By Gen Rollins
Raising one’s voice as a Black individual is a dangerous act. Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a distinct presence in the realm of veganism, creating nuanced dialogue around race and eating. She walks into spaces with no heirs surrounding the emotional trauma of being the only brown one in the room, using her ethos as an academic tool.
With a PhD in Social Sciences, authorship of three books, accreditation in five others, and a consistent influence on social media, Dr. Harper turns every stone in the field. Her focus centralizes on intersectional anti-racism, and mitigating the effects of malpractice in diversity. She specializes in feminist geographies, the objective of her academic undergrad, exploring the pitfalls of toxic masculinity in food production, consumption and ideals of health.
Through a critical lens, Dr. Harper zooms in on the “racial organization of power and resources” in the U.S., reflecting on the testimonial impacts & challenges of facing white suburban society as a young Black lesbian. The ease with which one can approach veganism depends on so many supporting structures. Having a communal ideology surrounding the goodness of an idea gives it power, but communal ideology is formed by a multiplicity of factors.
Harper comments on the abundant access of her personal food history, having grown up with a diversified garden and a local natural food store. This goes against the pervasive dialogue of food deserts and plastic bagged snacks creeping over the bodies of urban Black folks. The two can be simultaneously true. For Dr. Harper, the plight was in the emotionally crushing power of racism, sexism, and classism as she tried to pursue an academic career. The survival method she most gravitated to was wrapped in the sweetness of junk food.
She pursued incredible amounts of “green energy,” being fully immersed in her undergraduate career. However, she never found a culturally appropriate dialogue to consume in her immediate surroundings. To leave the mind thinking it does not exist in a particular space, is a form of starvation, and when one is starving, one will eat anything. Dr. Harper has learned this first hand. It was not until later battles with physical health that she learned to protect her body with knowledge from her own histories.
Now we are left with the questions: How do we treat ourselves as people worth protecting? Once we know our value, what tools do we need to thrive?