At best, being a minority in the less-than-mainstream vegan/animal rights movement adds another layer to my feeling of otherness (I wear my quirkiness like a badge of honor), but sometimes it makes me feel a little lonely and worried for the state of health and social consciousness in my community. I wonder where all the other Black and Brown people are. Are they all “Lovin’ it” at McDonald’s or “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood” Applebee’s? Worse than having these questions myself is having White vegan people I barely know ask me, “How can we get more Black people in the movement?” Argh! I am tempted to give them Paul Mooney’s phone number.
So when Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society was finally released this Spring by Lantern Books I was ecstatic to own a copy and, thankfully, reading it was not a buzz kill. Editor A. Breeze Harper did a great job of collecting personal essays and poems from a diverse group of sistahs who approach the practice of veganism from a wide range of interconnecting, and sometimes conflicting, angles. Included are the stories of animal rights activists, mothers, herbalists, cyclists, professors, Black liberationists, sensualists, and artists. Some of the work acts as an introduction to veganism and other pieces argue the case for animal rights; these are valuable inclusions indeed, but not really exciting for me since I’ve heard all this stuff before. What really kept me turning the pages were the more personal narratives of these women’s journey to veganism. It was like having a conversation with a group of new friends. My most favorite essay was that of my real life friend, Brooklynite Melissa Danielle. In “Nutrition Liberation” she griped hard about all the crappy, chronic disease causing food many people of color tend to feed themselves (and kill themselves with) while exclusively looking outward to find the source of our oppression.
Sistah Vegan is a great book for any Black vegan woman looking to feel a little less alone in her fight to save herself and the world she lives in. It’s also a book that can lend some perspective to those who share her concerns.