FEATURE: Courtney Cox

Hello, my name is Courtney Cox. 

 I am 22 years old, I am a proud bisexual black woman, and daughter to a single father. I’m a full-time student at SRJC majoring in chemistry to transfer to UC Davis. I’m a farmworker on an organic farm in Sebastopol, CA called Earthworker farms. We grow microgreens and edible flowers.  I live in an RV on a communal eco village, which is still being established where my rent is my skills as a farmworker and herbalist.

My work as an activist in my community; North Bay Organizing Project Intergraded Voter Engagement Team, and a group called Community Action Coalition. My work with NBOP has been working on the campaign for rent control for Santa Rosa, and my work with CAC has been holding Sonoma County Sheriffs responsible for the murder of Andy Lopez, and making Santa Rosa a “Sanctuary City.” In our city it’s called “The Indivisible City” which we won. In all my activism work, my main focus is to address executive orders, laws, polices, ordinances, etc. by the new administration, and any government office which is illegal, unconstitutional, violates human rights and liberties, and only serves to uphold white superiority by means of structural control over every aspect of life.   

Veganism for me is not something that happened overnight. I view veganism as an unrealized journey everyone is on, stepping stones leading towards a realization and ultimately veganism.  

I was born in Hamilton County Chattanooga TN, I moved to LA when I was a child. As a child I didn’t drink a lot of cow’s milk, but loved Silk brand chocolate milk. I would eat around the meat on my plate, and ask my Dad to buy me tofu. These to me are unrealized stepping stones towards veganism, the small choices I made throughout my upbringing slowly rejecting the dominant narrative. As a teenager I ate what was given to me but, when I had to cook for myself I always ate vegetarian. It wasn’t a choice that I thought about, I never once thought about adding meat in my diet. My reasoning in hindsight is that in 2008 an E-Coli breakout happened killing people in LA. I was in 8th grade. I remember the whole middle school was freaking out, many students weren’t eating the school lunches, and the whole community in Tujunga slowed down considerably on in taking meat products. I believe for a few weeks it wasn’t even sold at two stores because of confirmed E.coli contamination.  

A few of my friends went vegetarian and still are where the majority of the school and community went back to their regular diets the next month. This breakout in 2008 had an effect on me. 8th grade was around the time I started to learn how to cook. I was too afraid to cook meat properly so I cooked the same meals but with tofu. I wasn’t vegan yet nor did I know what vegan was. I just didn’t want to cook meat, but continued to eat meat that was prepared for me.     

Moving forward into adulthood, I considered myself to be an environmentalist. it was even my major. I researched the environmental impact of my actions. I started to homestead, making a lot of my foods I would normally buy from boxes in the grocery store at home with bulk whole foods, as a zero waste initiative. I invested in a commuter bike, and even switched to cloth menstrual pads. All good things but I was ignoring the cow in the room. I’m not sure what I watched first...I believe it was a documentary at college that had a small section about beef cattle...or I read something in my textbook for environmental science. There was a chart that showed main greenhouse gas contributors. We talked about industrial business, transportation, big ag, and listed solutions to each including personal changes to be made, but when the chart showed cattle in the US (which was more than any other section), the only recommendation was to cultivate grass fed cattle in the US...That’s it.     

I was confused by what I was taught in school so I started my own research. I watched the documentary, Mad Cowboy. Needless to say it was a wakeup call. Over the next few weeks I started watching more documentaries, Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Cowspiracy and all of the vegan YouTube channels: Bite Size Vegan, Dr. Greger and yes, Freelee the Banana Girl. Along with tons of recipe channels. I had the education, and I realized I had to make the change. I went vegan “overnight.” These educational resources were stepping stones that brought me to a decision; I could either shut out what I had just learned and feel guilty and double down on my bad behavior to justify my choices OR side with logic and go forward on my life journey as a vegan. I moved forward living vegan.

I canvassed for FARM. I do screenings of the film Earthlings in my RV for friends and classmates. This semester a vegan yoga teacher at SRJC will be creating a vegan club which will focus on outreach and education on campus where I will be taking a leadership position. As for intersectionality in veganism, I’m disappointed for so many reasons. There are some black people I know who say to me that, “Veganism is white people food”. To me, this is internalized racism perpetuating the idea that health and plant foods belong to one race of people. There are also white vegans who say "All lives matter” which is their white privilege. They feel like they are doing enough by simply being vegan but not realizing vegan means compassion to all life and yes, including the respect of human beings. They need to take an ally ”backseat” and learn and listen to those who are being harmed and oppressed.  

Yes, mainstream anything has a long way to go before coming intersectional, and veganism is no exception, but every single black vegan is the exception to the dominant narrative. By simply living and engaging our communities, we are smashing stereotypes and coming one stepping stone closer towards intersectional veganism.

FEATURE: Nuri and Terika

Our names are Nuri and Terika. We are @VeganFriedChicn. Here's a little bit about us!

Nuri @n.urri : I'm 18 and very passionate about my online activism. I use the platform I've created to have a voice for the communities I belong to. I've been making posts about things I've experienced like racism, white supremacy, homophobia and misogyny, since I was a junior in high school. Being socially aware is what caused my veganism. It took me about 2 years of pescetarianism, then becoming a vegetarian and now being able to call myself Vegan.💕

Terika @cherifreshmedia : I'm 20 years old. I'm a videographer and I love film. What inspired me to become a vegetarian was my hamster (Izeah)😊. Having him in my life was really the first time I had formed a connection to an animal other than human. When he passed away I promised him I would never eat meat again. Some might think that's silly but he opened my eyes to the bigger picture. 

@veganfriedchicn :We are planning on starting a vegan food truck. We're reaching out to the community to help us with our start up funding. More than half will come from us but we need some support with the rest. Check out our Facebook, YouTube video and GoFundMe to learn more. Thank you to everyone who has helped us out! 

Social Media

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/veganfriedchicn
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/veganfriedchicn/
YouTube: https://youtu.be/NUiXfJCG8BI
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/VeganFriedChicn

BVR Interview: Eric Adams

Eric Adams is the Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, and previously served as a Democratic State Senator. Prior to that, Mr. Adams served as a police officer in the New York City Police Department for 22 years. After a recent diagnosis of diabetes, he went vegan. Below is a conversation with Aph Ko and Eric Adams about his political evolution, as well as his dietary evolution.

Eric: I grew up in South Queens, and at the age of 15, I was arrested and assaulted by the police during the arrest. I later became a member of the New York City Police Department and started an organization called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. We were a civil rights organization that happened to have been law enforcement officers. I became an advocate for highlighting police injustice. I eventually became a captain in that police department and later became a state senator. Then I was eventually elected to become the first African American to be the Borough President of Brooklyn. I am the Chief Executive of the largest of the five boroughs. I’ve been serving for three years now in this capacity and many of my concerns are around how we build better people, not so much in how we build better structures. So if you were to sum up my life in a sentence, I went from breaking the law, to enforcing the law, to writing the law…so I evolved as a human being.

BVR: When you were younger, what inspired you to go into law enforcement?

Eric: I was inspired to go into law enforcement after the brutal beatings that my brother and I experienced from police. I thought that being on the outside complaining would not change the situation. In order to get rid of the demons that I felt inside from that assault, I had to go inside the police department and fight with a vengeance. I wanted to at least have a good fight on the field and that’s the way I do it every day. As I moved up through the ranks, I never drifted away from why I was there, and I continue to do that.

My evolution to politics was that during the time of being a police officer, I saw social issues on the front lines. I saw young people lose their lives to senseless violence, I saw the proliferation of hand guns, I saw young people getting arrested—many of them were unable to write their names or spell out their names. I saw the countless numbers of victims of crimes from sexual abuse to domestic violence and I realized with the experience that I had in law enforcement, I should take it to go shape policy now, and that’s what I did. I ran for office. I was able to take my experience, my first-hand view of what was happening, and bring it to the center of our nation’s capital, and introduce bills and pass laws that would impact some of those social ills that I saw.

BVR: How do you see your recent move to veganism as it relates to your life history and your political efforts?

Eric: It’s a continued evolution. I believe that this journey that I am on is a spiritual journey as well as a physical journey. I believe that we all have a purpose in life, and that purpose will continue to evolve. It is my purpose and my destiny and I have to stay true to it. And veganism is so much a part of that including my diagnosis of diabetes in April of last year. I believe sometimes our subconsciousness has designed us to be whole and  sometimes it has to shock us into reality by having something happen in our lives that forces us to stay true to that wholeness that we’re seeking.

Prior to being diagnosed with diabetes, for whatever reason, I was going through a series of reading and studying the body’s ability to heal itself. I later went to see my doctor for unrelated pain and then I was told that I was diabetic, and when the doctor said I would have to take medicine for the rest of my life, I came in armed with this understanding that the body could heal itself, and I told him, no I am not. I wanted my body and it’s healing system to heal me, and that is how this journey started on the next lane that I think is going to be the most important lane which is to show people, particularly people of color, wellness…and wellness is something that we need to embrace and veganism is only an aspect of that wellness—it is not the complete picture of wellness.

In order for the vehicle of the human body to function, we have to give it its right fuel so it can carry us where we need to go. My son summed it up better. When I told him I was a diabetic, he said “Dad, I watched you go from service station to service station finding the right gas to put in your car so it would not clog your fuel injector, how did you not put the right food in your body so it didn’t clog your veins or arteries?”

We cannot continue to be academically brilliant, and nutritionally ignorant. All of the things that we have done as people of color to obtain degrees, to build businesses, to have these valuable lifestyles with homes, those are all physical. It is what we do to our bodies now...we have to  go inward and focus on our bodies and the first start of that is to make sure that we are giving our bodies the fuel it needs to carry out this task and this mission.

BVR: I relate to you. My mother has diabetes as well and I’ll ask you a question later about that, however, I really like how you take that angle about people of color gravitating towards this message of health. A lot of research demonstrates that big corporations in the US are trying to form a superficial relationship with black people to ensure that they remain life-long consumers of meat. How do you see yourself and your activism going up against these big corporations?

Eric: My mother is also diabetic and I’ll share with you her journey—my sister and brother are also diabetic—diabetes is in the family. My goal is to completely understand that this journey is not a dash, it’s a marathon. We don’t always live to see the completion of it. I have the baton in my hand and I want to hand it off to the person to cross the finish line. This marathon is weaning our people off of meat products, (I do not consume any meat products at all). If it has a sister, a brother, a mother…I do not eat it.

It’s not merely that I’m just embracing something because it sounds good, I’m a spiritual person as well as a logical person. I spent many years going to school to attain my master’s degree. The data says that animal products are not fit for human consumption. I’m just going based on what the data says. I don’t expect everyone to embrace this right away. For some people, we’re going to have to pry that chicken wing out of their hand, and I understand that, but what I do know is that there are three types of people around health.

There’s that person who, even when they’re told that they have depression, diabetes, they will open the doctor’s door with one hand, and have a coca cola in the other hand…we have to come and get them later. As Harriet Tubman said, for the people who do not want to be free, we’ll come back for you when the war is over. Then you have that number two type person, and this person wants to do better, but they don’t know how. They’re inundated with so much stimuli that pushes them to eat the wrong thing and the information’s not there, they don’t have a true support system in place. They need a built-in system with a nutritionist who can show them how a plant-based diet is good. We need to stop telling people that they shouldn’t eat something, and instead, offer them support to help them stop eating it. The third type of person is like me- they have discipline, we have an assignment and we’re going to carry it out.

Until we stop treating everyone like they’re type one, who just doesn’t care and just wants a pill, we are never going to move people in the right direction. Identify the person, identify what type of treatment they need, and then make a plan to make them move.

BVR: Tracye McQuirter, MPH, has an article titled, Keep Eating for Activism. She writes, “…it’s important to note that just as there were 313 extrajudicial killings of black people in 2012, there were more than 300,000 preventable deaths of black people in 2010 caused by diet-related chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and hypertensive disease.” Do you see an intersection between racism and diet?

Eric: I think it has a lot to do with it. I wrote an article in my newsletter that talked about suicide. The evidence is showing that nutrition is directly related to our mental health: depression, anxiety…all of this is being impacted by the food we eat. When you go to any impoverished community or economically challenged community, you will see facilities surrounding them like a fort, preventing people from getting out—chicken wings, fried rice, fried hamburgers, french fries, fried meat. When they go to the grocery store, there is no fresh fruits or vegetables. Even the vegetable products have been ruined with oil.

There’s an over concentration of these food products in communities of color. If you map all of this out, you will see that not only do they have a high consumption of these animal products, there’s a high number of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, all of the indicators. The 15 top reasons we die in America are in these same communities where the lack of these quality foods, plant-based foods, do not exist, and it’s not taught on the educational level as well, so there’s a direct correlation. This hasn’t been framed as a state of emergency because number one, these issue are predominantly happening in communities of color and number two, these issues are happening in spaces where people are economically challenged.

BVR: What advice do you have for black people in the U.S. who don’t feel like veganism or plant-based eating is for them because of media stereotypes that portray healthy eating as a wealthy white person’s terrain?

Eric:  I cannot expect them to be where I am because I am there, I have to meet people where they are and take them from there with their entry points. So, one entry point is someone in their household, which we all do, is going through some serious illness…show them how you can change that with a plant-based diet. I wouldn’t even put it in a category by calling it vegan or vegetarian, I would just say listen…here’s a way that you can turn around your family member’s illness. I wasn’t just a diabetic, I was a super diabetic.

If you have a family member whose tired of injecting themselves with insulin twice a day in their stomach or their knees, or if you have a family member who is afraid of having their limbs amputated which happens when you have diabetes, or if you have a family member who doesn’t want to lose their sight because the highest rates of blindness comes from diabetes, then you can use my case study to show in 3 months…not 3 years…but in 3 months. When the doctor said the diabetes was no longer present in my body…it was 3 months of not eating meat to a tasty, lovable, plant-based diet. That’s the entry point—you don’t need to give it a name. Here is your prescription: instead of going to a pharmacy, go get some food.

BVR: What advice do you have for some people who might feel like it's too late for them to change their eating habits? For example, my mother is in her 50’s and she is a diabetic. Two of her children are vegan, however, she grew up in the south and is used to her southern food. Several times she has said to me, “I’m too old to change now…I’ve been living my life like this for so long that there’s no point in changing anything.”

Eric: You just spelled out a typical family scenario. We have a role as the children. Our parents took care of us when we were incapable of taking care of ourselves, and now it’s our turn to take care of them. My mom is going to come and stay with me for 2 weeks so that I can show her. She’s also from the south and she eats southern food. She’s going to be visiting and I’m going to show her some videos about what food can do, and I’m also going to show her my nutritional bible How Not To Die by Dr. Greger. I’m going to show her videos to give her some information and I’m not going to focus so much on what she should not do, I’m going to focus on what she should add to her diet.

By adding more to her diet, it’s going to slowly push those bad things off her plate. I’ll show her how you can cook great vegan meals. We have to readjust our palate. Our human palate is a palate that adjusts to taste. We didn’t start out liking chitlins, we didn’t start out liking the unhealthy cow foods. That was something that we had to eat. Those were the scraps that the slave master left over. Just as we evolved to like something that didn’t taste good, we can evolve to enjoy eating something like cauliflower, beans, and avocados. I also like to add in Indian spices that can sometimes have more nutritional value than the foods that we eat.

I want my mother to taste that and realize that veganism doesn’t mean you have to eat a cardboard diet, that you can eat a diet where you have a special connection with your food, as you know that this food is healthy and it’s going into your body, not to feed disease, but to fight it. 

BVR: Will we be seeing more about veganism from Eric Adams?

Eric: I’m excited about using my voice to really show how our healthcare system is not sustainable, to move to start a process of teaching children in school that part of their education should be from soil to plate…how to grow food…how to live a healthy lifestyle, how to rid our kitchen of food that gets in the way of living a healthy lifestyle. I really want to use this moment, my lap, to ensure that I’m running a good race around wellness. I’m extremely excited about it. We can live a healthy lifestyle with minor adjustments to what we eat. When we rid ourselves of animal products, we will rid ourselves of the pain, the injury, and the constant fatigue. We’re dying because our bodies can no longer sustain themselves from what we feed it.

Social Media:

Website: http://www.brooklyn-usa.org/eric-adams-bio/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BPEricAdams/
Twitter: @BPEricAdams

FEATURE: Kawani AJ Brown

Kawani AJ Brown is a vegan mother, author and founder of the Natural and Holistic Baby Expo and Long Beach Vegan Food and Music Festival. She lives in California with her husband (vegan for 5yrs) and two children who have been vegan since birth.

Kawani is committed to raising awareness about natural living and veganism through her writing and holding community events. Her recently published children's book, "Where Does Dinner Come From?" is the first in a series of books that highlight living a plant based lifestyle and encourages vegan and non-vegan families alike. The second title, “My Mama’s Milk”, explores how each mammal makes milk specifically for their babies and will be released in Spring 2016.

The Long Beach Vegan Food and Music Festival debuts June 4th 2016 in Long Beach, Ca. The fest is an all ages, all vegan, outdoor event with live music throughout the day. The intent is to celebrate veganism and bring awareness to those seeking more information. 

"I was vegetarian for 17 years and transitioned to vegan when my daughter was born. When breastfeeding my daughter, I realized consuming dairy was denying another living being’s right to nurse their baby. I looked further into the dairy industry and the affects it has on human health and knew that veganism was the most logical and ethical choice. Being vegan is love. Love for yourself, love for others, love for the Earth and love for life!

Website Links




Book: http://tinyurl.com/j8nrmrn

Social Media

IG: craftyearthmama, lbveganfest, nahbexpo

FB: facebook.com/lbveganfoodandmusicfestivalfacebook.com/naturalandholisticbabyexpo

FEATURE: Deborah Ajulo

Hi my name is Deborah Ajulo, I'm a 19 year old environmental science student. I first realized what a vegan was three years ago when I stumbled across the actress Maggie Q. who is also a vegan. Being the curious person that I was, I went and did some research and came across a lot of articles and documentaries explaining veganism and why you should turn vegan. I soon realized it was not natural for me to be consuming the flesh of other animals and their wastes. My eyes were open to the meat and dairy industry and I was able to see how animals have been mistreated and abused. It was then that I swore to myself I would never consume animal-based products again and it has been the best decision of my life.

I used to suffer from bad acne and my skin has cleared up drastically. I also have a lot of energy and a glow to my skin. I've taken an interest in the environment and protecting souls whose voices aren't heard, which is why I now study environmental science. The transition was relatively easy but I mostly struggled with sweets since all my favorite ones contained gelatin, but not once did I relapse. I have been a vegan for nearly three years now and I am carrying on strong influencing my family and friends as I continue on this vegan journey. 

Social Media:

Blog; https://rawwithnature.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/raw-vegan-brownies.html?m=1

Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/rawwithnature_/

FEATURE: Dr. Clare Anyiam-Osigwe

Dr. Clare Anyiam-Osigwe has been vegan for 8 years and is the founder of Premae Skincare.

I was persistently unwell during my second year at university back in 2004. I was eating a lot of meat and wheat-based products and knew that they were making me bloat and feel tired. The final straw was that my skin looked awful, and I was studying to become an actress and director. I worked as a makeup artist during the weekends and evenings. 

I decided after much reluctance to go vegan. It was the hardest journey back then, as there were no Freefrom or Vegan aisles at my local supermarkets. I made curries, soups from scratch and over 12 months started to feel much better. 

I then saw that my skin improved, but there was still acne scars. I looked at the makeup in my makeup kit and realised that the chemicals and the ingredients such as Wheatgerm, Lanolin (Sheeps wool), Petroleum (derived from Petrol oil) were clogging my pores. I began cooking raw face balms from my kitchen, using raw mango butter, aloe vera, coconut and cocoa butters. These beautiful ingredients are Alkaline, healing and sedatory. My skin blemishes disappeared within six months and I've had beautiful skin ever since. 

To me, being Vegan on the inside and outside means my whole immune system is being nourished. Now, my mission is to share this with the world. 

Follow Premae Skincare on Social Media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Premaeskincare/

Twitter: @premaeskincare

Instagram: premaeskincare

FEATURE: Marya McQuirter, PhD

On 13 March 2002, I was featured in “The World According to Vegetarians,” The Washington Post's first substantive article on veganism. The article appeared on the front page of the Food section with a photo of me below the fold. The writer, Candy Sagon, convened six vegans for a roundtable discussion at The Washington Post building, when it was still on 15th Street.

When this article was written, I had been a vegan for approximately 14 years. I ate only vegan food, I did not wear wool or leather and I was an animal rights activist. I have exhilarating memories of protesting against the circus at the DC Armory and almost getting arrested outside of the National Building Museum.

At the dawn of 2017, I'm still a vegan and still don't wear animal products. While I haven't been to a protest in years, I'm still fervently committed to animal rights. What's new for me is parenting.  

My 11 year old loves to devise improbable scenarios to test my love for her. Her latest scenario: if the only way she could be saved from death is if I ate a non-vegan sandwich, would I eat it? I hesitated. She was not pleased.

It was easy for me, before I was a parent, to be a committed vegan. It's become more complicated now that I have to make decisions for and with another person.

So what do you do when ethics and love collide? This question haunts me.

It haunts me because I know that a range of isms are able to continue, in part, because they are entangled in our intimate relationships and traditions. When I was pregnant in 2005, three years after the article, I didn’t anticipate that being both a committed vegan and a loving parent could be antagonistic positionalities.

Check out Marya's curated project #dc1968. You can also follow Marya on Twitter @maryamcquirter.

FEATURE: Kyobe Ashiraf Kyeyago

Kyobe Ashiraf Kyeyago is the Founder of Vegan Society Uganda. Kyobe Ashiraf Kyeyago works tirelessly to fight animal cruelty. Vegan Society Uganda is recognized as a community-based organization. It is non-profitable, non-political, non-sectarian and non-discriminatory. The secretariat of the organization is located in the republic of Uganda in Iganga Municipality, Iganga district. The goals of the project are to stop animal cruelty, increase animal welfare and open sanctuaries in Uganda and all over Africa, reduce the consumption of animal products in Uganda and all over Africa, improve the availability of vegan products, restaurants, catered events and markets in Uganda and all over Africa, and raise awareness about climate change, environmental issues and the importance of veganism.

He is trying to promote veganism in Uganda and he has a very detailed proposal requesting your financial support. If you are interested in looking at Kyobe Ashiraf Kyeyago's financial proposal, please email him at: vegansocietyuganda@gmail.com.