LoriKim Alexander head shot

“As people who are harmed – how can we possibly perpetrate harm?” – LoriKim Alexander – Sentientism Episode 116

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LoriKim (she/her/we/our) describes herself as an educator, organiser, activist, conservationist, abolitionist, naturalist & healer. Originally from Jamaica & now living in the Bronx, USA, LoriKim has dedicated her life to working for social & environmental justice specifically organizing around LGBTQIA+, Black, Brown & Indigenous communities. LoriKim’s work in anthropology & her training as a biologist has helped her work against environmental racism, in providing environmental education for People of Color & in working towards decolonialism & liberation through veganism for over 25 years. LoriKim works as a founder, facilitator and organiser with organisations including BlackVegFest & The Cypher.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here everywhere else.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome

01:26 LoriKim’s Intro

  • Educator, organiser, activist, conservationist, abolitionist, naturalist, healer
  • “Black liberation practice” with “a queer & vegan lens”

02:38 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica
  • “Being a Black country… what that means is that we had to really hold tight to our traditions, our histories that were muddled, were removed… because of slavery”
  • “Highly colonised”, stringent laws, highly carceral
  • “Missionaries saw opportunity to come in and bring their various and sundry versions of the truth”
  • Synchronising traditions into Christianity as the only way they could survive
  • Growing up Catholic “A very white and blond Jesus… this is not someone I can relate to.”
  • “I never believed in Santa Claus”
  • “Religion… as the framework I had to live under in order to go about my daily life”
  • Communion, saying rosary, prayer
  • “What I saw in the natural world did not reflect this idea that god created all of these things… I watched creation happen.”
  • Moving to the US at 13
  • “This religion doesn’t make any sense to me” & “bruk out” from church
  • Coming out & stopping eating meat at 14
  • “I could not equate this idea of loving all beings… and also eating them”
  • “Yes – I’m an atheist… I don’t believe any of this”
  • “However, spirit moves you.”
  • Talking with ancestors “I thought that was me talking to myself, but…”
  • “I would ask for things in my head & it would happen”
  • “I never really strayed away from thinking about the world beyond”
  • A multitude of universes & studying science
  • “A hybrid of really being rooted in science… & there’s so much more that’s unknown that I know that I feel”
  • “I’m an Aquarius & we don’t follow anybody else’s rules”
  • Practising things that come from a lot of African ancestral traditions, “but not strictly”
  • “I cannot believe in one all powerful, all seeing, benevolent, & sometimes malevolent being”
  • “I believe in the power of my ancestors… I can feel it in my blood.”

18:34 What & Who Matters?

  • How deistic religions & non-religious spirituality affect ethics “It depends on the person”
  • “I don’t believe Christianity was built with compassion in mind… to tell a story… also a system of control.”
  • “Interrogate the practice”
  • “There’s no science without soul”
  • Growing up eating meat & fish “This is a body here”
  • Making the connection when seeing slaughter
  • “I found other people who felt the same… I’m not a weirdo… other people are doing it and they’re not dead!”
  • “My ethics have always leaned towards those of us who are facing the most harm… & who has been left out of the conversation”
  • “You cannot have justice without compassion”
  • “I cannot see a world that transforms without everyone getting it [compassion] – even the people who are the most harmful, even the people who misuse their privilege…”
  • “Black femmes in the world are routinely the bearers of the emotional burden of morality… and I’m not here to do that”
  • “There’s ways to hold people accountable that is generous to you & to that person as well”
  • “It also doesn’t mean that you don’t defend yourself”
  • Being a tomboy, running around barefoot in nature
  • Seeing boys kill birds “my heart would break”
  • Seeing a goat strung up for slaughter at 6/7 yrs old
  • Coming to the animal liberation space & finding racism, homophobia, patriarchy “That hurt me so much”
  • Finding Black liberatory & womanist & trans & queer spaces “There’s where we see true generosity happening”
  • Animals & the earth as blind-spots in other social justice movements

38:53 A Better Future?

  • Atheist/secular/humanist movements & social justice
  • “I believe in tenets of Total Liberation… I don’t think it’s possible to have a liberatory space if you’re not seeing all the people in it.”
  • “Spaces need to interrogate their integrity… interrogate your mission”
  • LoriKim’s “Don’t Include Me” piece… “If you have to include me you left me out… & you had a checklist”
  • “Stop using kindness as an opportunity to push an agenda that is too narrow”
  • Implications of Sentientism for intra-human ethics: anti-oppression, total liberation
  • “The other thing I don’t like about inclusion is that not everybody wants to be with you”
  • “I don’t want to sit at some tables.”
  • “There are spaces that are sacred… Black space is sacred”
  • “An ecosystem of movements”
  • “It’s a little rude of us to think that we also can speak for animals”
  • “When we do get to have those conversations [with non-human animals] our lives are changed by them”
  • “You have to remove yourself from the centre of power”
  • “It takes practice… life is a practice”
  • “Let the folks doing the work for their folks do that work”
  • Volunteering then organising for BlackVegFest “our focus is Black Liberation”
  • “Our folks have routinely been the most stepped on…” White supremacist, capitalist, imperialist patriarchy
  • Education grounded in where people are
  • “All folks hold knowledge”
  • The Cypher, a “trans & queer black femme led collective.” Gender equity, Black liberation, a vegan construct, environmental & food justice
  • “As people who are harmed – how can we possibly perpetrate harm… by not including non-humans into our conversation”
  • Change in the US, UK, Germany & in Jamaica e.g. “a wonderful resurgence of people taking the land back”
  • Land & power
  • Neo-colonisation & neo-liberalism, the World Bank & IMF
  • “The way forward to real change is to listen to the Jamaicans”
  • “Who is being most harmed – put them in the front… give them the things that they need to thrive”
  • Tourism, biodiversity, deforestation
  • “Looking at wealth as the land, as the folks, the knowledge we hold, our true history”
  • Win-wins
  • “There is no way… that capitalism can be re-engineered for good”… “I can’t tell you what’s best, but I can say that this isn’t it”
  • We can’t use “The master’s tools”
  • “Something that turns whole beings into units of production”
  • “I have to always believe that we will win… the ‘we’ I am talking about is oppressed beings.”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.

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Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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