NAME: Dr. Ayo Maat
OCCUPATION: Retired, but still: disability and human rights activist,
digital literacy (IT) trainer, nonprofit manager, Africentric vendor, artist
(jewelry, maskmaking, poetry), writer, editor
LOCATION: Chicago IL
WEBSITE: Green Think Tank for Disability Community
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN VEGAN? AND WHAT INSPIRED YOUR JOURNEY?
I have been a vegan about 23-24 years. I was involved in animal rights and felt it was not possible for me to protect animal rights while wearing their skins or fur or drinking their baby’s milk. I had been a vegetarian since 1978 and wanted to optimize my diet and just eat plant-based foods and wear non-animal clothing. I joined PETA and The American Vegan Society and North American Vegetarian Society. I read an article and saw a picture of what happens to cows that are milked until their udders get sore and infected, and the amount of mucus in milk. I also saw how they snatched the silk from the silkworm even causing them death or harm in its cocoon, and how they cruelly sheered sheep and goats to get wool, which made me itch anyway, and cashmere, so I stopped wearing wool, cashmere and silk; and stopped using anything with lanolin, honey, and royal jelly. I stopped wearing leather and animal fur in 1978.
HAS VEGANISM ENHANCED YOUR HEALTH? WHY OR WHY NOT?
It has definitely enhanced my health, especially cleared up my skin, eliminated sinus trouble, and with high phytochemicals improved my immune system and bones. I have not had a cold or flu in over 30 years.
IN RETROSPECT, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MEAT? OR DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON AMERICA’S MEAT INDUSTRY?
I think meat is a symbol of death and decay covered over with deodorizers and the false assumption from marketing ploys that one is feeding the body with the raw materials needed to regenerate health and well-being. I think that when one eats meat, he or she eats from the table of death and decay, and unlike animals who eat meat raw and have the digestive system to quickly digest it, we dress it, cook it, or season it to cover up the fact that it is dead, and pretend that it is okay to stink when we eliminate it from the bowels.
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?
No, the women in my community were avid carnivores and except for my mother who limited the amount of meat served to children, most would not eat vegetarian or vegan. My mother usually served fish on Friday and meat on Saturday and Sunday when I was young. Though beans and greens were cooked either with or without meat, cabbage was always cooked without meat. We did not miss meat. Fruit and vegetables were fresh or canned in Mason jars. Black women did bake from scratch and can food then.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ONE OR TWO TIPS ON TRANSITIONING INTO VEGANISM?
Don’t begin from the premise that vegetables and grains are tasteless without meat or that the body cannot heal itself if given the proper nutrients and phytochemicals from the plant kingdom or that commercial produce with its pesticides, genetically modified organisms and fungicides, and irradiation is superior to organic. Try your favorite dips such as guacamole and hummus dairy-free, and veggies and beans or grains without meat or fish, and make good use of online recipes that show you how to use herbs, spices, lemon juice, lime juice, and olive or coconut oil to add taste to veggies, grains, black rice, etc. Invest in raw flaxseed crackers–can make your own if you invest in a dehydrator and use to dip hummus, avocado, and homemade cucumber-turmeric dip. Look at the largest land animals that eat vegan without illness — elephants, horses and gorillas. Eat from Nature’s rainbow of foods — it gets easier as you discover the possibilities.