Why DxE Wednesday XXIV: Amy Stewart
Q: What inspired you to first get involved with activism and to join DxE?
I had been vegetarian most of my life, and had been toying with veganism on and off for about a year. I was feeling incredibly empty; there was this craving to do more, accomplish more, have a more insightful impact on the world. I just didn't know where to start. I joined a group for vegans and vegetarians in Cleveland, and was contacted by Erika Jensen shortly afterwards. She showed me some videos of the Forum from 2015, and we talked for a while about direct action. I realized that this was exactly the kind of thing I needed in my life, and I went to my first disruption about a week later.
Q: What is your favorite or most accomplished moment in activism or other DxE activity?
I've been lucky enough to be a part of a couple of very big actions. I traveled to Toronto to be part of a march, I spent a week in Berkeley and San Francisco and participated in a street blockade with 150 activists and I was part of a Ribfest disruption in Chicago. But honestly, my most accomplished moment was when I participated in my first ever DxE disruption at a Whole Foods, one year ago this week. For some reason, I believed that our meeting at Starbucks was sort of an informal get together, so I was thrown completely off guard when Billy and Erika showed up with signs and started going over the rules of a disruption! I have crippling anxiety and usually need at least a week to mentally prepare for new things, so I ran into the bathroom to hide and have a panic attack. I started trying to come up with ways to get out of doing the disruption, but after a few moments, I was able to breathe again. I realized that this was finally that missing piece that I was looking for, and I wanted nothing more than to go back out there with the others and participate. I was able to swallow my anxiety, and we marched to Whole Foods and had a great disruption. I felt so overwhelmed after it was all over, and I couldn't wait to do more with the group. A secondary reason that this first disruption was so meaningful to me is that I realized that it was possible for me to fight through my anxiety and conquer whatever it was that I set my mind to do; this has helped me not only with all the disruptions I've done, but with my daily life as well. It was a huge accomplishment for me.
Q: How does being an activist and a mother influence you?
Being both an activist and a mother is equally traumatizing and rewarding. I get a lot of push back from a lot of people. People wonder if I am setting a good example for my daughter. There is this underlying belief that stepping away from the status quo is dangerous, and in being an activist, I am harming my daughter in some way. Admittedly, sometimes I feel buried by others expectations of me. I feel torn between doing what is right and doing what others want me to do. Some people think that it is not possible to be a good parent while following your passions. I deal with this kind of attitude quite a bit. It does get to me from time to time, but I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing. I love being able to show my daughter that sometimes you have to be brave and go against the current in order to be happy and do the right thing. I love that she sees me overcoming my fears and anxieties to make a difference. I love how she is learning, at her own pace, what so many others have tried to shield from her, and she is one of the lucky ones who was able to break free at such a young age. I am an activist not just for the animals, but for the planet and for the health of those of us who are inhabiting it, and I love knowing that I am doing something that will hopefully make my daughter's generation live happier and healthier lives.
Q: How do you stay motivated as an activist?
I enjoy watching videos of other disruptions. Seeing the negative reactions that people get inspire me to work even harder at what I do. I also try my best to keep in touch with fellow activists. I think we all inspire and motivate each other. Being an activist is tough on the mind, so I also try to step away from activism sometimes to give myself a breather so I don't burn out. I enjoy searching for sea glass on the beach with my daughter, I take my furry roommates to the dog park, I read and re-read all of my favorite books. I think that taking an occasional break is incredibly important for our mental health, which in turn makes us even stronger and more motivated when we come back to it.
Q: What advice would you give to new activists?
Take a moment before each disruption to close your eyes, breathe deeply and remember who you are doing this for. Don't beat yourself up if you get too nervous or scared to do something. Take time to yourself if you get overwhelmed. Count on your activist friends to lift you up and support you if you need it.
Q: Why Animal Liberation?
Animals are dying by the billions and it is up to us to fight for them.