Straight Edge Veganism: Syracuse, New York

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

-Apple Inc.

Hi Guys:

I haven’t posted a blog in two weeks and I feel badly about that; however, I have a good reason. Here is my story…

On Monday, January 21, 2013 (Martin Luther King Day), I received a phone call from my son who is a freshman at Syracuse University. After he made two trips to a nearby hospital emergency room, he was erroneously diagnosed with a virus and sent back to his dorm with Ibuprofen. He called me and told me that he believed that the ER diagnosis was wrong and that he was in trouble. With only the clothes on my back (no makeup!), I jumped into my small hybrid car and headed for Syracuse, New York to help my ailing son. Let me add that it was 45 degrees and sunny when I left Long Island, so I did not anticipate the snow storms which I drove through in Pennsylvania to get to Syracuse.

I spent two grueling weeks in Syracuse (my son was too ill for me to take him home in my car) because it took quite some time (and me screaming at the medical personnel in the health clinic for a chest x-ray…think Shirley McLaine in “Terms of Endearment”) before my son was diagnosed with pneumonia. I am now home since my son seems to be on the road to recovery. What does this story have to do with my vegan website? Let me tell you…

In my attempt to do everything possible to help my son while I was in Syracuse, I went to the Syracuse University Bookstore to buy him a new backpack and pick up some special order textbooks. While wandering around the bookstore, I noticed a vast collection of vegan cookbooks and other books relating to veganism on the shelves. Although I suspected that most college campuses catered to vegans and vegetarians, I had a strong sense that something more was going on in this bookstore. In fact, during my two week stay in Syracuse and on other prior visits, I felt some type of “vegan radar” in the city which I could not explain. Maybe it was because the all-vegan Strong Hearts Cafe which I often frequented was always busy or because I noticed the numerous “Meatless Monday” signs displayed around campus. I could not put my finger on it, but I felt “something.”

In any event, I went to the cashier in the bookstore with the new backpack in hand. Let me add that I was feeling somewhat hopeless and gloomy at that point because my son was not doing well. When I handed the backpack to the cashier, she cheerily stated that I had picked a great backpack. She was so nice and friendly, that I immediately began to cheer up. Sometimes it just takes a kind soul to do that to you. When I whipped out my wallet to pay for the backpack, the cashier stated “oh, I love your wallet and I love the company that makes it!” I told her that my friend had given me this Matt & Nat wallet as a birthday gift, to which she replied “I know all about Matt & Nat because I am a vegan.” I told her that I am a vegan too. Then, she showed me her cool boots from the brand “Vegetarian Shoes” and I showed her my faux UGGS from Neuaura.

The cashier introduced herself as Larissa who told me that she has been vegan for 14 years. When I told her that I noticed the impressive selection of vegan books in the bookstore, she said “oh yeah, that’s because my sister works here too and she is in charge of picking the books; she has been vegan for 22 years.”  When Larissa introduced me to her sister, Leah, I remember thinking that they must have adopted a vegan lifestyle when they were very small children because they looked so young. Leah was just as lovely as her sister, Larissa, and we began talking about vegan stuff. For the record, Leah absolutely loved the donut sundae at Dun-Well Doughnuts in Brooklyn and they both loved the restaurant “Vegetarian’s Paradise 2” in NYC. I told them that the next time they visit the city, they must try any of the Blossom restaurants and the Vegan Divas Bakery. Larissa believed that “you could really sway someone towards veganism with some great vegan baked goods.” She loves the book “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. So do I!

When I told Larissa and Leah about my “vegan radar” thing, they told me that I was not wrong. In fact, they stated that Syracuse is a legendary hub for the Straight Edge Movement and the straight-edge band Earth Crisis which promotes veganism. They attempted to explain a bit about the movement and the band which I clearly knew nothing about… “did you ever see the sXe or X tattoos on hands?” I never noticed. I responded that maybe the owners of the Strong Hearts Cafe were part of the movement and it was revealed that the owners of Strong Hearts are great friends with the members of Earth Crisis. I also learned that DJ Rose, the owner of the tattoo parlor “Halo” on Marshall Street which is adjacent to Syracuse University, is also a great friend of the band’s members.

In any event, I really wanted to learn about the Straight Edge Movement and the vegan straight-edge band Earth Crisis, so I did a little homework. Here is some of what I learned…


Straight Edge (also written as “sXe”) refers to a subculture of hardcore punk which was a direct reaction to the hedonism and excess associated with punk rock. In the late 1970s and early 1980s a group of bands and kids didn’t like what was going on around them…the self destruction, self hatred and pain and suffering caused by the punk mentality. They took a symbol that was originally used to identify them as being too young to drink so that bartenders wouldn’t serve them, and they made it their own. They started wearing X’s on their hands to show their commitment to abstaining from using drugs, alcohol and tobacco products. The movement got its name from the song “Straight Edge” by the band Minor Threat. The song was written to express the band’s beliefs of a clean lifestyle or “straight edge.”

In the mid 1980s, the band “Youth Crew” became associated with the straight edge movement, and their song “Youth Crew” expressed a desire to unite the scene into a movement. Vegetarianism became an important theme in straight edge during this era, catapulting a trend towards animal rights and veganism that would reach its peak in the 1990s. In the mid 1990s, a number of bands advocating social justice, animal liberation, veganism, and straight edge practices leaned towards metal. The movement spread around the world and became different things to different people. Contrary to news reports that portrayed straight edge as a gang, its commitment to peace, justice and progressive causes remains at the roots of the movement.


The mid 1990s straight edge movement saw explosive growth due in large part to the pro animal rights, pro straight edge band Earth Crisis, a metalcore band from Syracuse, New York. Since their formation in 1991, these innovative and hardcore pioneers have successfully spread their messages of animal and human liberation, drug-free living and social justice worldwide. In 2001, Earth Crisis played the final show of their initial career at Hellfest in Syracuse, New York.

Earth Crisis reunited in January of 2007 and in July 2011 they released their seventh album Neutralize the Threat. They are currently touring Australia to support this album. You can read an excellent interview of Scott Crouse, guitarist for Earth Crisis, on the website More Than Ink. In this interview, I actually read that people sometimes throw animal products and alcohol at the band during shows. I bet that doesn’t happen to Maroon 5!

My Thoughts And Opinions

Why am I so fascinated by the Straight Edge Movement, Earth Crisis and my new friends Larissa and Leah from Syracuse, New York?

First of all, I now understand why the wonderful vegan chef and cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz named her vegan website Post Punk Kitchen. In the introduction of her cookbook Vegan With A Vengeance, she talks about her involvement with the activists and punks on the Lower East Side of NYC where she volunteered for Food Not Bombs, cooking breakfast for everyone before a demonstration and making snacks while silk-screening banners. Clearly, Isa was part of the punk movement which advocated for animal rights, social justice and other progressive causes.

Secondly, I feel a connection to the city of Syracuse since my son is a student at the university. I am fascinated by the Straight Edge Movement, Earth Crisis and Larissa and Leah’s veganism because of this connection and because I admire their courage, dedication to higher causes and non-conformity which has continued for so many years to the present day. Small seeds of change have to be planted somewhere and they were clearly planted in Syracuse, New York by people who had (and still have) the courage to follow their hearts and give a damn about the world they live in. I am sure that staying vegan all those years ago was not so easy for Leah and Larissa without stores like Whole Foods or Natur-Tyme in Syracuse. I would bet that most people did not even know what the word “vegan” meant over 20 years ago. I know that I sure didn’t! It was because of their higher levels of consciousness and movements like Straight Edge which led mainstreamers like me to become vegan so many years later and to take notice of the horrors of factory farming and other issues related to the abuse of animals.

So, if you are reading this post, Leah and Larissa, thank you for having the kind hearts which I know you must have and thank you for bringing a little light to my recent dark days in Syracuse. I hope you enjoy the tin of Vegan Divas’ spelt brownies which I sent you!

To the rest of you who follow a vegan lifestyle…dare to be “different” because “different” changes the world!

Straight Edge Tattoo


Larissa Loves This Book For Baking Great Vegan Cupcakes!


Some Vegan Books At Syracuse University Bookstore Picked By Leah

More Picks By Leah

Even more…

If you’re interested…check out this video clip of Earth Crisis-Total War from the album “Neutralize The Threat”



  1. What a fantastic write up, we’re so pleased to have met a fellow vegan who is dedicated and inspirational, it’s people like you who help change minds and alter attitudes about vegan living!

  2. Really fascinating and inspiring, Deb!

  3. Hi Debby! I’m a senior at Syracuse. I came across your post as I was searching to see if Halo tattoo offered vegan ink. I found your post very intriguing! Wish I knew more about the vegan community here, too bad I’m graduating next week. Glad I found this though, thanks!


  1. […] you’ve already read my post entitled Straight Edge Veganism: Syracuse, New York, then you will know how much I respect artists such as the straight edge band Earth Crisis who […]

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