Both women arrived at the decision to eliminate meat from their diets for different reasons. Yvette Harris kicked the meat habit as a preventive measure shortly after her mother passed away from breast cancer. Valerie Crawford shunned it after learning about the details of slaughterhouse operations when she was a teenager.
They are among a growing list of people across the country embracing a meatless lifestyle, including celebrities like India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Andre 3000 and Russell Simmons, most of whom eliminated meat for health reasons.
For Harris, owner of Harris Public Relations, her conversion was somewhat challenging initially because the lifestyle wasn’t as popular back then as it is now. Her decision to shun meat also included a good dose of humorous experiences with her meat-eating relatives.
A vegetarian since 1991, Harris is transitioning to a vegan diet with a target date of October for making the complete shift. In doing so, she will go from consuming a meat-free diet of mainly fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts; to a stricter approach that forbids any meat products, including eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products. The decision to go from vegetarianism to veganism is a part of Harris’ desire to take more control over what she eats.
A middle school book report on the merits of meat, ironically, led to Crawford removing it from her diet 39 years ago.
“I was doing a biology report in school on the benefits of meat. Everybody had to speak with someone in their industry, so I spoke to a butcher because I wanted to understand how meat comes from the animal…to our tables,” she explained.
She said that what she learned, “grossed me out,” so she told her mother on a Friday that Sunday would be her last day eating meat.
“I did ask her to cook me some fried chicken and rice,” she said with a chuckle. “That was my last meal. But from that moment, I gave up all red meat, all chicken.” She gave up seafood as a high school graduation present to herself.
Harris shared a funny story of early days as a vegetarian attending a friend’s BBQ. Assuming correctly that there would be nothing suitable for her to eat at the affair, she took her own food, utensils and aluminum foil to keep her vegetable kabob separate from the meat that was being prepared. When she asked the older gentlemen who were manning the grill to cook her food separately using the utensils that she supplied, they gave her an incredulous look.
She said that they eventually prepared her vegetarian meal, but not before they all had a good laugh together about her “having the nerve” to bring her veggies to a BBQ. Harris said that her vegetarianism is a part of an overall healthy lifestyle that she embraces with her six-year old daughter, Nya, who is semi-vegetarian, with an occasional piece of chicken. Spirituality, Harris shared, is an essential aspect of their lives.
While her decision to become a vegetarian at 13 was not a spiritual experience, Crawford said that over the years, it has become so. “Although I’m not one of those kind of beat you up because you’re not a vegetarian, vegetarian, it is an overall spiritual experience. Now, it has morphed into a connection of honoring all life,” said Crawford, who even tries to avoid killing insects.
The spiritual bond to her mother resulted in her changing the name of her corporate consulting company three years ago.
“My mother transitioned and…the name came to me three months [later]. I didn’t know what it meant, but I kept it in a book,” she shared. “Last year on the anniversary of her passing…the book dropped on the floor and opened on that page.”
Crawford said that she changed the name of her company to Havao Global Consulting to honor her mother, Helen. “Ironically, the initials are Helen and Valerie as one. “It allows me to bring her into my business,” she explained.