Why DxE Wednesday XVI: Kelsey Atkinson
This is the latest installment in a series of interviews with DxE activists by Rachel Waite, who is part of the blog team and an organizer for DxE Grand Rapids (MI)
Q: What inspired you to first get involved with activism and to join DxE?
I have been an activist for years albeit primarily for environmental causes and as a regular participant in demonstrations advocating for LGBTQ rights, Pro-Choice, Black Lives Matter, and other social justice causes. Activism appeals to me because I believe every injustice should be treated with a sense of urgency, and the best way to facilitate systemic change is to convert the passion of the masses to nonviolent actions that send a direct, clear message of your demands to the source of the problem.
I joined DxE because I was an aspiring advocate for veganism but quickly learned the most effective way to create a more vegan-friendly world was not to advocate for veganism, but to demand rights for animals. DxE pulled me in by claiming that veganism was not enough -- to be vegan, I was simply choosing to not participate in violence against animals, but to become an activist meant I could prevent violence from occurring. At the first DxE event I attended, I brought my ukulele, and after discussions of intersectionality and enjoying a vegan potluck, we came together to practice a song about animal liberation written by one of the group's organizers. As a musician and lover of intersectionality discussions, I felt like this group was a perfect fit for me.
Q: How did you go from the 'quiet vegan' to a vocal activist for the animals?
I stopped being selfish and worrying what others thought about me and started putting my passion and the needs of non-human animals first. I had been a quiet vegan for about 4 years and was all too aware that by simply existing as a vegan I was making others feel uncomfortable. This pushed me into a "vegan closet" of sorts, as I felt guilty for unintentionally drawing out others' insecurities around their dietary choices. Joining DxE gave me greater confidence in my veganism and helped me realize I was doing a great disservice to myself as well as the animals when I allowed these "false harmonies" with non-vegans to continue. I became confident in my choice to be non-violent towards animals and more confident to engage with conflict rather than ignore its existence. In a matter of months I went from being a quiet vegan, to activist, to organizer, to liberation pledger (not sitting with others while they eat animal bodies), to blocking a street intersection in San Francisco on behalf of the animals.
Q: What is your favorite or most accomplished moment in activism or other DxE activity?
I feel the most accomplished moment has yet to come! I felt an extra sense of pride in the first DxE action I helped organize, Hop To It, where we had a series of demonstrations in downtown Chicago to protest cosmetics testing on animals. Throughout the demonstrations, I could really sense DxE members, old and new, forming bonds with one another and becoming more confident and prideful in their activism. It was amazing to see so many people from different backgrounds come together around this one cause with such unity, harmony, and passion. It’s a good feeling when after a new member's first action, they happily exclaim that they are definitely coming back for more demonstrations.
Q: Your chapter has had a lot of recent growth and momentum. What advice would you give to other organizers to mobilize activists?
Don't underestimate the power of sharing meals together after actions. Taking the time to debrief from an action, truly listening to the thoughts and concerns of all members, and getting to know one another on a personal level has done wonders for our movement. Empower each member by listening to their ideas and making them come to life. Take time to create friendships, as that is what keeps people coming back (plus it’s great getting to know so many amazing people!)
Q: How do you stay motivated as an activist?
The presence of injustice and violence towards animals in every facet of life keeps me motivated; my love for animals and my fellow activists is what sustains my motivation.
Q: Why Animal Liberation?
Animals deserve a revolution, and unlike other oppressed groups, non-human animals are so severely exploited and hidden away from the public eye that others must elevate their voices and build a movement for them. I believe humanity will never overcome oppression if humans are still under the belief that they are greater than any other group, whether it be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or species. Some people might think that by advocating for animal rights, I'm apathetic and/or uninvolved in advocating for other social justice causes. To the contrary, since joining DxE I have engaged in more meaningful and transformative conversations with folks who were previously oblivious or apathetic to the importance of being allies or advocates for other oppressed groups. When I was living in an uber-progressive (except for animal rights) bubble, any discussion about human oppression was like preaching to the choir. In an animal rights group, there is a major unlocked potential to educate open-minded and compassionate folks on other forms of oppression. In short -- I can advocate for the animals and humans all in one beautiful, essential, and transformative movement!