I am not exaggerating! Let me tell you the story.
I was living in Berkeley when I decided that I wanted to go to a new level in my veganism. I had been a vegan for 2 years or so. My friend, Bo, because of her deep empathy for the welfare of animals, inspired me to become an animal rights activist.
At age 62 I finally learned what I wanted to do with my life!
Direct Action Everywhere came into my life right when I needed it so I could focus on my new passion. I really think this is what I am going to be involved with for the rest of my life: working with others to create a vegan utopia where all of life can thrive.
I remember with great joy how I learned about DxE. I felt compelled to go to a Martin Luther King, Jr. nonviolence training event. I was torn about attending because I was wanting some time to myself. But just as so many things in my life have happened, I think that God was guiding me to go because I was supposed to meet Paul, Cassie, Sarah and a few other DxE activists.
I was so surprised to find out that there were 6 vegans in the workshop–and there were only 15 people! But I learned during the lunch break that all of them were attending because of DxE. Paul very eloquently told me about DxE, the open rescue strategies, and the Berkeley Animal Rights Center. I ended up not going to the 2nd day of the training because I was not super inspired by the format. But my main purpose in attending was accomplished. I believe I was guided to be there to learn about DxE.
I was really inspired to learn that people from all over the world were coming to live in Berkeley in order to help pass legislation to make Berkeley the first city in the world where exploitation of animals was outlawed. Because of my passion for community, I enjoyed hearing about how people were willing to live really simply.
I felt inspired to hear how people were sacrificing their comfort and privacy by sharing rooms and learning how to get along. They wanted to save money so they could work less at regular jobs and be able to work more at being activists.
I was very happy that every Saturday there was an event at the ARC. I remember the first time I went. There was a class on meditation. I was encouraged that they were focusing on inner work as well as the outer activism. Everyone was super friendly.
I was thrilled to meet the dog who Wayne and friends rescued from the Yulin Festival in China where dogs are cruelly tortured and killed so people can eat them. I heard the story how these brave people risked their lives to both document this travesty as well as save Oliver and his friend.
I experienced much warmth from the folks at the ARC. Michael, who died last year in a car accident, took me under his wing. He even gave me a ride to the farmers market and we had a wonderful talk while driving there. How sad I was when I learned of his death because even though I only knew him a short time, I loved him a lot. I later met his mother and sister when we went to the very first Save Vigil during the 2017 forum. I was glad to be able to tell them how much I appreciated Michael and celebrate his life with them.
I continued to attend various gatherings in the next month or so and all of them were really inspiring and organized.
I left to go back to my home in the Ozarks, where the vision of Jesus Vegans Ecovillage was born. At the time, I was very much involved with Christianity. I am changing the name of the community to Vegan Utopia Ecovillage.
I came back to Berkeley in early May 2016. I was visiting a friend for a few weeks and did not know about the DxE Forum that was happening in late May. After attending a DxE event and learning about the Forum, I felt inspired to cancel my return flight and stay another month so I could participate. I am so glad I did! I found such camaraderie, inspiration, and encouragement in all the activities.
I was very vocal about my Christian walk because I wanted to share about Jesus Vegans Ecovillage, and I also wanted to have conversations with people about their spiritual paths.
I was delighted to find that people were really open and accepting of my faith walk especially as I was accepting of theirs. I now see that people influenced me more than I realized.
Because I had the courage to share that I was part of a very unpopular spiritual path, people shared with me the tragic stories of their experiences with Christianity. I have heard these stories from countless people.
At that time, I wanted people to know that there were Christians who did not believe that non-Christians were going to hell because of their beliefs. I still thought there were parts of Christianity which people could derive good out of, and so I hoped to plant some seeds that would inspire people to be more open to surrendering their lives to Christ.
Now, I realize what happened was that all these loving atheists, agnostics, and others people who were not Christian–helped me realize that vegans of any kind of spirituality were the kind of people I wanted to be around.
I also realized that the very nature of Christianity, even Christian Universalism (they don’t believe in eternal damnation) meant that I had to think my path was better than anyone else’s path. Even though I felt uncomfortable about that part of the Christian path, I still accepted it because I thought that I needed to belong to the Christian path in order to be happy and at peace.
I now call myself an ex-Christian who considers Jesus my friend and guide rather than Lord and Savior. I am seeing how the beliefs of Christianity just separate me from my vegan friends.
Veganism is my foundational value and Christianity certainly does not share that value. That is one of the many reasons I have decided to withdraw my energy from this religion.
After the Forum, I felt inspired to host a Community: Connect! Event at the ARC. I was really delighted with how Almira helped me to reserve the ARC on an available night even though I’m sure she was exhausted after all the work at the Forum. The handful of people who showed up seemed to really enjoy the event, and I was glad to get to know people even better.
I made so many friends at the Forum, and in my visits at the ARC. I stay in touch with some of them still. I love staying connected with DxE with the new happenings at ARC.
I’m really happy to hear that the next Forum is expanding. DxE is really into forming coalitions, and I am passionate about that as well. This year the Save Movement will be a cosponsor. I envision next year that there will be more cosponsors, and the biggest problem will be to find a place to seet 5000 people. They are expecting 1000!
Now it is called the Animal Liberation Conference, and I am going! I am SO excited.
I will forever be grateful to DxE for the contribution this organization has made to my life. I want to thank all the wonderful people who are a part of DxE who helped me feel at home and nurtured, including Wayne, Paul, Matt Johnson, Priya, Almira, Jason, Sage, Andrew, Cassie, Jon, Jay, Jake and so many more.
I am hoping that some DxE people will want to help co-found this Vegan Utopia Ecovillage and then we can get a chapter started. There are still only a large handful of animal rights activists in my neck of the woods, and they are mostly focusing on doing Anonymous for the Voiceless actions, which is wonderful. I will be co-leading an event at the end of March 2018.
I look forward to seeing how I can be supportive of DxE now that I am focusing on how to help people live in healthy vegan intentional communities. I know they are doing a great job in Berkeley with helping activists live in community houses, which is so awesome!
Yet some people can be in the country as well!
Thank you, DxE. I am forever indebted to you for helping me to get involved with the animal rights movement. I hope I can pay you back by the work that I do in my particular niche!