’t shave or comb my hair – just wash and go proudly. Fresh fruits, leafy greens, sunshine, fresh air, exercise, good humans, good rest, good work and a simple, straightforward, natural swagger sustain me.

So, having laid down my general philosophy, I simply hope to share the idea and experience of good fitness and physical culture through simplicity, abundance, hard work and sincerest interest in the growth of others. I don’t have anything to sell – no books, powders, recipes. I would just hope that the plant-based diet becomes more normalized in this world and less denigrated by the ignorant and those with whole industries and cultures of violence to defend.

Getting strong is about weight-bearing, cardiovascular and stretching exercises, with actual muscular hypertrophy and strengthening most dependent on the first item. Getting strong is not about killing and eating animals, ingesting soy powders, etc. Weight-bearing exercise includes simple body-weight exercises like push-ups, squats, burpees, etc. It can be as straightforward or elaborate as one likes or can afford.

I am personally interested in strength and power (as opposed to hypertrophy/bulk alone). Hence my current workout regime alternates full-body speed/power days with full-body strength/muscular endurance days. I.e. in a five day campaign, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are about speed and power. Tuesdays and Thursdays are about strength and endurance. My cardiovascular workouts [aside from ballistic kettlebell work] are based on bicycling and walking and occur throughout the week (partly included in practicing active transportation/ body-reliant commuting) and especially weekends (I run less only because I don’t have the best right knee in the world). In the past my regime included regular martial arts practice, though of late I could no longer afford/ find time to do this, and I expect to resume some time in 2011.

My tools include kettlebells, a pull-up bar, chairs (for dips), a mat, a chin-up bar, my bicycle, my body, and the world. Speed and power exercises, which are among my favorite, come courtesy of the kettlebells and the wide variety of power-lifting one can do with them – cleans, [time-interval] jerks, snatches, high pulls, Turkish get-ups, swings, and so on. One can invent exercises with kettlebells and of course use them for all the general weight-training techniques known to humanity – [pistol] squats, lunges, shoulder and chest presses, curls, [renegade] rows, etc. Calisthenic and body-weight workouts combine with non-ballistic weight-training on strength days.

It’s all pretty simple. It’s all pretty cheap. And most of it’s in the attitude. It’s about embracing intuition, cherishing simplicity, shunning cruelty, not fearing, and being oneself. The plant-based diet is in my experience the nicest, having done me over eleven years (some 40% of my life as of my 27th year at present) of good. The physical culture of an active lifestyle and exercise produces endless soldier-soul juice. Especially in the mornings before work, when one deploys military discipline to practice physical and mental strength before the work day and commute, so that body and essence remain in tact and strong in this debasing world.

Fresh fruits and veggies and physical culture give one the strength to withstand Babylon and fight for truth and justice for time to come. Activists and freedom-fighters need to mind and sustain their personal wellness. Stay tuned for a fitness page to be added above soon.

And please comment generously on this missive.

Ode to Spinach (and to Better Ethical Judgment)

Spinach (raw) is easily my favorite leafy green, and I am not alone in this opinion. I’ve had conversations with friends about this, men who confirm how delicate the texture of spinach is, how rarified its flavor, how subtle its aroma, how nutritious to the human body. To those outside of the knowledge-base and experientially-received and confirmed wisdom of plant-based diets/ veganism/ fruitarianism/ etc., spinach can be declared a plentiful “obvious” or “overt” source of “protein” for when the question inevitably arises as to how certain of us thrive and excel on naught but fruits and vegetables. A casual look at its nutrition data here (check its glorious amino acid score), or a detailed discussion of its entire and excellent nutritional profile at whfoods, are offered to further bolster my claims.

But I need not only offer the substantive evidence of food analysts to extol the virtues of spinach. My practice of fruitarianism/ low fat raw veganism benefits from regular and plentiful sourcing of spinach in my palate, so I know my body is getting what it needs to build, show and prove. Wellness and vigor are my uninterrupted daily expressions and actualization in the world, not illness and torpor. Fruits and leafy greens in abundance let me express those characteristics so consistently and readily. They alone fuel the body seen here, the kettlebell tossing, martial arts doing, physical culture and active transportation loving author of this very blog. And they alone are sufficient.

And when I seek leafy greens, although there are many varieties, spinach is the one most likely to please. I chop it up into my raw okra stews – of whom the spinach-based type is always a favorite, both to myself and those I’ve shared it with. I cut it up and make it the plush green bed upon which a zucchini pasta dish lies. I make simple salads with it, mixed with cucumber, romaine lettuce hearts (my second favorite greens), and tomatoes (and sometimes carrot strips, red bell peppers, etc.).

Spinach is an excellent choice for those who recognize the brutality of any and all justifications for slaughtering animals for “nutritional” reasons, especially for “protein.” A high-volume balanced-variety whole-foods plant-based diet, primarily based on fresh fruits and supplemented by leafy greens, is all but incapable of causing “protein deficiency.” The nutrition links above demonstrate the high-density of “protein” in spinach, which has an exceptionally strong balance and concentration of the essential amino acids found in all edible plants (also read this). Trace amounts of essential fatty acids (and we don’t need more than daily “trace” intake of them) are also well-deployed in spinach. In a nutshell, spinach, and other whole plants and fruits, are all the “meat-replacer” you need. The spinach-based salads I mentioned above are an excellent replacement for the meat dish you want to now eliminate from your diet. You can get out of the blood and guts business and into the color and vibrancy of fruits and veggies with confidence. Your ethical consciousness will no longer trip over itself making rationalizations for murder, violence and pollution. Your body will thank the shining of your moral mind and logic, your palate will enjoy the flavor of freshness and life, and your body will provide the gift of wellness, lightness and stamina in the everyday world.

When I see clean, fresh loose spinach in the market, I recognize that the grocers selling it take their greens seriously. Too many supermarkets, especially in the ghetto, think they can get away with serving wrinkled, dehydrated, decomposing spinach and charge two bucks a pound for the compost-ready but unpalatable substance. This is highly problematic, because fresh spinach is both a delicacy and a potential staple in the plant-based, human performance-oriented kitchen.

For the perfect balance of subtle, smokey flavor and savory texture, I endorse spinach. For the male and female vegan body-builders and athletes, I endorse spinach. For the ethical people emerging from death-based murder diets and looking to get “protein” in the conventional sense, I endorse spinach (in balance with other fruits and veggies). For being a strong and thriving human with a robust immune system and fewer trips to the doctor, the beautiful leaf called spinach stands endorsed.

Go support your spinach growers (as opposed to butchers, soy processors, etc.). And it’s an easy enough to cultivate plant that you can grow some in your yard too, depending on where you live.

Eat some organic raw leafy spinach today – eat a pound of it.

Updates on the Day of the Great Naija Shift-Change

On October 1, 1960, British despots handed over rule to African despots in the territory called Nigeria. It was a change-over of work-shifts, not a liberation. Yeah, yeah, the elders say sorta nice things about the very first post-independence leaders – all males anyway – but I don’t buy it. Fifty years of hysteria, emergency, regression, blood, dictatorship, false democracy, division, death and  devolution have now passed. And today, bombs explode in the capital, in part because of grievances and legacies of injustice in my own native Niger Delta. Enough of it.

We must urgently usher in the African Revolution! People’s democracy! Human rights! Self-determination! Justice! Universal Education and Healthcare! Socialism! Ubuntu! I’m tired of the imposed ignorance, the exploitation, the knee-jerk corruption habit, the patriarchy, the inertia, all of it. And the African Revolution begins with you and me, wherever we find ourselves as black people.

With that off my chest, I’d like to mention that some stuff is written and pictured about me over here at the Raw Mocha Angel’s “Have You Ever Seen a Healthy Vegan?” series. Check it out.

Another thing you must check out and tell your friends about is the Africana Institute at Essex County College in Newark, NJ. That’s where I work, and we aim to be the baddest Africana/ African-American/ Black Studies department on the planet. We’re all about activism, community, and education of our people about past, present and futures strides and struggles, and how to be victorious as a people.

The url is easy: eccafricana.com. If you have or know of a black-owned business in the Newark/ NYC area, let us know at africanatv [at] gmail [dot] com (or just hit me up) and I will list you on our African Business page right away. We are populating our blog with all relevant and uplifting pro-African content, and we will be letting you know of all activities and events we want to invite you to participate in.

And lastly, “Letter to a Brotha” is reposted at Racialicious, where an interesting and lively debate is going on.

Keeping it short today. Coming soon: (1) Thoughts on Straight Edge and Struggle, and (2) Thoughts on American Apartheid and Food Injustice.

Uhuru!

Letter to a Brotha

What follows is the last letter traded in an exchange between a couple of 26 year-old black dudes regarding my last post on “Liberation Veganism.” My comrade is not vegan, and is concerned about “the problem with the displacement of bread and butter struggle with raw foodisms,” etc, due to my attempt to mix veganism with human liberation, or in our case black liberation. It is an important concern for all of us, whether or not thinking about or bringing up veganism in a context like African liberation discourse is appropriate. Or the problem with making something like going vegan or trumpeting ecological awareness THE issue or THE revolution, rather than just an aspect of it. And the problem of having advocacy of those causes which are “on the periphery for me, masking as if it is at the core,” as my friend challenged. He stated that to bring up veganism at a hypothetical “cop watch” meeting and try to make the meeting about veganism would be problematic, from which I gathered that something like “cop watch” to him was a “bread and butter” ‘hood issue (as opposed to, given the tenor of our exchanges, dietary, environmental, lifestyle, quality of life, sanitation, etc. issues, which to him are more associated with white liberal green/ vegan activists for whom those things are THE issue).

Lastly we had a disagreement on this point, and I quote my brotha: “one day you said to me the first responsibility of a revolutionary is to be healthy. That was the crucial difference for me, i thought you were wrong. Our health is not the priority, the people are, when the struggle becomes for our own person health (or morality) we are distant from the people.” In subsequent retorts from myself (because I believe the exact opposite of what he asserts) I struggled with this contradiction until he later stated, “a revolutionaries health is not an end to me, it is a means to the end which is revolution.” I play with this idea as well down below.

Without further ado, then, here’s my letter to my good brother comrade in struggle, on the “bread and butter” issues of liberation struggle as pertain to defining health, priorities of concern, “revolution” and so on.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Bro,

In between running ’round town, meeting folks, preparing food, listening to the radio and other daily bizness, I wondered about how we might define “health” anyway. And that how we define health may determine our relationship with whatever that commodity is. And if there are elements in contemplating health that we may not exactly see eye to eye on, it may be because we haven’t gotten around to building a consensus – a definition to begin with – of what that concept means.

But I also came upon the thought that revolution, which is another notion we may have to define more concretely, nonetheless is fundamentally about health. No? I mean, it seems people like us would only come to acquire and espouse our deep discord, alienation and criticism of the world because there’s an element of it that is so odiously sick and unhealthy, to us and people who look like us. If economic systems are preventing our people from excelling, those economic systems are killing them, ruining their economic and by extension personal health, ruining their sense of self-worth and thus compromising their mental health. If occupational labor standards where they work are consistently dangerous but that danger goes unremedied by profit-hungry bosses, i.e. undocumented Mexican migrant farm laborers in California or Michigan constantly exposed directly to heavy overflight pesticide spraying with no protective gear, or conditions in meat-packing plants in Chicago where lots of poor black folks once worked and now many more Latinos, etc – then those capitalist labor conditions are ruining their health. If our schools indoctrinate ignorance and fear and division, and our mass media propagate the same, and our youth imbibe a bitter hopelessness and “act out” against one another, our whole social system is preventing us from being healthy. Same for exposure to high concentrations of lead and other toxic fine particulates, leading to higher asthma rates, in parts of the Bronx and Harlem where MTA’s bus depots are, and where the sanitation transfer stations are, such that the straight filth of our infrastructure kills us. If one’s housing conditions promote insecurity and pest infestation while being exorbitantly priced so as to suck up half a person’s income, that person has that much bigger a hurdle towards being healthy, including psychological anxieties and stress which increase stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine levels which compromise metabolism and immunity to disease. If Daewoo and other Korean and wealthy Persian Gulf corporations can sign 99-year leases for land in places like Madagascar or Ethiopia to grow food explicitly for their own populations and not the indigenous African populations who live where the food is grown, that type of neo-colonialism is going to decrease food security for people at home, thus ensuring more malnutrition, infant mortality, maternal mortality, and other stark miseries which prevent effective and productive living of a life, or just health said succinctly. Even indigenous regimes of patriarchy, machismo, etc. compromise women’s health, and by extension that of the children, elderly, and whole families.

I mean, that’s one way I tend to see it. I don’t like seeing the misery and desperation out there – it’s disgusting and unhealthy. My innate disgust with this crap is why I’m like this, even why I’m vegan. I don’t like cruelty. I think human beings are capable of far more than what we’ve got here. That’s why I keep striving.

So in terms of this other undefined concept – “bread and butter” issues, no one of us will see exactly eye to eye as to what’s number one or whatever. As for me, and this is a fluctuating, ever changing bunch of things that most frequently preoccupy a person like me, but education of the youth, health, quality of life, labor and cooperative economics/ black business (business doesn’t have to mean capitalist acquisitive stuff, just organizing our own economics internally), domestic violence and black on black crime, the environment, access to land/ housing/ ownership of where we live and even grow food, food security – these might be just some of my top five concerns, and I think I named more than five things here. What’s interesting (and not I hope a point of conflict but just worth contemplating for the both of us) is that something like “cop watch” is not on my top five, and just might barely make my top ten, of “bread and butter” issues. This is because, as I hinted at in the last message, there is a hell of a lot more domestic violence and black on black crime than there is police on black crime. Said another way, which effects how I prioritize either concern in my thoughts – someone living in an oppressed and crime-ridden community is far more likely to suffer physical strife from someone who looks like them and lives near them than by the police – in for instance Newark, NJ. So a lot more of my attention is grabbed by “stop the violence” and anti-rape, anti-domestic violence “take back the night”-type work than anti-police brutality work. Just because rape and horizontal violence are a much greater existential threat to everyday people than police violence.

And this point may be controversial, even between you and me, but it is something I take issue with at times and with some groups and individuals, who decry every instance of police brutality, but are a little more muted regarding when we do brutality to each other, senselessly, even as children. This is not a “blame the victim” statement. This is not a statement decrying some innate tendency for irrational violence towards one another in our community. It just acknowledges a statistic, whose generation is due to the lack of resources by which to survive which promotes dangerous and destructive attitudes, lifestyles and practices, which leaves us only with some warped sense of dignity over which we might kill because someone disses us. That’s horizontal violence 101, ala Frantz Fanon or Omali Yeshitela. And I tend to have a lot more affinity with that problem than with vertical violence/ state violence, at least as pertains to those of us in North America for the moment.

And I could be wrong, all wrong in my priorities.

So we should think about what “bread and butter” means very carefully and self-critically before we attempt to declare what ought and what ought not be put on the table. Also, regarding the table, and the fear of things like vegan issues crowding out the more “salient” points of discussion and work: to me that fear is unnecessary and almost irrational. I said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s a time and place for every discussion. And to the extent that to me health is an upfront “bread and butter” issue, when many black folk think about why there’s so much obesity and diabetes in the community, they look at the food system and the food culture we have to deal with. There are many among those who then look at what’s in the kitchen, and analyze the hormone and antibiotics-infused meats, the empty calorie fattening soda and junk food, and so on, and how they eat corporate-controlled food-like substances mostly, and not really nourishing whole foods. And among folks with that analysis, many, many of them might bring up the ‘v’ word, or the vegetarian/ vegan question. By that line of thought and action, veganism of all things could come straight to the table, the “bread and butter” table. And it would be very dismissive and paranoid to act like all those voices with those questions and thoughts on their minds are bringing up a parochial, peripheral issue. It is not peripheral to them. It becomes a hood issue to them, a “bread and butter” (or maybe “bananas and avocados”) issue. Their voice is just as valid and ought to be just as welcome to the table as your voice, which might never bring up such a question. If you were the master of the table, when they start to think about health, and then diet, and then nutrition, and then maybe veganism, would you just say “shut up?” I don’t think so. Please don’t leave this conversation still thinking that of all things “veganism,” and I really mean diet and lifestyle and consumer and quality of life questions and concerns which may inevitably and likely lead to things like veganism being brought up, should be hushed away from conversation, due to fear that to converse or contemplate that takes away from, well, “bananas and avocados” issues. Vegans are less than 1 percent of black folk, but that still makes for a vast multitude. Let them be heard.

If the table of discourse is managed well and with discipline, discussions of veganism won’t manage to drown out other and broader concerns and objectives. Don’t fear and hate any aspect of the discourse, however it may seem like minutia to you.

Anyway, back to thinking about health. If depression is now an epidemic in the US including our communities, if obesity, if heart attack, if premature death or disability are now so monumentally epidemic in the US including our communities, it would behoove us to very aggressively question all that.

Another reason that, if I reverse roll-play your critique of me onto you, I think something like “cop watch” isn’t necessarily as priority “bread and butter” as health, is that more than cops, even more than violent strangers or spouses, what we are eating and where we are living are negatively affecting our outcome as a people.

Let’s break it down to be really clear: years of eating unhealthy food, sedentary living, exposure to toxic materials in the home and workplace, and the stresses of making ends meet in an unstable community – these things very very much are killing us far faster and more unforgivingly than any police.

Yet I think some folks think so much about police-brutality because of how visible that is. All the dietary, environmental and other aspects of our lives which are committing literal genocide on our people – that stuff tends to be more invisible and, to use a little medical terminology, of insidious onset. It’s what’s part of the ambiance, what’s mundane, what’s habitual, that is filling more graves with black bodies in America than anything else. This includes young people like us.

So, study food. Study environment. Study capitalism. Study industries. Study geography. Study sociology. Study it all. It’s all on the table. It’s all bread and butter. Even when subsets of those studies lead to considerations, in any given space or time, of such a rarified topic as veganism.

Everything on the table. “Bread and butter” can be “bananas and avocados” to some, and it’s still valid, still worth respecting of the ideas they may share. Don’t fear ideas.

Lastly, regarding the quote “a revolutionaries health is not an end to me, it is a means to the end which is revolution.” I said that I basically agree with this before. But to make things a little more interesting, I will declare that I do think, as a human being (I know we are not revolutionaries either of us, but even if we were, we’d have to be human beings before being revolutionaries), it is perfectly acceptable to take health as an end. Full stop. Take health as a fundamental goal. We all have but limited time here, and none of us are getting out of this gig alive, and moreover, we may not see the broader changes we want to see in our community happen in our lifetimes.

Might as well at least try to be healthy. Taking one’s health as an end means simply striving to have healthy relationships, live and eat healthily, and have outlets for what interests us, including the act of pursuing revolution or a revolutionary ethos. In other words, one might be able to say “revolution is a means to a revolutionary’s health” because by practicing revolution we get psychological, emotional, mental, physical, social etc. fulfillment and well-being.

So, I’ve problematized that one for ya. Remember, bro, it all depends on how we define “health”! And how we define “revolution”! The two could be one and the same for some of us!

Revolutions,

Konju

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.