the hierarchy of food.

i used to be a vegetarian. or, i should say, a pescetarian. i didn’t eat birds, cows, lambs, sheep, deer, or pigs. i ate lots of vegetables, lots of meat substitutes, etc. i drank lots of water. i thought i was healthier than meat eaters to some extent, but i was largely a veggie because i was disgusted by the idea of consuming flesh. it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. i went back to meat, cuz i love chick-fil-a.
i never really thought much about it, until sometime in 2006 when i became a vegetarian more or less by default. i couldn’t afford meat. and i didn’t like to cook it, then eat it. so, i very rarely prepared meat at home — i’d have pre-cooked, or somewhat processed (lots of stuff from trader joe’s, maybe a cheesesteak from a local spot) meat items. but one day, i started getting really sick. i was diagnosed with IBS and though there’s no real treatment for it, i did what i could to lessen its symptoms and impact. less stress, etc. but it got worse, especially when i finally returned to ‘regular’ food.

about 6 months after my first visits to the GI doctor, it really started to click: i ate a handful of pretzels. i was sick for two days and had hives on my arms. the pretzels contained wheat and soy. i assumed it was wheat, though i’d long ago suspected that soy was giving me lots of womb issues. so, bit by bit i had to eliminate things in my house. no more faux-meats (except for quorn products, which are often gluten free and soy free but not always vegan), no more bread, pasta, etc. i had to stop eating a lot of different prepared foods, as they almost always contained soy. soy lecithin, soybean oil, vegetable oil . . . the list goes on and on. i had to change how i ate. when i was broke, the cheapest things to eat were always pasta and baked tofu & veggies with some discounted tomatoes made into a sauce. i had to change that. i had to eat rice noodles. i had to use mushrooms, squash & zucchini when i prepared my ‘broke bitch’ food. i was cool with that. less food prep was involved, etc.  but the more i thought about it, the more frazzled i became.  why? because the things i could eat were very limited.  if i were hungry and on the go, i had to pray that i’d find something that didn’t involve eggs, soy, wheat, or dairy. because, of course, when you eat one fucked up thing there’s always another two or three or ten lurking behind. i am allergic to fish. i don’t eat eggs, because they make my stomach hurt (but i’ll eat something with egg as an ingredient, i.e. a gluten- and soy-free cake that has egg in it).  and so on.  i had to describe myself at one point as a vegan meat eater — that is, when i felt comfortable with my food restrictions enough to eat what i could, instead of what was available.  sometimes, the foods that i am most allergic to are the least expensive (see: ramen noodles — not that i ever ate them regularly — and lunchmeat & bread), depending on where i am (i live within walking distance of two supermarkets where i’m able to get what i need).  i wondered how this impacts folks who don’t have the same resources i do.  what if i come to a place in life where i no longer have those resources? and what’s caused these reactions? am i “lesser” for not choosing to be a locavore, vegetarian or vegan?

i don’t argue w/ the veggies/ vegans anymore on the animal cruelty tip. my reasoning is very simple. being who you are, in this country, in this place, in those clothes, etc. means you are dominating someone else on this planet. whether it’s a fellow citizen or a sweatshop worker, a child laborer, a kidnapped female sex worker, or war prisoner, you dominate with everything you do. if you desire to advocate for the lives of farm animals instead of human beings, i can’t stop you. but understand that it’s all connected. industrial farms are no different than puppy mills, no different than the factories that employ the people who make the nikes, et cetera. yes. i know this. but if you’ve never been allergic to fish, soy, eggs, milk, and wheat (possibly all gluten, including oatmeal), i don’t think you have room to talk shit about how someone chooses to get their protein. my sister, for instance, is allergic to mushrooms, tomatoes, soy, fish, eggs, dairy and onions, but can eat wheat.  tell her she needs to be a veggie, and she’ll laugh in your face. it’s her choice (as well as it is mine, and my mom’s, and anyone else’s) to get her protein from lean meats from locally raised animals, if from local farms at all. shit.   usually, people take care of themselves, the best way they know how and are able to.  we have to be equipped to do these things, right? 

** sort-of sidebar: animal cruelty is reflective of larger and deeply-rooted societal issues, in my opinion. how many ‘famous’ murderers first practiced on animals? how many people who are ill equipped to adequately deal with their own emotional shit pick on defenseless, smaller, or supposedly subordinate beings?  isn’t destructiveness of what can be broken down usually the result of a feeling of disenfranchisement elsewhere in one’s existence? wouldn’t that help to explain why dog fighting is so popular in working class communites and communities of color? **

so i’m saying, it’s taken me close to 12 hours to write this blog post.  and i don’t feel any closer to a conclusion.  i feel like choosing to be a vegetarian or vegan or locavore as a means of protesting big business farms/ food distro is a great idea. it is impactful when part of a bigger organizing.  i feel that by itself,  it falls short in some ways. no method is perfect. i also feel that it is classist, or at the very least excludes persons whose resources are severely limited. it is no secret that, in this country, the ‘healthier’ food options available to us are often more costly than the ‘regular’ food options. what do you do when you make “too much” for food stamps? what do you do when that $8 worth of antibiotic-free, free range, hormone-free, vegetarian-fed chicken is not enough for you alone to eat for more than two meals? i don’t know. i suppose it’s the same thing as understanding and implementing environmental justice instead of simply ‘going green’ in the hood.  you kinda have to see the bigger picture in order to even come close to knowing what your work is going to do.

and on another note, you can’t tell people how to live the best life for themselves without knowing intimately what their situation is. i’ll never forget the sideways look i got from someone for talking about how good bacon is. at one time, i didn’t eat pork or red meat because i was so thirsty for an identity i thought that super bohemian afro queen of the universe might suit me — and what better place to begin than with my food choices?  it failed. because i wasn’t coming from a place of my own understanding, but instead doing something that i thought would ally me with other folks.  i’m older, wiser, more traveled, and a lot more mellow.  i come back to the same thing i’ve said repeatedly to folks about my life: what’s right for you is not always — and sometimes never — right for another person.  we do not have the space to judge. we have the space to be ourselves, and live our best lives. and if we are truly concerned with that, picking on someone for eating meat (or not eating meat, or being homosexual, or being trans, or being a person with a disability, or WHATEVER) isn’t going to fucking matter.

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be bold, be red: october 30.

mil gracias a nezua for posting this on umx, and reminding me to begin with!

Be Bold Be Red Goes Viral Loco Visual

Beloved Survivors, Warriors, Allies, Activists, Organizers, Artists, Healers, Visionaries, Sisters and Friends,

In October 2007 people all over the United States gathered physically and in spirit to speak out against violence against women of color. Some of us wore red all day and explained that we were reclaiming and reframing our bodies as a challenge to the widespread acceptance of violence against women of color. Some of us wrote powerful essays about why we were wearing red and posted them on the internet. Some of us gathered with bold and like-minded folks and took pictures, shared poetry and expressed solidarity.

This year, on the first anniversary of the Be Bold Be Red Campaign, we invite you to make your bold stance against the violence enacted on women and girls of color in our society visible. In D.C., Chicago, Durham, Atlanta and Detroit women of color will be gathering to renew our commitment to creating a world free from racialized and gendered violence, and this time, we’ll be using a new technology called CyberQuilting to connect all of these gatherings in real time. To learn more about CyberQuilting, which is a women of color led project to stitch movements together using new web technologies and old traditions of love and nurturing, visit www.cyberquilt.wordpress.com.

This letter is an invitation for you and yours to participate in a gathering in your city on Thursday, October 30th that will be webcast to similar gatherings in other cities. We are calling on you because we recognize and appreciate the work that you and the organizations you work with are doing everyday to make this a more loving and less violent world for women and girls in oppressed communities. Please join us on October 30th so that other warriors in this struggle can be strengthened and affirmed by the energy of our collective ferocity!

If you are not located in D.C., Chicago, Durham, Atlanta and Detroit for the webcast, you can still participate by wearing Red on October 30, 2008 and send us your pictures to beboldbered@gmail.com

Also we are asking once again that people wear Red on October 30, 2008 and send us your pictures to beboldbered@gmail.com

As we receive them we will upload your pictures under “Red Pictures Today.”

Also, as well as to share your stories of Red on this website under “Why are you wearing Red on October 30, 2008.”

So, are you ready?!

safety is neither a luxury nor a privilege.

** TRIGGER ALERT * *
if you are sensitive to mentions of rape, molestation, or other violent acts you may not want to read this post.

he was her first boyfriend. she wasn’t really a fan of the boys we’d gone to high school with, so college created a new opportunity: an abundance of black men to admire and possibly date. but she didn’t even take it that far. this one was a neighbor. we grew up jumping rope with his sister. i didn’t like him. thought he was a know-it-all dickhead with poor fashion sense and no knowledge of when to shut the fuck up. but she’s my sister; i’m never gonna like anyone for her.
so they dated. she spent lots of time at his father’s house across the street, walked with him to his mom’s house about a mile away, and i tried to ignore the whole fucking thing. i told our friends “i don’t like him,” but they just assumed that i was being protective as big sister. i wasn’t. i genuinely did not believe that anything good could come from the two of them dating for the year or so that they did.

i was right. i didn’t know how right i was until this past december, when my sister told me that this foolish boy raped her. i stopped dead in my tracks and started crying. it all made sense: her uncharacteristic and constant uneasiness, the brooding, the slight touch of OCD, the near-fundamentalist ways in which she worshipped christ, flying headfirst into work instead of allowing herself to kick back or goof off . . . my loving, bright, kind, just, fair, beautiful sister . . . shattered
by someone who himself was the product of abuse & dysfunction, someone who did not respect the safety of another human being enough to leave well enough alone and believe in no when she said no.

i was livid, hurt, sad, tired, angry, shocked . . . all those things. and i still am. i never felt inadequate as an elder sibling, not through my college dropout situation or my towering financial woes, not through the shacking up w/ an ex-boyfriend to the chagrin of my entire family . . . none of it. but i wished at that exact moment that she had reached out to me 7 years ago. i wished at that exact moment that i had been able to read the terror in her face when she could not speak of it. i wished at that exact moment for the chance to travel back and take her out of that equation — not to share the pain with any other woman, but simply to save my sister. i never had to defend her, she always fought for herself
and here she was telling me that her light was nearly stomped out.
i told her she didn’t ever have to apologize. “i haven’t told anyone except my therapist because . . .”
in my head, i was screaming. no. fuck the therapist. call mommy. call every grimy person you know. let’s do this. his ppl still live across the street, all we need is to catch him coming out of the fucking house . . . . so what he’s got a girl and a baby — they ain’t got shit to do with it! i want to kill him with my bare hands. he doesn’t deserve air in his fucking punk ass lungs! why should this piece of shit have the luxury of going unpunished for raping my sister? who else has he done this to? why is he alive?

i resigned myself to doing and saying nothing. i nodded and told her i loved her. i went to the house that night. she asked me to come over, because of something else that happened to her which was a trigger. i was thankful for and resentful of the situation all at once. i stood beside her as her sister, and played the role she wanted me to. she never made a rumble for fear of upsetting something/ someone. she didn’t want to have to explain that she had already had sex w/ this bastard and that he didn’t understand her desire not to do so; she didn’t want to be blamed; she didn’t want the weight that often comes with speaking the truth. she thought she would have to stand alone. she did not know that she could stand tall and strong. she didn’t know . . . my sister did not know that coercion was the source of my first sexual experience with a man. she didn’t know how many women experience that (as adults, adolescents, as elders and especially as children) and swallow it up . . . and how likely it was that she’d not be shamed for something that was not in any way her fault. that she was not less of a woman or less of a human being because of something she could not stop, that she is not presently less of a woman or human being because of his wish to destroy the part of her that shone brightest.

and it is because of her story, the stories of so many women i do and don’t know that i say safety is neither a luxury nor a privilege. it is a right.