Cultivating Relationships and Building a Strong Movement
by Priya Sawhney
Movement building is the most promising tool we activists have in order to achieve our goals. Strong movements need strong leaders, and strong leaders come into being when ordinary people with high character dedicate themselves to doing good. In Direct Action Everywhere’s growing network, we have had the opportunity to work with some of these dedicated leaders who have the vision of creating a strong movement, a movement that will ultimately lead to Animal Liberation.
Last weekend, activists with DxE in Southern California-- Missy Freeland, Nicholas Shaw-mcminn, and Lola Kay visited us. Besides the glowing warmth and high energy they bring, Missy, Nick, and Lola all came with stories to share and a curiosity with which to listen and learn. In my first conversation with Missy and Nick—a loving couple who work together in running a small property management business—I told them, “You both have such a strong work ethic.” They must work to do right by their clients who are often undermined by others in the business.
In a very short time period, Missy and Nick have started to build a promising community in their hometown of Riverside, California. “We have to make people feel welcome. Building a strong community is the most important aspect of activism,” Nick told me.” During a busy weekend with many newcomers, I saw Nick and Missy welcome people into a home where they themselves were supposed to be guests. Their welcoming spirits inspired me to become a better community member myself.
Besides being a dear friend of mine, Lola Kay is someone whose perseverance and resilience have personally encouraged me to move past difficult situations and carry on in organizing protests and speaking up for the animals. No matter how difficult the situation may be, Lola always has the faith, confidence, and humility required to move past challenges and troubles we are bound to come across. Lola has come across many hurdles while organizing in L.A. However, she has always dealt with situations constructively.
The most inspiring part about Lola, Nick, and Missy’s visit was seeing their enthusiasm and willingness for doing actions. On their way back home, three of them stopped by a grocery store and did a disruption at its dairy aisle, accepting the #disruptspeciesism challenge. For the first time, both Missy and Lola had their banners ripped from them, but they maintained their composure, shared their truth, and left.
The power of creating a global network of Animal Rights Activists is strongest when we can learn from one another, exchange feedback, share ideas, collaborate on how to problem solve, and inspire one another. Perhaps most importantly, the way we can most benefit from cultivating such relationships is when we can inspire and remind one another that, though the path to creating a strong movement may be tough at times, it’s absolutely worth it to push harder and keep moving forward.