Name: Jeanine K. Valrie
Occupation: Activist, Doula, Lactation Education Specialist, Natural Living Advocate
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Website: It’s Better At Home
How long have you been vegan? And what inspired your journey?
I did not begin my road to veganism for any ethical reasons. This journey began in 1998 after a serious bout of food poisoning. After leaving the hospital, I knew my diet had to change. I began doing research on food justice and ethics, gradually cut things out of my diet. I went from pescatarian to vegetarian in 2000 (actually starchitarian), to vegan, back to pescatarian, vegetarian, and then to vegan again. The transition just became a huge part of my lifestyle. I have a healthy, vegan family, which includes my partner and a 10-month-old daughter, named Ahimsa.
Has veganism enhanced your health? Why or why not?
It has! I used to dance in a company, and would struggle with my breathing. I had very bad asthma as a youth, which would get triggered with seasonal changes. Once I cut out the dairy, I no longer was bound to my inhaler. I felt and feel great. I feel stronger and my mind is clearer. My periods are lighter and painless. I also know that my spirit and energy are enhanced when I ingest foods from the earth (i.e. plant-based diet).
In retrospect, how do you feel about meat? Or do you have any thoughts on America’s meat industry?
I could never go back to eating meat. I don’t trust it. As meat production damages our world and environment, I could never go back to contributing to that system. I really try to encourage my friends and loved ones to reduce their consumption, while being conscious of where they are getting their meat, as well as other foods. The entire food production industry is devastating, and I know it’s also about everything I use and consume. I’ve begun to look at how I can become more self-sustaining and reduce my contributions to these industries by growing food and making non-food products. I’m not perfect in my veganism (I still don’t always know the origin of my food) but I try to be conscious of the CSAs, market, and stores that I support.
Was there a community of black women that helped you along your meatless journey? And if not, what are you doing to change this for others?
In 2000, when I became a vegetarian, I was working in South Africa. I was (and still am) very good friends with some like-minded sisters. We got our hands on Sacred Woman, and it really solidified veganism for us. I learned true eco-feminism. We used to go to each other’s homes and make delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes, some of which I still cook today. Back in the U.S., I have been fortunate to meet more and more sisters on this journey. The internet has been my best friend in finding other communities of black vegan and vegetarian women. There are tons of bloggers and resources (like SoulVegMama and Sistah Vegan) that I rely on daily for guidance, advice, and encouragement.
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