Guest Blog Post: Madera E. Rogers
Are African American & Afrikan Vegans Missing from the Vegan/Vegetarian Conversation?

Dear readers,

The following is a guest post from Ms. Madera E. Rogers, who recently relocated to New Orleans.  Many thanks to this guest blogger!  Please note that the words and ideas below belong to her and her guests alone.  Readers, enjoy!

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Madera E. Rogers recently moved to New Orleans from Brooklyn, New York. She is a textile artist, organic clothing designer, personal performance coach, Philanthropist, green conscious activist and vegan. Ms Rogers has introduced a conscious movement through The Green Journey Series which is a series of events that generates conscious discussions around the human experience, empowerment and change. Madera’s belief is that we need to celebrate, as a global community, the power of envisioning life, self, and the planet differently.

QUESTION: Are African American & Afrikan Vegans
Missing from the Vegan/Vegetarian Conversation?

The Benefits of Being Vegan/Vegetarian

The benefits are numerous. Some have chosen the vegan/vegetarian life style because the dietary choices contribute to improving their overall health. Within the African American/Afrikan community there is virtually no high blood pressure or diabetes reported among vegans/vegetarians. For others, avoiding meat and dairy helps to reduce direct negative effects on the environment. Others choose the vegan/vegetarian path in order to remove the direct emotional attachment they felt with eating animals. Last but not least there is a spiritual connection between food that comes directly from the earth and the human body.

Reports and Data

The following data are taken from a study conducted by Vegetarian Times which commissioned RRC Associates, a research firm in Boulder, Colo., to perform the data analysis. The report is entitled “Vegetarianism in America”. Published by Vegetarian Times (vegetariantimes.com). The study shows that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. The study continues with citing that 59 percent are female; 41% are male. 42.0 percent are 18 to 34 years of age; 40.7 percent are 35 to 54 years of age and 17. 4 percent are over 55. Continuing the study notes 57.1 percent have followed a vegetarian diet for more than 10 years; 18 percent for 5 to 10 years; 10.8 percent for 2 to 5 years, 14.1 percent for less than 2 years.

Here's another report found on the Food For The Soul web page, that celebrates and focuses solely on the presence of the missing African American/Afrikan vegan or vegetarian. There's a tag line on the Food For The Soul web page that notes Imhotep as the author of the famous saying “Let Food Be Thy Medicine”, not Hippocrates. The report continues to share information from The Vegetarian Resource Group detailing the findings from a 2012 telephone poll of 2,030 individuals age 18 and over. By the way, the data continues to state there's 2.5 million of Blacks and Afrikans embracing a plant based, vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. The report cites that 4% of Americans are vegans or vegetarians. 1% of this statistics are vegan. This simply means that there are 9 million vegetarians and 2 million of those are vegans. Another 43% report eating one or more vegetable meals per week. The statistics also show, that 6% of African Americans/Afrikans state they are vegan or vegetarian while 3% of Whites state they are.

Overall, this data indicates that African American /Afrikans, are more likely to be eating a plant based diet. My goal is to open dialogue around the question “Are African American/Afrikans missing in the dialogue around being vegans or vegetarians”? I'll take it a step further: Are we are missing in the conversation around sustainability, environment, recycling, and permaculture”… and the list continues. If we are missing… why are we missing in these conversations?

The Introduction

On a perfect New Orleans Sunday morning several weeks back, a new associate introduced me to a popular vegan-friendly restaurant named Bread on Oaks in the Carrollton area of New Orleans. My excitement - experiencing a new restaurant. I appreciate good food! It is a charming cafe with a friendly vibe, attentive service and delicious offerings of vegan and gluten free breads, pastries and conscious meals. However, I was disappointed.

My associate and I, seated ourselves in a narrow room with chairs lined up facing a window to outdoors. Our view was the main performance, i.e. the kitchen. This behind the scenes choreography could be viewed through a full floor to ceiling window allowing customers to see how the magic is created!

As my associate and I began eating a small group arrived. They were chatting about upcoming events and exchanging pleasantries. At some point my associate and I were invited to join the conversation. Within the group were Holly Feral, Editor in Chief of Portland, Oregon-based publication Driftwood Magazine, which is dedicated to travel and vegan lifestyle. Also present was Melissa Bastian Breedlove of New Orleans in Green blog. I pondered how to start the conversation around why the vegan scene is portrayed as a white only experience? And where’s the presence of African Americans/Afrikans and other cultures as vegans? Okay, loaded questions.

I presented the question and Melissa’s response was to offer me an opportunity to do the guest blog which you are reading now. Holly Feral’s response can be viewed here on the MERELYME.CO Facebook page videos section. I judge that both women felt somewhat awkward when I posed the question.

Taking this one step further I suggest that there are those who do not understand why this is a question or of any concern. There in lies the problem.

Why The Disconnect?

Here's an interesting thought. With all the emphasis in America on embracing the lifestyle of being a vegan, practicing yoga... from my perspective, there's a disconnect somewhere. If, we are taking actions that are supposed to enlighten us, why is the world still not enlightened? How can so much concern be voiced about the planet, caring for animals, protecting the land etc., and no action plan to address social injustices, and ethics? I just find it odd that those people, who are moving towards enlightenment, appear to have their eyes closed tight and see only what is comfortable to their view?

Please note that there are audio interviews in this post from individuals across the U.S. and from New Orleans. My hope is that each interview will provide a rich insight layering threads to create a fabric of life. There's no right or wrong answer to the question. What's imperative is to share in the exchange and bridge the generational, ethical, and cultural gaps and boundaries so we can enter into sacred dialogue.

Are We Missing?

My second audio interview is with Certified Nutritionist, Certified Colon Therapist, Iridologist and Herbologist Evelyn Gordon, better known in the African American community as "Nanana". She resides in Denver, Colorado. Nanana serves as an elder within her community, and is known for her passion about living life to the fullest. She's been a vegan for over 30 plus years. Her philosophy… "I do not subscribe to preaching to individuals about what they should be doing in their lives. You can only lead a horse to water, it's the horse that must drink. Not you!  View interview videos with Nanana on this topic here (part 1) and here (part 2).

I'd like to acknowledge Melissa with New Orleans in Green for being receptive to open up the discussion and providing me with a platform to share my first #TheGreenJourney Series blog. I encourage everyone who reads this to join in and listen to the upcoming audio conversations on the following social media:
Twitter: @TheGreenJourney
Instagram: Madera_e_rogers
Facebook: The Green Journey

The Green Journey Series

For the next five weeks on Mondays only access one of the three mediums listed above to listen to audio presentations from elders of the community, activists, young and bold sharing their perspective as we walk through a world that reminds us that it is our birthright to be happy. Have peace when you see chaos, and not allow the chaos take a piece of you!


At the Fork: An Exploration

Hello all!  I know I've been awfully quiet over here.  For the last week and a half I've been up to my neck in the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, and I'm just now able to disengage from those very important events for long enough to get back into some vegan/AR work.

I did so by attending the Whole Foods-sponsored screening last night of At the Fork, a film by John Papola.  Per the website, "Filmmaker and omnivore John Papola, together with his vegetarian wife Lisa, offer up a timely and refreshingly unbiased look at how farm animals are raised for our consumption. With unprecedented access to large-scale conventional farms, Papola asks the tough questions behind every hamburger, glass of milk and baby-back rib. What he discovers are not heartless industrialists, but America’s farmers — real people who, along with him, are grappling with the moral dimensions of farming animals for food."  Hmmm.

I live tweeted the event, and now because I love you have compiled those tweets here.  Enjoy, maybe?

About to live-tweet . This will be interesting, no doubt.

That is, if the theater can figure out how to take all these people's vouchers... 

Made it. Made it. Ribs on the grill three seconds in. Ribfest! Wife Lisa says what I feel: bleeeeegh. 

Visit Animal Place to meet real live farm animals on not a real live farm. Sanctuary mission is to end animal exploitation. 

Have a "human gestation crate" to show people what pigs go through. "This is the price they pay for me to eat my spare ribs" 

Shots of pigs in gestation crates. Obligatory Temple Grandin interview. Indiana mega-piggery that lets people see inside... 

Various farming conditions make it unsustainable to keep pigs outside; legacy farms says pigs can lead happy lives in stalls. 

Filmmaker holds a piglet and is surprised he doesn't scream; then he screams. "Farmer" pulling piglets from a sow's vagina... 

...and clipping their teeth. Legacy farms guy says God gave man dominion over animals, we shouldn't humanize them.  

In to Iowa: $7 per pig is what they profit. 1969 confinement shed footage. More holding of piglets, "processing" them. 

Processing includes injections, tail docking; farmer says "it's not wrong." Pigs weaned at 30 days; market weight @ 6 months.

Now using a shock prod to get pigs onto a truck. I don't know if I'm going to make it through this movie.

There are more corporations in animal farming because we want to pay less for our food. TRUTH. But many of us need to...  

Now a farm that raises animals outside. Pigs frolicking; big red barns. Ethical meat.

So why do you castrate pigs? "It helps the food quality." They crawl into a sow's pen and move her piglets; she's FURIOUS. 

"It seems like it's really an invasive mutilation... and it is I guess." Re the piglet castration. But it's a business...  

And now artificial insemination. Farmer is sitting on her to keep her still; she lets him because she's in heat.

"The consumer has to vote with his dollar" to change industry practices.  

Farmer wants to know what's going through the pigs' heads. "I know you had pork for lunch you jerk." Ha ha ha.

Governor Terry Branstand wants us all to know how great Iowa pork is.  

Will Harris of White Oak Pasture, GA - "Cowboy culture is glamorous" but not best for animals or land.

Animals should be able to express their instinctive behaviors. Hogs are hanging out in a forest. No stalls or crates.

Was bothered most by old way of shipping cattle on double-decker semi - so they built an slaughterhouse on site.

Temple Grandin again, on how to nicely slaughter. Filmmaker: it's a contradiction to care about food animals' feelings.

"Dominion does not mean complete domination." A different farmer who believes animals are sentient; cares about feelings.

1000k cattle feedlot; they can lose dozens of animals a day due to heat. They spray water to cool, so it gets muddy.

While filming from the public road, the feedlot threatens to call the sheriff to make them leave.

Filmmaker John's wife is vegetarian; they fight because she knows this won't change his dinner.

Grandin: ag gag laws are not the thing to do. Change your practices instead. Governor of Iowa says it's "very effective."

Craig Watts: contract chicken grower: "I just felt like the consumer is being lied to." Footage of chicks in a shed.

Broiler chickens grow too fast, are kept too crowded. After two weeks, must focus on culling birds that won't make size.

Wife wants to revive a chick that isn't doing well. "I think I found a lady who's going to adopt him."

Discussion of food labeling. USDA has organic, but welfare isn't really involved. There's "certified humane" and two others.

"Higher degrees of animal welfare are being rewarded in the market" for the first time, says .

Crystal Lake Farms lets chickens actually live outside. "They're being real chickens... Chickens came from jungle fowl."  

And yet, the catchers still come at night to take them to slaughter, carrying the typical five birds per hand.

Next up: mechanized cow milking at Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, Indiana. Don't pasture because food is inconsistent.  

Radiance Dairy, Iowa: cows live on pasture. Produce less milk and live a lot longer; one cow 13 years old.

At Fair Oaks, calves are taken almost immediately away from mothers, to keep them from bonding. Veal crates.  

Wife: "I don't know why you can't hold on to the compassion" when you sit down to eat. He explains that the feelings fade.

Now egg-laying hens in battery cages with automated food and water. Least expensive product for the consumer, worst welfare.

Grandin: this large scale egg production is very efficient, but also very fragile. Exploration of bird flu epidemic.

Pasture-based egg farms largely avoided the bird flu epidemic.

Pasture-raised eggs are more expensive because of labor and land costs. Egg Innovation in KY is trying to scale up pasture.

Of note: like all movies, the music is very emotionally manipulative. It's telling you how to feel. Pay attention to it.

Wayne Pacelle says we should eat more vegetables and treat farm animals more humanely. Ok.

Filmmaker John enjoys a pulled "pork" jackfruit sandwich. Mark Bittman talks about "vegan before seven."

Belcampo Farms cattle ranchers refer to cows as beef, say raising them is a predictor/prey relationship. Call it killing.

Now county fair. 4H participant kid says pigs "just like dogs." Pigs are named Hopper and Copper. "It sucks" when they go.

Kids talk extensively about how much it hurts to raise pigs and then see them go to slaughter.

Filmmaker John has decided to become a conscious eater. Fairly vegetarian message at the end here, though not quite explicit.

Challenging us to take the "at the fork" challenge, reducing animal products and sourcing humane ones.

The end. I really have to think about whether to recommend this movie. Sure is hard to watch for the already converted.

Thinking back on - was there a single person of color in that movie? Seriously asking.

And that's all she (me) wrote.  I'm still processing my conclusions on this movie.  On the one hand, it does clearly show some brutal truths about how most animal farming is done - even on "humane" farms.  On the other, it promotes continuing consumption of animal products, though it does also promote reduction and seeking out more responsible production.  I just don't know.  What do y'all think?