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How I Transitioned My Meat-Loving Family to a Plant-Based Vegan Lifestyle

Most people believe that being a vegan means you eat nothing but kale, but my children and I enjoy burgers and fries like everyone else.

Wellness

On the evening of January 9, 2016, while my 6-month old daughter slept and my 10-year old son played with his Legos – I cleaned house.


I went through my kitchen and threw away all the meat and any animal-based processed foods into a huge garbage bag. That day, I decided my family would become vegans. I'll never forget the bewildered looks I received from my neighbors when the bag ripped as I was dragging it up the stairs. I'm sure they were thinking I'd completely lost my mind. Maybe they were right because I didn't have a plan, but I did do a ton of research and I knew that this was the best option for us.

Why?

Because I was fed up with constantly being sick, fluctuating weight, painful menstrual cycles, raging hormones, and losing my family members to cancer. I decided without delay to go cold turkey (no pun intended).

The next morning, my decision started to register with me. Because of my poor planning, I only had a few ingredients in my pantry to prepare breakfast. So, I did what any other nonconventional mother would do: I grabbed my phone and started a Pinterest search. That search led me to an oatmeal pancake recipe, which was our first vegan meal. Afterwards, my kids and I drove to the local grocery store.

We spent a large amount of time in the produce section picking out fruits and veggies for dinner and the kid's snacks. It was definitely a different shopping experience from the norm. I purchased almond milk for the first time from the “Natural Food" aisle and spent at least 30 minutes looking for chickpeas until a store clerk pointed out that the garbanzo beans right in front of me are also known as chickpeas…who knew? I didn't have a meal-plan. I didn't know how I would handle the kid's lunch that week, but I knew that we were moving in the right direction.

Thanks to Pinterest, I became extremely creative with tacos our first week as vegans. We had tacos almost every day for dinner! Tacos filled with brown rice, corn, and black beans. Tacos filled with garbanzo beans aka chickpeas. Tacos filled with sweet potatoes, black beans, and avocado. If it was plant-based and could fit in a taco shell, we ate it.

I've come a long way since then and I've learned to make a variety of dishes the kids and I enjoy.

My 2-year-old daughter graduated from pureed fruits and veggies after her first birthday and loves meatless spaghetti night. Although, she'll eat anything, which I'm sure is a trait she picked up from me. I have this quick and easy recipe for alfredo sauce made from cashew nuts that's become my go-to meal on busy days. Just toss in some steamed broccoli and fettucine and voila! My son's favorite dish is cauliflower hot wings. Yes! Those battered-pieces of cauliflower tossed in Red Hot's Buffalo Wing sauce dipped in homemade vegan ranch dressing will change your life! Even my meat-eating 75-year-old dad enjoyed it!

My daughter, who was six months old at the time, wasn't affected as much by the transition because she never consumed meat, however, it was a major change for my son. Recreating our favorite comfort foods into vegan meals made the transition a lot easier for him. Most people believe vegans eat nothing but kale and avocados (which are bomb when combined by the way), but my children and I enjoy burgers and fries like everyone else.

The only difference is, our meals are all plant-based.

Honestly, the biggest challenge for my son was giving up non-vegan candy and resisting the temptation at school functions. That's a lot for a kid to handle. We watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix and discussed it. I gave him the option to continue eating meat and my 10-year old son decided to stop eating it. He still snuck home some candy from school for the first few months until I found vegan alternatives for him, but now he reads labels just as carefully as I do. You'd be surprised at the choices your kids make once you give them the option. There's a little humanitarian in them waiting to save the world.

I am so proud of my growth and self-discipline. Society makes it very hard for a person to choose a vegan lifestyle with a fast food restaurant on every corner. I could have easily picked up a Happy Meal on nights when I was too tired from working and studying to cook a meal. I could've dropped into my neighborhood American Deli and ordered a 10-piece meal of lemon pepper wings fried hard and wet. I could've indulged in my coworkers deviled eggs at our Christmas party, but, instead, I chose humanity and health over my cravings.

Almost two years later, and I've never regretted my decision. Not only am I healthier, but I am less tired and less hormonal.

My menstrual cramps are non-existent, my body's PH balance is an 8, and my iron levels are normal for the first time in my adult life. Have you ever thought about all those hormone injections that we consume from animal meat? My vegan lifestyle has detoxed me of all those hormones and my consciousness is vibrating on a higher frequency.

I am not the same woman I was last year. I have reversed my way of eating which has unconditioned my mind. This is my way of loving myself and returning that love to the universe. It's been an amazing journey and I would encourage anyone to make the transition.

A vegan diet isn't a cure for everything, but it's a step in the right direction and your body will thank you for it.

Photos by Kimberly Myers

*As seen in Heart & Soul Magazine

Jasmine Knight resides in Atlanta, GA and is a certified Yoga Instructor, Holistic Wellness Consultant, Blogger, and Founder of Melanin Pop Yoga. When she is not spending time with her two children, she is mentoring and teaching women how to love themselves and heal from their past holistically. Follow Jasmine on Instagram @pineapple_koko and subscribe to her blog, www.pineapplekoko.com.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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