Aph Ko is a writer, performer, vegan, independent digital media producer and one of our biggest inspirations at VOAA. Her piece “100 Black Vegans” resonated so much with people that it spawned the wildly popular new site; blackvegansrock.com. Afropunk took notice and partnered with BVR, featuring and celebrating a Black Vegan on their site every Tuesday.
Aph is also the creator of the comedy web-series “Black Feminist Blogger” and founder of Aphro-ism.com. She was named one of the Top 10 Indie Creatives of 2014 by IndieWire and awarded 2015 Anti-Racist Change Maker of the Year by The Sistah Vegan Project and The Pollination Project. We are thrilled to feature her here.
Thank you for all you do, Aph!!
What’s been the easiest and most challenging things about being vegan?
The easiest part of being vegan is eating the tasty food (lol). I absolutely LOVE cooking different vegan recipes. Cooking is my to-go-to activity when I’m really stressed out. It almost feels like an art. I can throw around different ingredients and create new things. I would also say that veganism (as a theoretical tool) helps facilitate more comprehensive discussions about oppressions overall. Veganism is a feminist praxis for me. Discussing speciesism helps to talk about other oppressions and it has actually changed the way that I even understand other oppressions as well. The hardest part about being vegan is: a) finding restaurants in my area that offer vegan options, b) friends and family who aren’t receptive to veganism because of all the stereotypes which can produce really draining conversations, and c) trying to start black vegan grassroots movements in a really white vegan capitalist landscape that is predatory and exploitative.
Did you know vegetarians or vegans prior to making the shift and, if so, what influence did they have on you?
Yes. I went vegetarian in high school and most of my friends were labeling themselves as vegetarian as well. My older sister Syl was also a vegetarian for a long time and then she became vegan which influenced my own journey as well. I actually worked at a vegan restaurant in high school (The Veggie Grill). Syl then introduced me to Sistah Vegan by Dr. Amie Breeze Harper which pretty much changed my life. When I became vegan, I had no other vegan friends (in real life, lol) outside of my husband. He’s vegan and it makes my life much easier.
You have a really strong circle of veg allies! What’s some advice you’d give other vegans about having veg allies?
Find a network of vegan activists who relate to you and who practice activism the way you do. The same goes for allies. When we relate on other subjects, it creates the perfect foundation for supporting each other’s vegan journey, too. It’s been amazing having such a close network of friends. On top of that, I would advise activists (especially who are online) to go outside of Facebook to find like-minded friends. Sometimes FB groups can be toxic, so it’s best to try to find people who you admire, or find people you really relate to on different websites and grassroots spaces.
In addition to being an influential vegan, you are an active feminist. Do you have advice for others who worry that if they stand up for animals or the environment their other advocacy might suffer?
Talking about multiple oppressions simultaneously isn’t a distraction, it’s a more nuanced way of pointing to the oppressor. The system impacts multiple bodies and when we start to realize that all of these bodies are being hurt by the same system, we begin to paint a more adequate, and full picture of what the oppressive system actually looks like. You can’t completely fight a system or bring it down if you don’t exactly know how it operates. Of course I understand that some people who don’t advocate for animals aren’t necessarily doing that because they’re malicious or evil, they might just be put off by the mainstream animal rights movement which can have a distorted (Eurocentric) framing of animal oppression and activism.