Is Food Empowerment Project an Intersectional Organization?
From Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM FEP Food Empowerment Project
January 2021

F.E.P. is not limited to working at the intersection. We are working to stop the abuse, death, and exploitation that happens even when they do not intersect.

Illustration by EastRand Studios from Aph Ko’s book Racism as a Zoological Witchcraft: A Guide to Getting Out.

If you don’t want to read my whole blog, the answer is yes and no.

The idea of creating an organization like Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) came to me in 2006, and in 2007 we became an organization.

Although Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality in 1989, I had not heard it used in the animal rights/vegan movement until the 2000s, and it reached its peak a few years ago.

In the beginning, the animal rights/vegan movement seemed to think this term was synonymous with cosmetic diversity or, worse, affirmative action — to these groups, it was more about how to bring more Black and Brown faces to your website, printed materials, possibly your organization, and conferences.

There was no real understanding of why many Black, Brown and Indigenous people do not join the animal rights/vegan movement, with racism and racist tactics (not to mention other issues) being a part of our movement. There was no recognition of the privilege of being able to think about the lives of nonhuman animals while having to struggle to survive. I am not saying it is impossible for people without privilege to advocate for animals, but I am saying it can be difficult.

Funding boomed to get white vegan groups to reach out to Black and Brown communities as if Black and Brown vegan organizations hadn’t already been doing it themselves. Some hired Black and Brown employees to do this work, though using the same methods that the organization had always been using.

Then there were (and still are) those of us working away while getting little to no recognition or equivalent funding to do our work.

There were also animal rights/vegan organizations calling themselves “intersectional” because they talked about how slaughterhouse workers were treated.

Some people called Food Empowerment Project an intersectional organization — and in some ways, by definition, this is absolutely correct. But something about it always made me uncomfortable, and it was important to me to point out that we do not refer to ourselves as an intersectional organization.


I did not start the organization with that framework in mind. Honestly, the work comes out of my lived experiences as well as values formed by my people — my community.

Intersectional sounds too academic to me, and, well, I just consider myself an activist.

My concern that animal rights activists/vegans were using this term that was actually coined by a Black woman to describe racial justice issues — particularly those involving Black women. I did not want to feel as if we were appropriating it. This was validated by speaking with another Black vegan and thinker who also was uncomfortable with the use of this term in our movement.

There is also the fundamental issue that many of us Black, Brown, and Indiegenous women just live our lives this way.

So for me, F.E.P. is just literally working to show these connections and how we can use our food choices to make a positive difference for human and non-human animals. Due to racism and discrimination, the vast majority of people who are negatively impacted by the food industry — either by working in it or suffering due to the lack of access to healthy foods — tend to be Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. These issues are intertwined. There is no disconnecting this.

When Aph Ko’s book Racism as a Zoological Witchcraft: A Guide to Getting Out was published, the final piece of my discomfort was crystalized … with an image on page 14 of the book (see above).

It shows two roads that cross but they do not intersect.

Aph writes, “Intersectionality is more like one highway crossing over another highway. From an aerial view, this could look like two roads intersecting, but they are actually two separate and distinct roads with two different heights, and in between them is a gap — a void.”

On page 15 she goes on to say, “Making colonized social categories ‘intersect’ doesn’t rid the structure of coloniality and it bypasses the work we need to do within the categories themselves.”

And I guess that sums it up for me: F.E.P. is not limited to working at the intersection. We are working to stop the abuse, death, and exploitation that happens even when they do not intersect.

One of the most potentially destructive things we do every day is eat. When you consider how harmful other things are in the world, food is right up there. And for those with privilege, we do it several times a day. Food has the potential to destroy both human and non-human lives, communities, and families. We need to fight at both the intersection and where it doesn’t intersect at all.

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