Do Not Gentrify Health

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Vegan food sold by black vendors at the International African Arts Festival

Write. Write. Write. What is it for? To cure my inner demons? Turmoils? Traumas of the world? Is it the source of peace? A random combination of words that crazy people like to put together? Or is it just my soul speaking? Well folks, she’s speaking.

This is something that I just feel like getting off my chest. Recently, I saw someone post something on Facebook that supporting Veganism or indulging in it was supporting slavery. It may have not been those words verbatim, but it was pretty similar. I gaped at the post, rolled my eyes and kept scrolling. However, I have been seeing posts from people dismissing certain foods and seemingly applying it to gentrification. In an article, someone mentioned getting the side eye if you order avocado toast and another hated on sriracha. There is probably another example, but I cannot remember at the moment.

One thing I do not understand is why are some people equating veganism to gentrification. It makes no sense. I understand that the people moving into our neighborhoods are carrying with them their gluten free foods and non-dairy products as well as their lack of culture of the very place their taking over. The overpriced juice bars and dumpling shops come to New York like a green shadow pushing out the small businesses and homes which belong here. I hate what’s happening to New York. Gentrification is making Brooklyn residents strangers to their own home. It’s pissing me and many people who live here off.

However, the healthy choices that comes with it is not the problem. Sure, it definitely is a selling point to those moving in. The foreigners that are invading our neighborhoods can afford to eat healthy so of course the marketing ploy is to get them comfortable and turn a place like Bushwick into something it never was. But the foods in our neighborhoods is the true killer of our people. Seriously, look at what is sold in your corner store. Can you truly say with an honest heart, fingers crossed, and all that good stuff that any of the cuisine in our stores has any nutritional value? What about the chicken spot on the corner or the Chinese food store? It’s easy to eat when you don’t want to cook, but is it something we should be eating all the time?

I work with kids and I see them eat the unhealthiest things. What evil person invented Takis? All the kids rave about them, but many know nothing about how bad it is for them. Do you see this product selling in the Upper West Side? What about Tropical Fantasy?

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French toast the kids at WIN made as a part of the Food In the Big Apple program.

One thing that I have started to become more passionate about is for children to understand more about what they are eating; for them to know how tasty food from the land can be and the joys of cooking food themselves. I work for a program called Food In the Big Apple through my company City Science. We teach kids the science behind food while teaching them different, tasty recipes every week. They learn about the five senses through food, the differences between chemical and physical reactions, the essential food groups, parts of the plant and the importance of local farming. It’s an incredible program that I have great joy in being a part of.

With this program in place, I wish there were more opportunities for nutritional health to be introduced to my people. There is so much people that do not know their health. Here are some facts you may or may not know when it comes to nutrition:

  • Some of the culturally accepted meat dishes in the black community were undesirable leftovers from the slave master. (Chitterlings and pigs feet for example) Our ancestors did this to survive, not because they chose to. (Dude, it’s even mentioned in this Boondocks episode.)
  • Processed foods (the foods in our stores) are a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Sugar is also a leading cause to heart disease and cancer.
  • Consuming too much gluten products can increase your risk of getting Celiac disease.

I am not here to try to convince people to change how they eat. Please eat how you like. You like red meat, feel free to eat it. If you like to only eat vegetables and fruits, please feel free to eat that too. We all have minds of our own and can make choices with them. What I learned through research and by watching all these documentaries is what I believe to be true. However, it is not the same truth for another person. It is important to read on your own, accept your own truth in your own time and make your own decisions.

My point is to highlight that eating healthy is not the enemy. Since my approach to a more vegan diet, I feel more energized when ever I drink a juice blend. I lost a lot of weight. I learned about the diversity of our natural buffet of herbs, vegetables and grains. I learned different ways in how we can fulfill our daily intake of vitamins. I feel healthier in general. Eating this way is what works for me. Eat the way that works for you. I listened to my body. It said “Tiffy, you know this is good for you. Yes! Chicken is amazing, but you don’t need to eat it.”

Why does bringing in a gluten free, dairy free diet have to be a way that’s destroying our culture? In fact, a lot of the culture we have become so accustomed to is part of our painful past. Do we need to continue this tradition especially with what we know now?

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Vegan chicken wrap with the Sutter Solution juice blend from Blendzville.

Why can’t our neighborhoods own healthy eating? There is this up and coming spot in Brownsville called Blendzville. They make the best juices all while appetizing your palette with dishes like the vegan chicken wrap, salmon burger, a quinoa salad and more. And by the way, it’s black owned. I am seeing more juice spots and vegan choices from black owned businesses. It is a beautiful sight to see my people owning their health and making it available to their brothers and sisters.

Going vegan, vegetarian or just making better choices in terms of your health (less meat, more veggies, no sugar, etc) does not have to be part of the “white people taking our homes” thing. Let’s face it, kale salads and green juices are marketed to the rich, heart disease and death is marketed to the poor in the form of chicken wings and beef burgers. We just refuse to see it because of the tempting nature of the very food that is killing us. Get out of the smoky sweet haze of sugary treats and wake up. We can take back our neighborhoods as well as our health.

 

 

 

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An Unsaid Lesson in Healthy Eating

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Cucumber salad with some tomatoes.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would make these amazing snacks. She would whip it up for both my cousin Chris and I in what felt like no time. Instead of opting for the Vienna Finger cookies my mom used to buy, we would get excited about the cucumber delights grandma would make. All she did was peel the cucumber, slice it up and sprinkle some lime and salt over it. Viola – edible goodies for us to munch on. My grandma used to garden and would sometimes get the cucumbers right from our backyard. At first, I would just wait for her to make it. Over time, I started making them myself. Of course it didn’t have her touch, but it was still good.

At the time, I did not realize that my grandmother was teaching us how to eat healthy. She was my chef, teacher, nurturer, protector, guide – everything packed into a perfect ball of energy that spread to everyone including my mom, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. Her knowledge and her presence stays with me even today. Now I find myself making the same recipe again, but with a heavy appetite for knowledge about what I am eating.

In the past few months, I have been transitioning to becoming a vegan. It all started with one of those documentaries on Netflix (Sustainability I think it was). Honestly, my whole life, I cared for the welfare of animals. As a child, I refused to wear fur. However, I was backwards, wrong or not fully into the plight as I still had products with leather in it and ate meat. I agreed with the notion that meat was a necessary component for our diets.

It bothered me though that we ate meat. My cousin Chris and I stopped eating chicken for a week after we watched Chicken Run. We were traumatized by the fact that the chicken lived in a place their whole lives to be fattened up just to end up on our dinner plates. We were triumphant in our quest to protect the poultry from our stomachs for that week. But the smell of fried chicken tempted our vulnerable noses during that time. The waft scents of chicken wings in the air filled our nostrils guiding us to the plate like the house in Hansel and Gretel – tempting but dangerous. Eventually, we went back to eating chicken again.

Do not get me wrong, the wafts of chicken still tempt me. Everywhere I go, especially in busy areas, that smell is back to tempt me. It calls to me “Remember me Tiffany? You know you want me. We had such great memories together.” However, now my mind is much more resilient than it once was. For months after making this transition, I would still occasionally eat chicken, beef or fish as well as dairy products. Although when I randomly decided to watch What the Health last week because I was bored and needed something to watch, my night time entertainment turned into a final stamp on my stance of my eating choices. Now every time any meat or dairy is offered to me I think of animal pus, overcrowded farming habitats, or the unfortunate souls in Duplin, North Carolina. (If you think oppression does not exist, look up Duplin, North Carolina hog farms. Or just click this.)

I am not sure how long I can resist the enticing nature of meat and dairy when it surrounds me everywhere, but I will be sure to. Knowing about how the agriculture poisons the environment and our bodies is enough to keep me away. Through these documentaries, I learned that meat and dairy can cause a whole list of problems in the long run including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I learned that the companies that we generally buy our products from lie about the ingredients and how they were manufactured. I learned that protein, which many think is necessary to get from meat and eggs, actually comes straight from plants. We do not need to eat meat or dairy (We also do not need wheat, but that is another tale).

So I am going to continue following the lesson my grandmother taught me in which she did not even say a word. The best food we can get is right from our garden. There is so much more I could write about this, but bottom line, the best way you can trust your food is from what you see right in front of you. From the beginning, you learn to eat your fruits and veggies. After trying out different recipes on the web, drinking fresh natural juices and of course the cucumber salad that started this all, I discovered and am still learning so many nutritious ways to eat healthy that taste amazing. So why do we eat to die instead of eating to live? Let’s go back to our roots and discover the possibilities of eating healthy and happy.

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Healthy, happy Tiffy! =)