Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA on Meat and Masculinity
Tell me about plant subsidies.
I hung with [vegan cheese company] Violife because we have a similar philosophy about consuming plant-based foods: making them more accessible, affordable and sustainable for everyone. There are three things that are important for this program. The first, of course, is funding. Violife awards five plant grants, $ 20,000 each, to black-owned restaurants.
Second, it’s about mentoring and knowing how to incorporate herbal ingredients into recipes. This is where our [partnering] The chefs – Lemel Durrah from Compton Vegan and Laricia Chandler Baker from Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat – come because vegan restaurants across the country are getting better and better and people are really taking their time. [to make good food].
Third, it is information. People are increasingly aware of their diet and the effects of their diet on issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes. A plant-based diet has been proven to reduce these factors in our community, and putting this information in the hands of black chefs and restaurants will only spread it.
What do you envision when you dream of a plant-based future, especially in black communities?
To quote my son, the dream is that we are all “happy and healthy”. When I ask my son how he is, he replies, “happy and healthy daddy.” That’s all we can ask for. It is my dream, that we are all happy and healthy, and it starts with our body and mind.
Life thrives on the food we eat to support our body, so a plant-based life and a balanced diet will only improve our body. Plant Grants supports my vision by making an herbal diet easily and readily available. This grant for black-owned restaurants, some of which are at the heart of their community, gives them the chance to have an economical brew, to have chefs [share] mentorship and information, and turn their best dishes into something healthier without compromising on taste.
How have you seen attitudes towards veganism change culturally among men, especially black men?
At one point people thought veganism was preppy, but it has changed and I think hip-hop has helped. You see some of the hip-hop heroes being mindful of their diet and sharing it in their lyrics and in their lifestyle because there is some truth to it. There is a truth in this, that on this planet full of plants, you could flourish and feed on this plant.
There was a time in life when meat was a sacrifice. If your only way to survive is to sacrifice this animal to get you back to a place where you can start farming again, that’s an understandable sacrifice. But today, we raise animals and kill them more for fun than for necessity. I think the consciousness is growing and black men are like, Yo, I don’t need that. I feel better. I think we are moving away from the uncool stereotype of being healthy.
Take our Plant Grants Chef Lemel Durrah from Compton Vegan, for example. When you think of Compton, you think of Eazy-E and all the gangsterism, but in the midst of that community there’s a restaurant flourishing where people can go and start changing their diets. They’re not far from Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles or whatever, but there’s a choice now, and I think it’s only going to grow.
How do you think we can start to change the cultural view of meat as crucial for masculinity and therefore crucial for survival?
Some pieces of wisdom: A man is known to be strong, as they say, and this man eats steak to strengthen himself. The steak comes from a cow, and the male cow, a bull, is a very strong animal that can weigh around 1,500 pounds and move tons. The cow eats only grass. All the muscles he has, all the steak, every part of him that we eat, is all built from plants. This is the animal that we consume for strength, but what does this animal consume for strength? Plants.
You are dealing with an organic, bustling life – from a fly to a chicken to a fish, these things strive to live. In reality, there is nothing that has to die for a man to live. Everything is provided. I am here as a living example of over 20 years of not putting dead animals in my body. There is nothing wrong with not eating meat. I have no flaws, and I have flawless children. When I was young, I was not aware of the number of deaths we cause just to try to have a life. We fool ourselves into thinking that the only way to survive is for something else to die.