Tag Archives: health

Veganism Is Being Redefined in Black Communities More people are connecting the health implications of a vegan diet with the struggle against race-based oppression.

Food is a key part of any culture. Take the USA: Could there be a more potent symbol of all things Americana than BBQ? For many, to go against this national pastime amounts to a form of treason. Which is why it should cause little surprise to learn that a new culture has begun to take root among African Americans: veganism.

In years past, this dietary decision was largely associated with being, like, super white. In part, this could be due to the fact that avoiding all animal products is seen as a bourgeois indulgence, enjoyed by the sorts of people who like to proclaim that “All Lives Matter.” That perception is starting to shift.

“The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements,” said Aph Ko, founder of the website Black Vegans Rock, in a recent New York Times article. And Ko should know. Back in 2015, she compiled a list of “100 Black Vegans” to highlight the fact that veganism is more than just an animal welfare-based lifestyle choice. Listed among Ko’s cohorts are a diverse group of individuals such as civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, neo-soul superstar Erykah Badu, the Williams sisters, and comedian Dick Gregory.

The Times listed a number of other notable vegans: Kyrie Irving from the Boston Celtics is just one of a number of professional basketball players to stop eating meat, prompting Kip Andersen (director of the documentary “What the Health”) to proclaim in an article for the Bleacher Report that the NBA should be renamed the National Vegan Association.

Animals and race

A number of factors account for this growing trend. The Times’ Kim Severson notes that the Black Lives Matter movement and “What the Health” have helped expand veganism to “connect personal health, animal welfare and social justice with the fight for racial equality.”

“I always assumed ‘Black veganism’ was just white veganism experienced and perpetrated by black people, and not a framework to analyze various oppressions,” writes Sincere Kirabo on BlackYouthProject. But after reading a book Ko published with her sister Syl last year, Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters, Kirabo reconsidered this point of view. “Now I’m rethinking the entire way the defining biases of our society create dehumanizing standards that not only impact me as a Black person,” he writes, “but also extend to animals, inform our food options, and empower the anti-Black food industry.”

What is the “anti-black food industry”? How can a diet be decolonial? Time for a quick history lesson. A core element of both slavery and colonialism was the promotion of an ideology that dehumanized black people. When Aph and Syl Ko describe veganism as a form of liberation, explains Kirabo, they are talking “less about meat consumption and more about the necessity of re-framing racism to include the relationship between anti-Blackness and anti-animal sentiment as codified into the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

This is not a new line of thinking. Anti-colonial writers like Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire first drew the connection between the colonial construct that disadvantaged certain humans and non-human animals alike. By understanding this historical context, the connection between racial oppression and our carnivorous culture begins to make more sense.

This might be a cognitive leap for some, but consider the fact that both racism and meat-eating are motivated by a sense of superiority. As such, Kirabo writes, describing the Ko sisters’ logic, “animality is a Eurocentric concept that has contributed to the oppression of any group that deviates from the white supremacist ideal of being—white Homo sapiens.”

A means to an end

Another way to understand this logic is through the simple facts of health. A 2012 analysis of national meat consumption showed that according to averages delineated by race, African Americans were overall the largest consumers of meat in America. This figure is no coincidence. As Nzinga Young points out in the Huffington Post, due to centuries of entrenched systemic poverty, black Americans have had to adapt to “making do” with what they have. In practice, this has translated, Young continues, into “eating everything from common staples like chicken and fish to chitlins, pigs’ feet, and other discarded animal parts our ancestors ate in desperation.”

In other words, meat-eating became an essential part of survival. Ironically, much of the foods that form part of this culture are centered around unhealthy eating habits. In her article, “How Black Veganism Is Revolutionary and Essential for Our Culture,” Danni Roseman explains how this situation has arisen from the fact “that the unhealthiest of foods were the cheapest and most easily available to low-income, black and brown families.” The existence of food deserts, which are predominant in poorer communities, have also contributed toward these unhealthy eating habits. As a result, a number of diet-related diseases have become endemic to the culture.

“Food is political,” writes Roseman, adding how these unhealthy eating habits have led to a rise in “illnesses that kill black people at astounding rates.” Roseman cites information provided by the CDC, which shows that “over 40% of black men over [the age of] 20 have hypertension and 44% of black women.” That’s not to mention that two of the three leading causes of death in this community are strokes and heart disease.

“It’s not just about, I want to eat well so I can live long and be skinny,” said vegan-friendly chef Jenné Claiborne in an interview with the Times. “For a lot of black people, it’s also the social justice and food access. The food we have been eating for decades and decades has been killing us.”

In order to counter this trend, Claiborne has become a specialist in vegan-friendly soul food. In her new book, Sweet Potato Soul, Claiborne combines the traditions of Southern cooking with recipes from West Africa and the Caribbean. The book is the latest in a series of similar titles joining restaurants around the country that have helped bring about the rise in black vegan culture.

(Other popular books that are part of this endeavor include Amie Breeze Harper’s anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society; Tracye McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat; and the Afro-Vegan cookbook.)

Diet as resistance

As Roseman points out, “if you’re dead, or perpetually functionally ill, you cannot march, you cannot protest, you cannot protect your family or yourself.” Framed in this light, a growing number of people are starting to connect the health implications of a plant-based diet with the ongoing struggle against race-based oppression.

For Kirabo, this goes beyond “people planting gardens and advocating for animal rights.” He argues that veganism is a “sociopolitical movement that renounces white-centered definitions of the world” and through that process “re-examines social norms imposed on us and calls out politics many of us take for granted.”

In other words, choosing not to eat animal products is a way of asserting a form of independence. “[We] take back control of [our] own diet in a system in which [we] are not in control of many of the things that we purchase,” performance artist and activist Jay Brave said in an interview with the BBC.

In the Times article, Zachary Toliver, a PETA columnist who appeared on Ko’s original list of black vegans, said, “I no longer feel like an endangered species out here.” Instead, Toliver and the growing community he represents are redefining what it means to be black and vegan. In the process, this movement is reframing the way society understands our relationships to animals, food and each other.

By Robin Scher/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Poor Diets Are Killing More Americans Than Anything Else Even in young populations across the United States, nutrition-related health conditions are prevalent.

systematic study by a group of 125 leading researchers who call themselves the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators shows that diet is the leading cause of both death and disability in the United States (U.S.). Meanwhile, only 12 percent of visits to doctors’ offices include counseling about diet, according to research by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Even in young populations, nutrition-related health conditions are highly prevalent, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and many cancers are linked to diet and are together called non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are the highest cause of adult mortality in the U.S. and account for 70 percent of premature deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Because NCDs are in large part caused by food or lifestyle choices, the WHO argues that “most premature NCD deaths are preventable.”

While more than 70 percent of both men and women in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. NCHS, a national survey by the University of Chicago reports that 60 percent are trying to lose weight. In total, MarketData Enterprises reports that Americans spend US$ 66 billion annually on diets and diet aids.

Unfortunately, while 94 percent of physicians feel that nutrition is important, only 14 percent feel comfortable talking about it, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Even among high-risk patients with CVD, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia, only 1 in 5 receive nutrition counseling.

The root of the problem lies in the way doctors are educated in American medical schools, according to Dr. David Eisenberg of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. “The fact that less than 20 percent of medical schools have a single required course in nutrition is a scandal,” he says. “It’s outrageous.” According to a study in the Journal of Biomedical Education, less than one-third of medical schools in the U.S. teach the recommended 25 hours of nutrition content over a student’s four years of classroom education.

Dr. Eisenberg’s solution is to train other doctors himself. Through a partnership he founded with the chefs of the Culinary Institute of America called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, he has taught thousands of American doctors in teaching kitchens around the country. This new class of doctors is learning to turn their backs on the reductionist ‘a pill for an ill’ approach and instead live what they preach.

Some medical schools are starting to retool, like the Tulane University School of Medicine, home to the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in partnership with the L.A. Kitchen.

Dr. Erica Frank, the Research Chair of Preventative Medicine and Population Health at the University of British Columbia, has been working to build a body of literature that describes the connection between doctor lifestyle and patient outcomes. A decade ago, Dr. Frank surveyed more than 2000 medical students and found that the best predictor of whether they counseled their patients on healthier practices was whether they themselves incorporated those practices into their lives. She also showed that patients actually had better food habits when their doctors also did.

Increasingly, doctors are turning to culinary training to flesh out their toolkits as healthcare professionals. Food Tank interviewed Dr. Robert Graham of New York City as he was in the process of enrolling in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute. “My decision to become a chef comes after years of watching patients battle ailments that could be remedied with a change of a diet,” he said. I’ve spent the past 15 years of practicing medicine witnessing the impact of poor diets on the health of people I was trying to take care of.

Collectively, efforts to combat obesity in the U.S. seem to be making progress. A report in August 2017 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health suggested that U.S. obesity trends began to level off in 2015 and 2016, after decades of constant increase.

By Michael Peñuelas / Food Tank

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Speaker Ryan dispatched a security team to block delivery of a massive PP petition

In their first week back on the job, House Speaker Paul Ryan and his non-uterus-having Republican congressmen have announced an extremist effort to defund Planned Parenthood, a healthcare provider used by 1 in 5 American women in their lifetime:

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced last week that Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of the process they are using early this year to dismantle Obamacare.
Image: Planned Parenthood via Twitter

Planned Parenthood volunteers lined up  at Speaker Ryan’s office to deliver the signatures of 87,000 men and women who stand with Planned Parenthood. Instead of accepting the petition delivery and moving on with his day, Paul Ryan instead dispatched a team of security. Although he had been greeting other constituents, his office was suddenly closed for business.

More from Daily Kos

Posted by Libergirl

Oklahoma Court Tosses Abortion Law On Hospital Privileges

Image: CBS DallasFW

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a law requiring abortion clinics to have doctors with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, saying efforts to portray the measure as protecting women’s health are a “guise.”

The law would require a doctor with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles be present for any abortion. The court found it violates both the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down a similar provision in Texas.

“Under the guise of the protection of women’s health,” Oklahoma Justice Joseph Watt wrote, “(the law) creates an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion, violating protected rights under our federal Constitution,” referring specifically to the Texas case.

More from CBS DallasFW

Posted by Libergirl

Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Hurt Women’s Health, Study Finds

Abortion restrictions implemented in Ohio in 2011 under the guise of protecting women’s health led to more side-effects and follow-up visits for patients, according to a new study out of the University of California, San Francisco. The 2011 Ohio law makes sense on paper: it requires abortion providers to prescribe the abortion medication mifepristone…

Image: New York Times

via Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Hurt Women’s Health, Study Finds 

Posted by Libergirl

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Weighs In On Flint Water Crisis

Image: Black America Web

The former Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick spoke out from prison on the Flint, Michigan water issue. He made his comments in a letter posted by local news station WKYZ.  The larger question is if there was actual knowledge this water was contaminated before distribution began as his letter seems to insinuate, who will black America demand to be punished?

More from BlackAmerica.com


Posted by The NON-Conformist


End Patent Monopolies on Drugs

The United States stands out among wealthy countries in that we give drug companies patent monopolies on drugs that are essential for people’s health or lives and then allows them to charge whatever they want. Every other wealthy country has some system of price controls or negotiated prices where the government limits the extent to which drug companies can exploit the monopoly it has given them. The result is that we pay roughly twice as much for our drugs as the average for other wealthy countries. This additional cost is not associated with better care; we are just paying more for the same drugs.

More from NY Times Opinion


Posted by the NON-Conformist