FEATURE: Aaron Luxur

Photo Credit: Brandon Yadagari

Photo Credit: Brandon Yadagari

I am Aaron Luxur; 21-year-old creator, environmentalist, animal liberation advocate, and food justice activist from Compton,CA. I represent one-half of an emerging movement called Vegan Voices of Color (VVoC) that I started with my best friend last year. Taking matters of food justice into my own hands, I also began guerrilla gardening last year. This means that I plant food in public spaces that have been abandoned and turn them into thriving, green spaces with food for the community.

More than providing healthy food to nutrition-deprived, food insecure communities, this has been a great measure for also building community. It gives two neighbors who may have never thought to speak with one another a common space— that symbolically represents growth— to speak and share stories with one another. Witnessing this and being a part of that experience has been my favorite part. I plant collard greens and corn as a symbol of unity amongst the black and brown communities; both plants are respectively significant to each culture and they both grow tall and strong. But before all of this activism and veganism sprouted throughout my teenage years and present adulthood, I made the connection much earlier on. 

My first time making a conscious decision to not eat animals was in 2003 (age eight). My relationship with food changed once I made the connection between the animals I learned about in school and the meat that was on my plate. The ‘C for Cow' and ‘P for pig' my classmates and I repeated in a synchronous cadence each morning sitting on the carpet, learning our alphabets was, in fact, the sausage and bacon I woke up to every morning. Something I hadn't realized until four years into my grade-school education when one day I asked my third grade teacher, Mr. Sullivan, about his colorful lunches (I've always studied everything about my teachers) and he explained to me that he was a vegetarian and didn't eat meat because he didn't want to hurt any animals. And like that, a profound new connection was made: the meat on my plate was a result of hurt, dead animals and I didn't want this.

I went home and bravely confronted my family with the news that I would not be eating meat anymore and that I was a ‘vegetarian'. Despite a few jokes doubting how long I would last, I had their support (like always). Sadly, my compassionate efforts were seized after being beguiled by an uncle to eat chili beans that were tainted with cow flesh (shame!). I continued to eat meat after that, but I ate meat with a new consciousness and a lingering guilt. 6 years later, while reading a riveting memoir titled My Booky Wook, from one of my role models, Russell Brand, I abandoned meat for the second time in 2008. At the annual fourth of July BBQ I ate my final meat product—a greasy hot-link between a bun with mustard— then I decided that the following day would begin my independence from my barbarically selfish habit of enjoying the flesh of the innocent.

Again, my mother backed my decision and was fully on board. In fact, I've eavesdropped on plenty of conversations where I'd hear her randomly exclaim, ‘yeah girl, you know my sons a vegetarian',or an, 'uhn-uhn, my son ain't about to eat no meat'. My mother never verbally admitted to me that she was proud of my decision to not eat animals, but every time she would squeeze my vegetarianism into her conversations when she didn't know I was listening, showed me she was proud. She'd inherited this new bragging right that was repeatedly worthy of conversation. Moreover, It wasn't challenging at all to support me as a vegetarian. I ate pretty much everything there was to be offered with the exclusion of animals: buttered rice, cheese pizzas, garlic breadsticks, microwaved cheddar-broccoli Hot Pockets, even my aunt’s famous Mac N' Cheese. I'd subconsciously found myself doubling, sometimes quadrupling, my portion sizes in substitution for the meat I'd chosen to leave off my plate. I was fettered in my addiction to dairy. I was saving the lives of animals (I'd thought until I learned about the true cruelty of the dairy industry), but my health was on a steady decline. I hated it.

Two years of being a stuffed mucus house on eggs, cheese, butter, and milk, I'd had enough. I knew what I needed to do, but I didn't want to accept it (like any addict). No one had ever taught me about casomorphins or that every mammaI made natural opioids in the content of their milk production to establish a bond with their young. That wisdom was not around me. And here I was addicted to baby calf food. Concentrated and labeled under the name ‘cheese'. I needed to depart with the addictive dairy products in my life; the holy extra parmesan cheese pizza had to go.

Around this same time, I'd discovered the Discovery Network's Planet Green channel. A channel—which sadly no longer exists—dedicated to earth-conscious living. In between shows in their network sponsored commercials, I would learn tips and new words that I would further research to learn more about. Here is when I learned about veganism. Extending my research led me to learn the impact that eating a ‘vegan' diet had in relation to the environment: the land, energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions it saved. I first thought of the ‘diet' itself as being the next ‘level' of vegetarianism. Vegetarian times 1000, which I also presumed would be 1000 times harder. I thought to myself, it would be hard, but not impossible and most excitingly, a challenge; I liked challenges. The date was set: on my 2nd veggieversary I would expel eggs and dairy from my diet and begin my journey into veganism. So I did.

 I've never felt better in my veganism until I adopted a mostly raw, high-carb, fruit-centered vegan lifestyle two years ago. Eating this way has been the healthiest for me as well as the most economical. More paramount than the weight loss this lifestyle afforded was the energy I experienced and the happiness I found through the new mental clarity. Living foods and veganism has invited more happiness, activeness, and health in my life than I could have ever imagined in my asthmatic childhood. My appreciation for life has expanded beyond the parameters of my own life; I now value all life as I value my own. The compassion I’ve gained from veganism fuels my passion for spreading the vegan truth; everyone deserves to know the truth because there is nothing more essential to humanhood than that of happiness and health which this lifestyle manifests.

A life of abundance with nothing to lose—except unnecessary murder, suffering, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, osteoporosis, climate change, air/water poisoning, soil erosion, environmental racism, species extinction, biodiversity loss, and the unraveling of a system functioning under the entanglement of different systems of oppression. These are all the matters we address in the grassroots, as aforementioned, that I co-founded with my best friend, Unique.  

How Unique and I met is pretty unique itself (that pun never gets old). Our friendship blossomed freshman year of high school at a botanical garden. It was on this field trip that for the first time I'd come across anyone, particularly a peer, that had an interest in environmental welfare. So young, so passionate, so determined we both were. This was the genesis of a powerful union. Within the container of conversations we had that day at the garden, we'd realized how important it was for us to take the responsibility of inculcating to our peers the severity of the ecological crisis we were both simultaneously learning about prior to meeting one another. From that day onward, the revolution unfolded.

Photo Credit: Brandon Yadagari

Photo Credit: Brandon Yadagari

We founded an ecological education club on campus that we called the Green Team. We went on to resolve massive water waste issues on campus; we raised hundreds of dollars selling vegan tacos and soul food to our peers; we successfully lobbied to get Global Studies on campus; we even achieved to get an after school composting workshop established. Our passion never stopped when we left school. After 8 hours of academic and extracurricular pursuits, we walked home, then walked some more, door to door petitioning for Prop 37 to label GMOs. We partnered with Heal the Bay and dedicated days to cleaning and restoring the Compton creek. We made weekend plans to go to the beach and relax, when we got there we'd subconsciously turned our relaxing beach day into an hour of beach clean up. We front-lined protests' and shut down the 10 freeway after the unrighteous murder of 17 year old, Trayvon Martin (we were 17). Now we’re 21 and the momentum has yet to cease. We have the back of our community and communities of color worldwide in the name of justice for the animals, the planet, and our people.

BVR