Vegans of Color

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

The Face(s) of Veganism in Bristol November 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:14 pm
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I’ve been absent from the blog for a few weeks due to relocating from New York City to Bristol, England (sorry to have missed out on some good discussion from folks!). There seem to be a lot of vegans here — or at least in my neighborhood — but I haven’t yet met any vegans of color.

I did spot one veg*n of color, or at least someone pretending to be one: Animal welfare group Viva is holding a Christmas Veggie Roadshow in Bristol soon, & I noticed immediately on picking up one of their flyers that the person shown was a woman of color (scroll down on their banner page to see the image). I thought that was kind of neat — though what’s with the Carmen Miranda thing?

My new neighborhood, Easton, sports a radical community center that does a weekly vegan brunch. I’ve only gone once so far, but hope to go more regularly, because I think it’s an awesome thing. But (you knew there was a but, right?) I couldn’t help but notice that everyone I saw at the brunch seemed to be white. In a neighborhood that, to my eye at least, seems to be predominantly of color.

Also nearby is Cafe Maitreya, an award-winning veg*n restaurant. It is indeed very tasty — my partner and I went last year when we were visiting — but rather expensive. I could be wrong, but given the economic statistics I’ve seen for our neighborhood, I am assuming that it’s mostly not locals keeping the restaurant afloat.

There’s obviously a lot of context I don’t have, given how new I am to the area, but I was struck by how in these two instances veg*nism seemed to be a marker, in some ways, of outsider status. This all connects to more thinking I need to do about my own place in the neighborhood, with regards to gentrification & other similar issues. And again, these are all just quick impressions that I’ve gotten over the few weeks that I’ve been here. I look forward to learning more… and also hopefully meeting other vegans of color, of course!

 

Fair Trade & Eastern Allure in England November 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:40 am
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Last week I spent in England — my partner is contemplating grad school there, so we went to visit some campuses. I myself spent some time at university in York, & it was wonderful to be back there after 10 (!) years.

In Sheffield, we ate at the Blue Moon Cafe, where I was delighted to find vegan pasties. I used to grab pasties on the run all the time when I lived in York, & one of the things that made me sad about returning as a vegan was anticipating not being able to indulge. I guess pasties count as English ethnic food, huh? I meant to take a picture of my glorious pasty, but was too busy eating it, alas.

One thing I noticed when we were there was that some veg*n restaurants do the same thing they do over here: pour on the “mystical Eastern” stuff. Like Cafe Maitreya (whose food is amazing, don’t get me wrong; they weren’t twice-named the best veg restaurant in the UK for nothing), whose name is apparently Sanskrit for “universal love” or “loving kindness.” Now, thematically, that makes sense for a veg restaurant (although really, it’s not like vegetarianism is actually cruelty-free either). But what’s w/the fetish for “Eastern”/Asian/”Oriental” naming? Especially when, in many cases, the owners & patrons of veg restaurants are white? But even if they’re not, what does it mean that the mysterious East gets trotted out as something that’s going to pull in the customers (extra-suspicious when the cuisine isn’t even particularly Asian)?

I’ve read a lot of reviews of Hangawi here in New York, for example, that rave about how going there is like being transported into a Korean temple, & it’s all so enticingly exotic. Now Hangawi does serve Korean food, & I’m guessing it’s owned by Koreans (but I don’t know) — & yes, the calm, beautiful atmosphere definitely serves to highlight the wonderful food. It’s still creepy to see folks drooling over how it’s just like taking a trip to Asia, but you’re right in NYC! (subtext: & you can return to your comfortable American lifestyle immediately afterwards, without experiencing any of the hassles of actually traveling to those weirdo countries.)

Returning to a positive note, there was fair trade stuff everywhere in England. Okay, we stayed in two veg B&Bs, & so it’s perhaps not surprising there, although the non-veg B&B also had fair trade coffee & tea in the room. But we kept seeing cafes that had fair trade drinks, saw shops frequently that sold fair trade goods (I was able to get vegan fair trade truffles in a mall in the Bristol city center!), & on the York campus, the student cafeterias appeared to have lots of fair trade stuff as well.

Breeze Harper wrote recently (also here, near the end) about how important fair trade is, & how vegans drooling over vegan chocolate need to step up & demand fair trade goods as well. It is encouraging that this appears to be happening over there. I’ve heard that the UK not only has more vegans per capita than the US, but more vegans, period — which if true, is astounding given the population difference. I’ll have to dig up a cite behind that, but anyway, I’m hoping that this is a sign that perhaps vegans there are starting more broadly to understand multiple -isms. (Not that avowed “anti-racists” can’t be screwed up on race, too, of course…)