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Paradigm Shift: From Fear of Racist Backlash to Opportunity for Transformative Justice Praxis

Two years ago, there was a pivotal moment in my antiracism and vegan scholarship/activist career. I was invited to speak at Whidbey institute on how to tackle the persistence of collective denial around systemic racism, antiblackness and white supremacist hate in its more covert forms.

I was scared and couldn’t shift out of my current paradigm (core belief system) that was anchored on fear and doubt. I wanted to take the next step in my work by being more transparent and honest in my language but was held back by the belief that I couldn’t go to that event or it would be a disaster; nothing good would come out of it.

I called my twin brother to discuss, in a moment of panic and anxiety, convinced that I was going to cancel the event last minute, terrified what would happen even if I used the most compassionate and gentle language, rooted in my decade-long practice of Zen Buddhist pedagogies, to explain to the mainstream and mostly white population how even the best intentions, within animal advocacy, can have negative impact on racialized minorities if there is no understanding on how the current system of racial oppression operates in the United States.

So my brother talked to me as a professional dedicated to deep therapeutic methods to help clients shift away from their fears and other internal narratives that often hold them back from their greatness.

He helped me shift my paradigm and find the courage for me to renarrate and reprogram my paradigm of fear to paradigm of Hope and opportunity.

So I jumped on that plane and gave one of the best talks I have ever given, and left that fear and anxiety behind. The talk was epic and groundbreaking, helping many break out of their own fears around “what if I too, let go of my fears and truly be an antiracism activist and intervene when I witness racial injustice like antiblackness and white supremacy?” bell hooks ended up viewing the recording of my talk and was so inspired, she invited me to connect with her two years later and I did, in Kentucky. (I had never met her before but had become a black feminist scholar primarily through her fearless work , discovered 20 years earlier when I was a college student).

I invite you to “shift your paradigm” like I did, through my twin brother, Talmadge Harper. The only thing you will lose are fear and limitations.

And here is the talk I gave that would not have happened without the shift of my paradigm:


About Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Dr. A. Breeze Harper (Photo Credit: Sun Harper-Zahn)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutions, a seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best know for as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society (Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scars and on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked off FoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system. 

Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter which can be downloaded.

Dr. Harper’s most recently published book, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014) interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. Her current 2016 lecture circuit focuses on excerpts from her latest book in progress, Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches: A Critical Race Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Post-Racial’ Ethical Foodscape which will be released in 2017, along with the second Sistah Vegan project anthology The Praxis of Justice in an Era of Black Lives Matter. In tandem with these book projects, she is well-known for her talks and workshops about “Uprooting White Fragility in the Ethical Foodscape” and “Intersectional Anti-Racism Activism.”

In the spring of 2016, Dr. Harper was nominated as the Vice Presidential nominee for the Humane Party— the only vegan political party in the USA with focus on human and non-human animals.

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