Jabari Brisport is a Green Party candidate for New York’s 35th City Council District.
BVR: First of all, can you tell our audience who you are and how you got interested in politics?
JB: I'm a 30 year old resident of Brooklyn, who grew up in the district I'm running to represent. In fact, my family's lived here for three generations. I come from a theatrical background, but politics and activism have always worked their way into my life. For example, while at NYU, I created an anti-gentrification theater group. We performed in the park near campus and used the show as a way to collect signatures from residents to fight a rezoning. I fell in love with electoral politics while working on the Bernie Sanders campaign. Now I'm running my own campaign.
BVR: I read on the internet that you're a Democratic Socialist. Could you explain what that is? I also read that you are a member of the Green party. Could you let our audience know how that differs from being a Democrat or Republican?
JB: I believe in a world that's centered around people's needs, as opposed to profits. I also believe in democratic control and management: think worker coops or credit unions. Imagine a world where we, the people, controlled the pipeline companies. We wouldn't be using those tools to build a pipeline through the burial grounds at Standing Rock. We'd be using those tools to build new pipes for Flint, Michigan. In regards to the Green Party, here are the biggest things that set us apart: we don't take corporate donations, we want to cut the military budget in half, we advocate for reparations for black Americans, and we're fighting for 100% clean energy by 2030. We're awesome.
BVR: How did you first learn about veganism and how did you decide that it was something you wanted to adopt for your own life? How did your friends and family react?
JB: I learned about veganism in high school. I actually went vegetarian first, while in college and taking a class on animals in theater. I went vegan 5 years later because the dairy and egg industries are terrible, and I knew they were terrible. My family and friends are a mixture of responses. Some are supportive. Some are dismissive/mocking, but then end up supportive.
BVR: How do you see racial politics intersecting with food politics?
JB: It can get problematic when people compare the animal liberation movement to the abolitionist movement. Animals should be free, and some can be considered persons. But they are not people. And I'm not vegan because I consider animals my equals. I'm vegan because causing suffering is wrong.
BVR: What advice do you have for black people who might feel like veganism isn't for them. There are a lot of media stereotypes that depict veganism as a 'white person's thing.' What are you thoughts?
JB: Yeah, veganism is often conflated with white people and affluence. People need to be educated that it's not just expensive processed meats and fruit smoothies. They also need to be educated that there are plenty of black vegans, and it's a healthier and more ethical alternative to eating meat. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with avoiding senseless suffering.
BVR: How do you see veganism impacting your politics AS a politician? For example, we know that Senator Cory Booker is a politician who is pretty vocal about animal oppression and has made attempts to bring veganism into the public and political sphere.
JB: I'd like to ban the sale of fur. I know it's been done on the West Coast twice, and I'd like to maintain the momentum.
BVR: Fun question: what is your favorite vegan dish?
JB: I can eat "chickpea tuna" (chickpeas, vegan mayo, spices) anytime, anywhere.