This month's Afro Feminista feature is Janeé from Denver, CO. Read our interview on how she became plant-based, justice for agriculture workers, growing her own food and the Australian fires in relation to veganism.
Topaz: Janeé, where are you from?
Janeé: I was born in Aurora, Colorado. I left when I was 8 years old. I spent 20 years in
Houston, Texas. I moved back to Colorado and now live in Denver.
Topaz: How long have you been plant-based?
Janeé: I have been plant-based for 11 years. In 2009, when I left Houston, I went plant-based with my then vegetarian boyfriend.
Topaz: When did you decide that you wanted to move away from a heavy meat-based lifestyle and towards a plant-based one?
Janeé: I was working in San Antonio at a terrible desk job. I felt like I was losing my mind. So I started to listen to podcasts to teach myself new things and enrich my life. There was a Brooklyn Vegan podcast that I really took a liking to. Then I found a world vegan show on the public radio that I really liked. I got some book recommendations from those podcasts that solidified my desire to cut out meat. I’ve always loved animals so I decided to read many of the books and articles that the Brooklyn Vegan podcast recommended. The articles discussed the ethics of how animals were raised for our consumption and people’s disconnect from house pets and agricultural animals. That disconnect never made sense to me. It is the ethical love for animals that is my main driver.
Topaz: Can we talk about the Australia fires in regards to veganism and animal rights?
Janeé: The hypocrisy in our society is infuriating. There are movements for knitting sweaters and pouches for the rescued animals in Australia to be comfortable in, while people are still eating animals. And what about the aboriginal people? I understand that Australia has more animals than people but why go through all of the work to help the animals when people don’t care about the animals they're eating or the humans that experience injustices every day? I don’t understand the hypocrisy.
Topaz: Are your friends and family going vegan?
Janeé: My family still eats animal products. I don’t talk about veganism with my family. Whenever I do, it's always an issue. My family claims they love chicken and other forms of meat, but they’ve gone through a medley of health issues because, in my opinion, of their meat consumption, salt and grilling. As soon as they recover from their health issues, they go back to grilling and the same practices that caused their health issues in the first place. I don't think they see the value of veganism. I try to encourage them to try it but they act like the lifestyle is so foreign. There are a lot of veils to remove in order for my family to see the value of veganism. There are always walls up, resistance and a backlash.
Topaz: It seems like animals are a part of your plant-based journey but also the justice aspect of veganism like the agricultural labor needed to grow and harvest plant foods. How do you feel about farmers that strike for fair wages?
Janeé: I’m totally for it. I advocated with my housemates to stop buying avocados and bananas. Food comes from all over the world and shipping food isn't sustainable. Thousands of acres of the rainforest are being destroyed to make space for avocado plantation productions. I don’t buy tropical fruit because I like to buy local. It’s always made sense to me to buy local produce and to pay attention to where my food comes from.
Topaz: What’s your stance on growing your own food? Have you grown food before? What do you like to grow?
Janeé: I have lived in places that grow food but I didn’t have the knowledge on how to grow food myself. But, I would love to live somewhere in a mountain with a greenhouse where I could grow all of my own food and sustain myself. I love having greens in the garden. I would also participate in a CSA if I were living in a city.
Topaz: How would you describe your access to food? Where do you get most of your food from?
Janeé: I'll eat whatever my roommates bring home but I’m not at the grocery store very often. I like going to the bulk section at grocery stores and buying organic produce when I can. I prefer to get my food from a CSA or my own garden.
Topaz: What transformations have you experienced in your body and mind since going plant-based?
Janeé: My mental health has improved a lot. I worked briefly in Alaska and had to eat what they provided to workers. It was often meat-based with a small salad bar section. I remember having the worst mood swings when I worked there. I was in a constant state of distress because I wasn’t getting a good variety of nutrients. I could eat a whole box of vegan macaroni and cheese but I would be lethargic and in bed all day. I was struggling with my digestion when I was eating dairy. I had a lot of phlegm production. Dairy gave me a discomfort in my stomach that lingered for days. If I ate a lot of dairy, my nose would become congested and runny. I don’t function well on foods that don’t include greens, root vegetables, and fruits. Now, I am much happier when I cook for myself. I feel full from the plant foods I cook.
Topaz: When you think of a vegan, what is the image that comes to your mind?
Janeé: I see us, black women. That’s what comes to mind. That’s why I support everything Afro Feminista Vegan does, because you are bringing that representation. I follow a lot of black vegan women on Youtube because their channels give me so many recipes.
Topaz: If you could speak to another young woman who is interested in becoming vegan, what advice would you give her for transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle?
Janeé: I would advise her as if she were my sister with her infant child, and I would want her to eat more vegetables and not instant ramen noodles and candy. I would encourage people to go vegan by cooking for them and showing them different ways to use vegetables that they aren’t familiar with. People should know where their food comes from. I would advise her to work with natural plant foods and to learn how to cook for herself. Add seasonings, they really help with the flavor. When vegetables are spiced well, it’s so easy to eat them.
Topaz: Where do you see your plant-based journey in the near future?
Janeé: I would like to stop sneaking dairy into my diet by taking lactose enzymes pills; they really help with my lactose intolerance. I want to take more ownership over my food consumption by cooking for myself. I want to eat more greens.
Topaz: Where can people find you on the internet?
Janeé: My instagram is @kaleyeahjah.
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