Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Lactose Intolerance Is Not A Disease January 11, 2009

Filed under: vegan — Alicia @ 11:20 pm

Typically when someone tells you they are lactose intolerant they do it with a mournful look on their face. The face of someone who is missing out on some of the best parts of life because something is terribly wrong with their bodies. Usually the mournful look is met with sympathy from the person they are talking to. What a poor poor soul, not able to digest lactose. Even now as a vegan I have fallen into this all too typical scenario of feeling sorry for the lactose intolerant. Of course I use it as an opportunity to talk about veganism but I unconsciously give them that “sympathy look” nonetheless. The problem is that we have been conditioned to think of lactose intolerance as if it were a disease when in fact it is a normal process of life.


Mammals only need to produce the enzyme lactase (the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose) until they are weaned. For humans this is somewhere between 2-4 years old. After that we are officially weaned from our mother’s milk and ready to get our complete nutrients from solid foods. According to Drs. Marie Boyle and Sara Long in their book Personal Nutrition 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. With a greater incidence among people of African descent, Mediterranean decent, Native Americans and Asians. Here’s a quick breakdown of the incidence of lactose intolerance amongst people of color:

·         Blacks/African Americans – 80%

·         Native Americans – 80-100%

·         Asians – 90-100%


It is clear that the “lactose intolerant” are not so much the odd man out, who is afflicted with a horrible disease, but instead someone with a normally functioning digestive system. I believe it’s time to turn the tide and change the way we think and talk about lactose intolerance. When someone mentions the fact they or someone they know is lactose intolerant our response should be “Great! So is over 70% of the world’s population” and then explain why. For me, after all the extremely compelling reasons to go vegan were presented to me the one thing that stood out to me the most (and what is ultimately the reason I went vegan) was what an unnatural process it is for an adult mammal to drink the milk of another species. What makes it even more appalling is the cruelty associated with the production of cow’s milk to feed a population that is literally being made sick by it. Changing the perception of lactose intolerance is just one small way to change the way that people think of the milk and milk products that they hold so dear. And you never know, someone like me might hear this information and not only go vegan but stay vegan.



National Institute of Health (National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse)


Boyle, M. A., & Long, S. (2007). Personal Nutrition(6th Edition ed.). Belmont, CA, USA: Thomson Wadsworth.


Vegan Soul Kitchen Cookbook Out in March January 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:53 pm

Somehow I failed to hear about this cookbook until fairly recently: Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen is due out in March. Chef and food justice activist Terry, who also co-authored Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen with Anna Lappé , will be offering up a bonanza of deliciousness — check out this sample list of recipes:

Double Mustard Greens & Roasted Yam Soup; Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits; Citrus and Spice Pickled Watermelon Rind; Caramelized Grapefruit, Avocado, and Watercress Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette; Sweet Cornmeal-Coconut Butter Drop Biscuits; and Molasses-Vanilla Ice Cream with Candied Walnuts

HELLO. The book is due out March 2… as it turns out, in time for a birthday present for me! Can’t wait.

VOC blogger Breeze Harper recently attended a brunch & brainstorming session around the book & how to get it into the hands of people other than the usual (white, middle class) suspects.

Also, check out what Terry would serve if he were White House chef. Items on the menu include Universal Health Care Collards and Gay and Trans Rights-Roasted Grapes with Red Wine, yeah! (Though there’s also a salmon dish… yuck. I’m going to read that as fake vegan salmon in my head.)


Exoticism & Chinese American Food January 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 5:03 pm
Tags: ,

Not specifically vegan, but check out this great Racialicious post debunking myths many people in the US have about Chinese food (& thus, about Chinese people).

I thought it made a good counterpart to the continuing discussion on VoC about the word “exotic” & why it is offensive.


Japanese Environmentalism; Good News about Coconut Oil

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:33 pm

Elaine Vigneault recently commented giving a link to this Galllup poll showing that the Japanese attempt to live a green lifestyle about as much as those in the US. As Elaine points out, sometimes anti-Japan commentary is a feature of AR/environmental activism, but the poll indicates that views on the environment are not, perhaps, that much different than in the States (so it’s not that the Japanese are evildoers who don’t care about the earth).

In other good news, vegan truffleteer (Is that a word? It is now… anyway she’s a chef! And makes truffles!) Lagusta Yearwood, who suggested coconut oil as a substitute for troubling palm oil products like Earth Balance has some good news:

So I contacted my source at Omega Nutrition, and to their credit it took them only six months and two emails to respond. As their response was the president and co-founder of the company, Robert Gaffney, calling me up and us having a great chat, I can’t complain.

As I suspected, coconut oil is a vastly more sustainable product than icky old palm oil, primarily because palm oil production entails razing entire fields and forests of trees—sadly, it is akin to slash-and-burn deforesting tactics used to clear-cut land to graze animals, which is one reason many of us became vegetarian in the first place. This process obviously destroys entire ecosystems, but it seems to have a particularly devastating effect on endangered orangutans.

Coconut oil production, on the other hand, entails harvesting the fruits of the tree and letting the tree live so it can continue to produce more coconuts.

Robert told me that he gets his coconuts from the Philippines, where he works with a guy who employs about 2,000 employees who sustainably harvest his organic coconuts. Apparently the coconut palms are wild and the guy who runs the business in the Philippines started it in order to fund an organic banana chip business on the same land, so I believe there is some sort of symbiotic ecosystem thing going on there.

Lagusta says she forgot to ask him specifically about labor conditions — my perhaps naive view would lead me to believe that any organic business is likely to treat its workers fairly decently, but I don’t know (now you all are going to leave me links with horror stories about organic sweatshops, eek!).


“Special” dairy education kit targeting African Americans January 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Amie "Breeze" Harper @ 8:22 pm

Wow, this is quite upsetting to me. Vegan or not, if my body were to constantly become “sick” because I’m eating cow dairy products, this is an indication that it should NOT be in my body, period. However, look at this wording in this “special” campaign targeted towards African Americans:

Minorities who have experienced gastrointestinal problems consuming milk are learning new strategies to enjoy milk and other dairy foods. This means that minorities (and non-minorities) with lactose intolerance may no longer need to miss out on essential nutrients provided by dairy foods. The health consequences of avoiding dairy foods, the major source of dietary calcium, potassium, and vitamin D as well as providing other essential nutrients, may be especially serious for African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native American Indians. Many minorities are at high risk of hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, and colon cancer – diseases in which a low intake of dairy and dairy nutrients (e.g., calcium, vitamin D, potassium) can be a contributing factor.

I am severely lactose intolerance. Ever sense I removed cow dairy from my body, 4.5 years ago, my intestinal health, skin health, sinus allergies, eczema, fibroid tumors, etc have virtually disappeared. This is my own personal experience with abandoning cow dairy products as an African American female who is severely lactose intolerant. I find this new ad very dangerous and irresponsible, as I can’t imagine how my health would have progressed (or not progressed), had I attempted to keep these products in my system and listened to the National Dairy Council. But to suggest that a severely lactose intolerant person will be at risk for hypertension, colon cancer, etc for not having these products in their system is very misleading and creates unnecessary fear.

Just imagine if those who are gluten-sensitive were told to be “scared” of getting certain diseases from not eating wheat. Instead, it’s accepted and they are given alternatives, like rice flour, buckwheat, lentil flour, teff flour, etc., and eating multiple grains like these are “just as healthy” as gluten products.
The complete information can be found at:
and the quote I cited is from:



Gay Animal Rights Activist Attacked in Ohio

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:25 am
Tags: ,

Nathan Runkle, founder & executive director of Mercy for Animals, was brutally attacked recently at a gay nightclub in Dayton.

The press release states Nathan’s wish that sexual orientation be included in Ohio’s hate crimes legislation.

pattrice jones offers two posts about what people can do to help & how we — queer people, vegans, & allies (I note of course that these categories are not mutually exclusive) — can move forward from here:

So, if you’re somebody who cares about or works on LGBTQ issues but has not (yet) integrated the animals into your analysis of oppression, let this attack on a gay man who has dedicated himself to animal rights motivate you to educate yourself about the connections. And, if you’re a straight animal liberationist or veg*n advocate who hasn’t thought deeply about your heterosexual privilege and what obligations you might have to divest yourself of that, let this near-deadly attack on a gay animal advocate remind you (if Proposition 8 and Obama’s selection of a homophobic preacher to speak at his inauguration did not) that homophobia is still alive and dangerous.

In both instances: Educate yourself about the intersections and then figure out how you might integrate what you learn into your activism and your daily life. Those of us who are already hip to that particular intersection ought to realize that there’s always more for us to learn too. Finally, all of us can be inspired by Nathan’s relentless activism and take up the charge to do just a little bit more while he’s recovering from this terrible trauma.

As the press release notes, Mercy for Animals brings an intersectional analysis to its work:

MFA has long worked to bridge the gap between the common prejudices which lead to oppression and abuses faced by both animals and minorities. In recent years MFA has joined gay advocates in gay pride marches by forming human rainbows preceded by banners declaring, “No one is free when others are oppressed.” The organization has also been a lead opponent of gay rodeo events, citing the community’s obligation to protect animals from needless violence.

I’m sure I speak for all the VoC bloggers in expressing sorrow & outrage at this attack, & in wishing Nathan the best.


Vegans of Color on Animal Voices January 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:32 am

Joselle & I were interviewed recently for the excellent Animal Voices podcast. I know both of us had a lot of fun doing the interview & were really honored to be asked to be part of such a great show. You can listen to the interview here. Big thanks to Lauren & Karol for having us!