When I was a kid, I loved pork chops and ribs with mac n’ cheese on the side. Oh, lord. I loved wings with hot sauce and collard greens with pork in them. On busy school days as a teenager, I would come home to the aroma of my mother’s soulful hands curating a dish that made my nostrils sing with curiosity and hunger. My mother never fails to remind me how much I loved McDonald’s. I would sing and dance when I heard we were going to get one of those delicious burgers. When I turned down my mother’s meatloaf for the first time, she felt like I had lost our roots, my mind, and her love. Of course, this wasn’t the case. I loved my mother but I didn’t love the way meat made my body feel like I was rotting from the inside out.
When I went to college, I created a new me in a progressive public university in Colorado. This was the first time I would have to cook for myself and learn to survive as a newly emancipated human being. My mother’s soulful hand couldn’t save me. I fell into crowds of hippies, foodies, and bougiouris elitist college students who turned their nose up at milk shakes that weren’t made with organic almond milk. I mostly ignored those cultural standards of eating “right” and mostly listened to my body.
In 2012, I had visited home for a weekend to do laundry and take advantage of my family’s free amenities that are not always afforded in college spaces. My mother decided steak, mac n’ cheese and potatoes were for dinner. I was excited to take the first bite of that juicy, bloody steak. As I took the first bite, I just kept chewing and chewing and chewing until I woke up with half digested steak in my mouth the following morning. I was surprised I hadn’t choked. What I realized that night was that I had spent so much time chewing this hunk of animal flesh that I never even got to my sides, my favorite part of the meal. Two months later, I decided to start the “give my sides a chance” movement where I opted out of the hunk of meat on my plate and ate primarily sides. I didn’t notice much change at first but as the months progressed, I noticed a few things.
My body had become easier to move. My heart wasn’t pumping like it was about to run out of my chest. My skin wasn’t drenched with a dying carcass stench. My muscle was more lean and didn’t take such a toll on my knees. I was moving faster and easier every day. I continued this movement until I completely omitted all meat products whatsoever. My vegetarian lifestyle continued on until 2015.
After graduating from college, I decided as much as Colorado offered me the love, home, environment and adventure I craved, I need something more. I decided to move to Florida for an internship at a non-profit. This internship was part time and gave me a lot of opportunities to explore and get to know the city. One fall saturday afternoon, I stumbled into the regional VegFest. There was no way I would have know this event would have changed my life forever.
Like most vegans, it was that one scary animal cruelty documentary that took us over the edge. My story is a lot like that. I walk into a screening of none other than Earthlings and cling to my seat like cat stuck in a tree looking down at a barking, growling dog. When you watch vegan documentaries, you can’t unsee some things. Like chickens being separated by gender, one gender going to be egg laying hens for the rest of their lives and one gender going to be made into chicken nuggets for a McDonalds Happy Meal. You cannot unsee a forced impregnation of a cow and wonder how that’s any different than the rape and pillage of black women’s bodies in the Slavery era. You cannot unsee the tearing of the fur off the back of a badger and wonder if that winter muff is even worth the pain and cruelty that came with it. Veganism to me became so much more than just animal cruelty, rather a comparison to my own black cultural experience.
When I became a vegan, I realized there’s so much more to the story than how animals are treated as accessories and food. I came to realize that my black body is seen as animal in our American culture just as much as that cow, pig or sheep is. I realized that black veganism means I see how my black body does not thrive on eating cholesterol-filled heart attack prone foods. My black female body is seen as animal and is therefore treated similarly to that of a cow raped and pillaged for its milk, resources, and love. How my black body has never been more emancipated than when I omitted animal products from my life. Decolonization begins with removing all things that colonize my spirit. All things that colonize my body. All things that colonize my mind. It’s about omitting foods, things, philosophies and resources that do not serve the health and wealth of my black body. It’s about being free, from the inside out.