Hello love and welcome back to my space! It’s Friday so that means it’s time for another celebration! Today I am celebrating Iye of Iye Loves Life.
When I first came across Iye’s Instagram page, I was moved by her compassion and how she speaks about the importance of a total liberation. I love the way Iye shares thoughts and information coming from a place of love, compassion and empathy. I also the the way she simplifies complex ideas and information to make them easily accessible.
I had the pleasure of having the most wonderful Soulversation with Iye, here’s what she had to say:
Can you share your vegan journey with us?
To start off, I wasn’t raised vegan, it’s important to acknowledge that we all start at different points. I was raised in a Nigerian family and a big part of our culture and especially since moving to the United States, the food is all based in meat and animals substances. Originally, where we’re from, it’s highly plant based but it’s a sign of wealth and affluence to be able to afford to eat meat, so they eat it for holidays and special occasions. When we came to the United States when I was 2 years old and my parents were living more in abundance, eating the standard American diet became our diet.
What ended up happening early on my dad had liver cancer and he still does, he’s actually getting treatment for that right now but it was so bad at one point, stage 4 where he had to have a tumor removed from the base of his spine because the cancer had spread to other parts of his body. During the operation to have that tumor removed, we almost lost him, he lost so much blood.
I grew up with my parents eating a mix of Nigerian food and American food but for the most part I thought we always ate healthy. I never thought that it was an issue, what we ate and how it affects our health but after I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives I made the connection to the fact that our food does affect our longevity. We can reduce our chances of developing a chronic disease like liver cancer by eating a plant-based diet. I took that information to heart and I went plant-based right away but I still ate dairy here and there because I didn’t think it was that bad for you.
I felt so amazing after switching to a majority of a whole food plant-based diet, that I wanted to learn more about veganism. I watched this video called ‘Dairy Is Scary‘ and I learned what happens to cows in the dairy industry. They’re repeatedly made pregnant and their children are taken away from them and almost all of them end up in slaughterhouses. I had so much compassion for my dad and human life being lost. My dad almost passing away was one of the most life-changing experiences that I’ve had in my adult life. I don’t want anything to happen to the people I love, why would I want to harm other living beings. That was how I made that connection and I can’t be responsible for harming other living beings, if I wouldn’t want something terrible to happen to the people that I love.
I immediately cut out dairy after that and then over time I would look stuff up, I looked up no backyard hens and where we get our eggs from. Then I ended up watching loads of documentaries overtime just to reinforce, learn everything and soak it all up. I went from learning about veganism to becoming a vegan and now I’m at the next stage of learning about consistent anti-oppression and how all different oppression’s intersect and that’s where I’m at now.
Can you talk a little about the ex vegan movement and the pedestals that we put people on?
Absolutely! A lot of people saw certain individuals getting really famous on YouTube and on all the social media platforms in general but especially YouTube. There was a big rise and people eating plant-based, a lot of them were working out really heavily and building their body and they ended up being role models for a lot of people because they were inforcing a story that you can eat a plant-based diet and still be healthy and still hold muscle which is a fantastic thing. I think that’s a great reason to admire someone but what ended up happening is that they also became the pinnacle of the vegan movement, the representatives in the way of the vegan movement. The problem with that is that majority of those people are typically Cisgender white male, some are female but they lacked a lot of diversity and people who didn’t meet that standard were discriminated against and look down upon a lot in this movement.
What ends up happening is if you put anybody on a pedestal they’ll eventually disappoint you. That’s human nature and we all have duality, you can’t expect somebody to be one way forever. It’s really disappointing when people change, it hurts us personally because we admired them at one point and we looked up to them, we thought that they were always going to be a representative for the movement.
It makes logical sense to be a vegan, even non-vegans tell me what I’m doing makes absolute logical sense but they haven’t made the heart connection. They haven’t made the connection to the fact that they’re directly contributing to what happens to animals. Humans are very creative in compartmentalizing things. It’s actually a good thing, if you don’t compartmentalize things and you take in all the pain and all the suffering you would be a mess. You couldn’t go grocery shopping because you would worry about driving over ants. When you get to the store, you’re probably going to buy something that somewhere down the road, workers were exploited and you’d be contributing to that. We have to compartmentalize things in a way and I think that there is a challenge with understanding that human beings are extremely complex and that they don’t always do the things that we expect, just because we expect them to do the right thing.
There’s also a connection to capitalism, our capitalistic culture is basically built on a hierarchy and there’s this type of moralizing. I don’t necessarily think Jeff Bezos is the best guy but he’s at the top of this capitalistic hierarchy. People attributing moral value and because he’s there at the top and then people at the bottom, they suffer, they can’t afford housing, they can’t afford certain necessities and they may end up in situations where they end up committing crime. Because of that we think, OK the people at the bottom of the hierarchy are bad people, they do bad things, they go to jail. People who did bad things and go to jail they should be locked up forever.
All of that thinking comes from capitalism. If we want to envision a world post capitalism, we have to understand that human beings are complex individuals. We can’t just think of crime and punishment because there’s a reason why things are structured the way they are. Things are structured the way they are to keep certain people at the top and other people at the bottom. I think that we have to start looking into nuanced ideas of how to understand human nature and human psychology. Also, the fact that people do change their morals and ethics but also people come back people. I believe that if you forget about duality in anything, then you’re believing that people can only go one direction. You’re believing that people can only become good but then can never become “bad”. People can go both directions and I think that we have to hold space for that, even if we don’t agree with the direction that they went. We have to hold space for the fact that they have potential to turn around and come back.
Do you think that people that say they used to be vegan, should just say there were plant based?
Absolutely not. I believe, if you believe something with your whole heart but then your heart changed, it’s morally, unethical and morally corrupt to say that you were just plant based if you really thought you were vegan at the time. I think that people are afraid to say they change their ethics because there’s so much crime and punishment in the vegan movement. That nature comes from capitalism. People are afraid to say they changed because of society. They say that eighty percent of vegans and vegetarians will go back to exploiting and using animals again. I think that we all know that it’s wrong. I think that people who go back to doing it, also know that it’s wrong.
My family they still use animals and see them as resources I don’t think that they’re bad people. I think that we have to stop making that judgment that people who do bad things are automatically bad people. There has been this huge influx of people going “ex vegan” too, which has caused people have a lot of doubts. In anything you do, even if you’re doing the right thing, you will have doubts, I had those doubts when I was eating everything. Technically we call that omnivore but I don’t believe it really exists I don’t believe humans are omnivores I believe we’re starchivors or herbivores but Society teaches us that were omnivores. When I was eating every thing, I didn’t I didn’t think of you know myself as a bad person back then I lacked the information and the knowledge.
Now that I know more and I know that animals are extremely exploited and that we can live without eating them or using them for any purposes to the best of our ability. We don’t live in a vegan world so there are those minor exceptions. I think that people can change and if we believe that you can become vegan I believe that you can also become ex vegan. I believe that if people can change for the better, they can also go back and change for the worse as well.
Did you notice any spiritual changes when you went vegan?
Yes absolutely I did. That was what led me to find out about the ethics because I felt morally and spiritually aligned, that’s best way to describe it. I felt like the person I was becoming was my true self. I have never felt more at peace than after I had made the decision. I think that’s what helped me to go from plant-based to vegan. I felt like, I can no longer contribute to the harm of other individuals. I stopped seeing them as resources. Even though I was eating a plant-based diet strictly for health reasons, I did not want to put myself more at risk of contracting any chronic diseases.
When I went vegan I felt like, wow, I saw a whole new world open up to me. I felt mental clarity, I felt more energized and also felt like I had more compassion for not only humans, but non humans as well. We grow up being stripped of our nature of loving other animals. I loved animals as a kid but I still ate ate them. We were taught to compartmentalize and not see their full nature out of they’re just coexisting with us but they don’t belong to us.
When did you decide that you were going to be an activist?
Three months after I made the decision to go vegan and I thought that I was going to keep it to myself I was going to eat my broccoli in the corner and never talk to anybody about it. I went to Cleveland VegFest, there was a speaker he talked about the fact that, one vegan person doesn’t change the world. For example, you’re vegan and you introduce somebody else to veganism but by becoming a vegan activist you’re multiplying. That’s how you create a vegan world. Adding more activist is the way to go. I can’t keep this information to myself and eat broccoli in the corner. I gotta go tell people about this and that’s how I became an activist.
Do you feel like intersectionality is starting to spread?
The way the question is worded is very interesting. I noticed that a lot of time when we think of intersectionality, we think of other movements joining the vegan movement. We don’t think about the vegan movement joining other movements, we have to think about how it goes both ways. I think that vegans, because we know both sides, because we were omnivores at one point and then we made the moral and ethical decision to become vegan that we have to allow space for other people to make that connection. The way we do that is not just waiting for them to join our movement, it’s by joining their moving and inviting them to come to ours. I think that has to be the way because I don’t think they know better. We have learned things that they haven’t learned yet and have made connections that they haven’t made yet. I think that if we speak up for women’s rights and speak up for Trans rights and speak up for the Black Liberation, that those people are going to be attracted to join the vegan movement and to forgo exploiting the animal s,that’s the way I think it’s going to end up being.
I think that intersectionality is an overused term, it doesn’t really have a deep meaning anymore. I think we have to start talking about the interconnected oppression and how different forms of oppression are layered like speciesism is layered with sexism and it’s layered with racism and it’s layered with transphobia and it’s layered with homophobia. All these forms of oppression, they’re interlocked, you cant just go into a bucket and pick out one, if you pick out one you’ll pick out the whole chain.
Another thing I’d like to mention about that is that people think that when you’re anti-oppression that you have to be on the street every single day, like today transphobia, tomorrow sexism, next day racism. It’s not like that, you’re not going to overwhelm yourself. If you’re advocating for animal rights don’t oppress other marginalized groups. That’s how you make it simple.
How do you feel about people becoming vegan strictly for health reasons?
I wouldn’t say that they’re vegan because I think they’re plant-based because the whole concept of veganism is being against oppression of animals. If you’re asking if they don’t do activism, I think being vegan is a form of activism if you’re vegan you’re going to tell your family your friends. You can’t get away from not speaking up for it but if you’re thinking of activism is like using your social media account or protesting in the street and stuff like that I think that we gate keep the word activism a lot but if someone is like just for health reasons then they’re plant-based.
What is keeping you grounded these days?
I’ve been using this time to think, to read more about the movement. To read books about anti-racism and I just find it there so many inspiring people out there that are doing such an amazing work. I think that that’s been grounding me. I just got finished reading Aphro-Ism by Aph Ko and she fired me up. She makes me want to talk so much more about anti-oppression and I love the way she connects black liberation to animal liberation. She does it in such a way where it’s not offensive to me, like it would be you if anyone else talked about it. She’s just figured it out.
What are some simple things that bring you joy?
I love grounding and being outside right now, I love being out in nature. I need sunlight, Sun helps me feel like the most spiritually well. I think another thing to is like listening to music and being in community with people who think like me. Which I understand that we need all types of opinions and all types of people but when I want to feel spiritually well, I get fed by my sisters. My really close friends who are also vegan and we advocate together for the same cause. We’re into the same Thai TV series, they give me so much energy because we’re in these conversations about a really niche area that a lot of people wouldn’t really think about. Being in different communities and being out in nature and music!
What music are you listening to?
I’m mostly listening to Thai music. I don’t think anyone would have heard of these artist. I’m listening to all of the soundtracks to the Tv series I’m watching.
Who is inspires you?
I can’t really give a specific person, people who inspire me are people who stand up for what they believe in, who aren’t afraid of adversity or conflict. People who love others but to an extreme degree I think that it just makes me so emotional when I think of people who are selfless. The people who dedicate so much of their time to loving people and expecting nothing in return. I don’t have a specific role model, that I always say “kill your role model’ because you’re always going to find that one negative thing they did 30 years ago and it’s going to be online.
What are some of you favorite self care practices?
When I’m feeling really into the self care, I like to do skin care. I like taking a bath with music.
What are your best practices for getting through challenging times?
The most important thing for me is to unplug. Take a few days off of all of the social media accounts. Plugging into my network of friends and to see how they were doing with it. Hearing how my friends were getting by was really reassuring.
What are you grateful for right now?
I’m so grateful for my friends, my network. I’m grateful that I haven’t been tramatically impacted by the corona virus. I have a job, I still have a house I’m able to pay my bills. I’m extremely grateful for that. I’m grateful for my close knit family and that all of my needs are being taken care of right now.
What gives you hope?
There’s a revolution going on right now. With the second wave BLM movement and the vegan world and the vegan community has taken notice. They are starting, in some ways, to amplify Black, Indigenous, and POC voices. Some of them are doing it performatively , some are starting from that place but I think that overtime the movement is going to recognize the value of different voices and I think that we’re going to get so many cool new ideas and I can’t wait for the next phase.
Where can we find you?
You can find me on Instagram Iye.loves.life.
I had too much fun sharing and celebrating Iye today! Definitely check her out! Thanks so much for stopping by and until next time, Stay Fabulous!