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.