Diversity, Inclusion, and Disrupting ‘Professional’ Spaces as a [Black] Nursing Mom Doing Anti-Racism Work

 

Dr. A. Breeze Harper wearing Maison Lucine professional nursing dress (Photo Credit: Dr. Oliver Zahn)

I travel to discuss and motivate people to take action against systemic racism and white supremacy within veganism , animal rights, and beyond. I founded the LLC Critical Diversity Solutions with Elise Aymer which is a DEI strategic consulting business.

On October 16 I showed up at Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland OR for Animal Grantmakers annual conference. Not only was I one of two Black speakers and participants during the entire event, I was the only one who brought a child. During my 2.5 day stay there, I had seen no one bring a child into the hotel which is a primary point of business stay. I spent about 8 hours in the lobby area (where I worked while a baby sitter took care of my child or I chilled out with my child when the babysitter wasn’t there).

It is rare that professionals travel with their kids in the USA . I do. I don’t hide it and in many spaces, I stick out as not just the only Black professional but the only one who dares to bring her baby with her to nurse on demand since that is a food justice issue.

Most intriguing is whether or not to enter the often mostly men-dominated spaces of end of the day professional conference culture of bars– all while a tv channel is on about baseball, basketball, or football.

Disrupting this space with a nursing baby attached to a Black bodied cisgender woman is both frightening and revolutionary. Sometimes I do it and sometimes I don’t.

I think about how I have my sh*t together (at least when it comes to delivering what I’ve been hired to do– my messy house is another story, ha!) , I am well prepared and always deliver what I came to do in innovative and skillful ways. All this while taking care of a baby more than 25 times while traveling over the last eight years while each of my four kids were under two years of age. I have often been sleep deprived due to caring for them during the night– but I deliver!!

I often wonder what it is like to travel as a white and cisgender man into these spaces with no children in tow as well as rarely having to worry about other safety issues such as navigating safely through red counties, informal sundown towns, or even navigating spaces in which you can be the recipient of sexual harassment or assault(yes it is all genders who are victims but it is highly and disproportionately women and girls in the work place in the USA).


The dresses I am wearing in these photos is a nursing dress by Ingrid Jones and her company Maison Lucine. The one right above is “cruelty free” , sweatshop free, and ingeniously designed. You unzip the area where the breasts are to nurse, but you can’t see it because it is well hidden. If you don’t believe in wearing animal based leathers, no worries, my dress has faux leather and is suitable for ethical vegetarians. Ingrid has three young kids and her innovation has allowed me to look fashionable and professional while still being able to nurse without hassle. Dresses are named after influential women like Amelia Earhart which is the one I’m wearing above.

This is what the world of business and innovation looks like when designed by under represented groups like moms of color in the USA– a country that continues to not support us structurally and institutionally and expects us to choose a “paid job/career without kids” or “stay home and parent your kids without pursuing a career.”

Each mom is unique. What’s your hack when it comes to traveling with children for your work– especially if you are nursing on demand?

These are my observations as SlackerHackerMom, my new Black feminist hack into mothering and beyond. Don’t worry, we aren’t getting rid of Sistah Vegan, but SlackerHackerMom will be launching in early 2018.

Got to www.slackerhackermom.com  

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Dr. A.Breeze Harper (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen 2016)

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has a PhD in Critical Food Geographies. She is the creator of The Sistah Vegan Project and the editor of the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society, is a sought-after speaker, writer, and consultant at Critical Diversity Solutions (www.criticaldiversitysolutions.com).

Her most recently published book is Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (Sense Publishers 2014). Scars interrogates how systems of oppression and power impact the life of protagonist 18 year old Savannah Sales, the only Black teenager living in an all white and working class rural New England town. In 2018, her latest book project will be published, tentatively titled Black Mama Scholar: On Black Feminism, Food Ethics, And Toddler Tantrums .

Overall, Dr. Harper’s work focuses on how systems of oppression- namely racism and normative whiteness- operate within the USA. She uses food and ethical consumptions cultures, within North America, to explore these systems. Her favorite tools of analysis are critical whiteness studies, decolonial world systems theory, Black feminisms, critical race feminism, critical animal studies, and critical food studies. She is known for using engaged Buddhism as the choice method to explain her research and broach these often difficult topics of power, privilege, and liberation.

Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. Her talks explore how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality and physical abilities.

If you are interested in having A. Breeze Harper speak at your college, conference or organization please contact her at breezeharper@gmail.com. Learn more about her on her author and publications page here.

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