Eight Women of Colour Changing the World for Animals
“Working together makes us, and our impact, stronger.”
Last month, the Unbound Project partnered with Encompass to highlight the work of women of colour within the animal advocacy movement.
Encompass is a non-profit organization committed to building a more effective animal protection movement by fostering racial diversity and inclusivity.
With Encompass’ support, Unbound’s platforms were used to help amplify the voices of women of colour working in animal advocacy, and further the discussion around the topic of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion.
A big thank you to Encompass and all of the amazing women who shared their advice and insights with us. Read on to get inspired by their wonderful stories!
Founder and Executive Director of Encompass
Aryenish Birdie has worked in various social justice movements, including those striving for racial equity, queer rights, and reproductive freedom. Since 2017, she’s been fully focused on building the foundations of nonprofit organization Encompass.
Encompass empowers farmed animal organizations to operationalize racial diversity, equity, and inclusion to further our collective mission of animal protection. It also empowers advocates of colour by cultivating leadership potential and providing a space for individuals to enter and thrive within the movement.
Birdie founded Encompass after witnessing firsthand the urgent need for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive animal protection movement.
“As a queer, light-skinned woman born in the Midwest from immigrant parents, I’ve struggled with identity and place my whole life. I never feel totally at home anywhere, so I’m always searching to belong. Working to develop Encompass has been personally satisfying because it’s an organization I myself need, but more importantly, it feels wonderful to build something for the animal movement that supports other people of colour.”
We spoke with Aryenish Birdie to find out more about her work.
Former Managing Director at Better Eating International / Managing Director at Encompass
Michelle Rojas-Soto is the former Managing Director of Better Eating International, an organization using customized digital media to deliver progressive vegan education on a massive scale. She is a founding member of Gender Equity in Animal Rights (GEAR). Rojas-Soto just recently joined Encompass as Managing Director. Her work is focused on the interconnectedness of issues and manifests her commitment to fighting prejudice, hate, and apathy on all fronts.
She shared with us her insights on how we can work together to make activism spaces more open and inclusive:
“Using language from Tamika Butler, activists who want to support women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour should shift from being actors to allies, and from being allies to accomplices. Tacitly supporting women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour is not enough. Instead, we must actively engage with women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour in their journey, share and even transfer resources to them if we are to achieve meaningful transformation and justice. Essentially, what I am advocating for here is love, the action that requires us to extend ourselves for the benefit of someone’s growth.”
Here are some of Rojas-Soto’s specific suggestions on ways we can do this:
•Connect with women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour doing work in animal rights, ask questions, find out what they need, volunteer, and help them secure additional resources.
•Become a vocal advocate for women of colour and gender non-conforming people of colour in forums with other activists who know less than you about the subject.
•Study history, read the books Aphro-ism and Sistah Vegan.
•Be a champion for racial equity and gender equity within your own organization.
The Soulful Veganista Blogger and Holistic Lifestyle Coach
Jamila Anahata is a passionate activist, blogger of thesoulfulveganista.com and holistic lifestyle coach.
Through a personal journey to take charge of her own health, which started almost five years ago, Anahata launched The Soulful Veganista, which aims to support people in finding the healer within themselves and to decolonize their lives through a conscious lifestyle. Anahata does this through a variety of mediums including writing and social media, holistic lifestyle coaching, and hosting local events.
“When I first went vegan, my goal was to spread awareness about wellness, holistic living, and veganism in the Black community. Those are still my missions but my advocacy slightly changed after I got into social justice because it’s something we don’t always incorporate in every movement. Now I advocate considering (hopefully) everyone’s level of ability, accessibility, and needs.”
Anahata’s suggestions for building a more inclusive movement:
“The best thing activists can do is to use their platform to amplify the voices of women of colour. Listen to us, respect our stances, learn more about our struggles, share and credit our work, and don’t police us about our delivery as if our words are more violent than the oppression that plagues us and other marginalized folks.”
Billie “Bee” Bryan
Billie “Bee” Bryan on the power of shared values.
Billie Bryan, affectionately known as “Bee,” is an eco-conscious graphic designer, web designer, artist, musician, activist and vegan. She is also a pansexual, polyamorous, transgender woman advocating for the representation and visibility of her LGBTQIA+ community. When “Bee” is not organising queer meetups and hosting workshops, she’s working from home or on the go as ‘Bee The Designer’, providing design and marketing services to small businesses with big ideas!
“Use what you’ve got to make a difference. I decided to put my greatest skills to use in the best way I knew how and to fill a need that few others were able to. That’s how I contribute. Through all of the work I do, both as part of my own non-profit and as a service provider to others championing a similar message, I hope to help open people’s eyes to rampant inequality affecting human and non-human animals alike.”
Born and raised in the Cayman Islands, eco-conscious creative professional Billie “Bee” Bryan is working to radically reshape the prevalent conservative mindset of her country and create a safe, social environment for LGBTQIA+ people across the Caribbean and Latin America through the work of Colours Cayman, the nation’s first LGBTQIA+ non-profit organization that she founded in 2018.
“I consider animal advocacy to be something of a gateway drug to the recognition of a myriad other socio-political issues. And with so many other social movements breaking ground and continuing to gain momentum, people are beginning to connect the dots. The fact that we’re now considering issues of race, gender and diversity when discussing animal advocacy speaks to that.
There’s a significant amount of overlap and I feel that our commonalities will lend strength to all our efforts. When people with a common interest band together to achieve a common goal, your gender, your nationality, your age or your background is virtually irrelevant; they will fight with you, side by side, as equals. And very few have shown as much empathy and compassion as the activists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
Having worked with or volunteered for animal advocacy groups from around the world, ‘Bee The Designer’s’ clients consist largely of like-minded eco-conscious or vegan non-profits and solopreneurs. “Bee” aims to align her values with those she caters to and amplify their efforts with the help of her creative genius and marketing know-how.
Former International Director of Corporate Outreach at Animal Equality
Jaya Bhumitra has nearly 20 years of campaigns and public affairs experience in both the private and non-profit sectors, including a decade in animal advocacy.
Recently, she served as the International Director of Corporate Outreach for Animal Equality, an Animal Charity Evaluators Top Charity. She serves on the advisory council of Encompass, and on the governing board for the Los Angeles chapter of New Leaders Council, the premier leadership training program for young progressives.
In the two-and-a-half years since launching the corporate outreach department for Animal Equality, Bhumitra hired, trained, and led new teams in Mexico, Brazil, India, Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. to achieve 115 animal welfare policies from the world’s largest food companies, meaningfully reducing the suffering of approximately 40 million animals raised and killed for food each year.
Bhumitra’s suggestions on how we can work together to create more open and inclusive activism spaces:
“One of the most important ways activists can support women of colour – and non-binary folks of colour – in the animal protection movement is by elevating their voices. Rather than posting your own thoughts on social media, share a blog or status by a woman or non-binary person of colour who may have a more acute social commentary to provide, but who may not have as wide a platform from which to be heard.
This doesn’t mean only reposting when we have something to say about our gender or racial identities. This means making space for all of our good ideas and to acknowledge our professional expertise, resharing our content whether we’re describing our varied philosophical and practical approaches to activism or opinions on animal-protection- and vegan-related news.
Likewise, it’s crucial to fund the organizations and advocacy efforts of women and non-binary folks of colour who bear more emotional labor and are stretched in more directions than white-led organizations. If we want to see activism spaces become more open and inclusive, we need to make it possible for those initiatives by women and non-binary folks of colour to thrive.”
We spoke with Jaya Bhumitra about how the movement has evolved over the last few years, including how #ARMeToo and #TimesUpAR have impacted the community.
Culture and Engagement Specialist at the Good Food Institute
Inspired by the possibilities for growth and innovation in the plant-based foods market, Anastasia brings her skills and passion to The Good Food Institute where she supports the creation of a respectful, fair, diverse, and high-performance culture that enables employees to contribute their very best to the organization.
“Before 2015, I admittedly knew very little about industrial animal agriculture and its impact on the environment, food security, global health, and animal welfare. Four years ago, I just happened to pick up and read Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz; that book turned my world upside down. I spent many hours after work and on the weekends binge-reading everything I could about animal agriculture, thinking to myself, ‘how is it that I am only now learning about all of this?!’ The more I learned, the more difficult it became to focus on my tech recruiting job knowing what was going on all around me.”
Orth graduated with honours from the University of California at Berkeley. After beginning her career in sales, Orth was a recruiter for startups in Silicon Valley where she witnessed first-hand the power of technology to transform and disrupt long-established industries and practices.
“In my pursuit of a career transition, I discovered The Good Food Institute and was immediately inspired by the organization’s multi-faceted approach to using markets and innovation to create a more sustainable, healthy, and just global food system from the inside out.”
Orth’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in the movement:
“Many studies show that women are only likely to apply to jobs if they feel they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men will apply to jobs if they feel they meet 60% of the qualifications. I’d encourage anyone who wants to get professionally involved in activism to just GO FOR IT. Acknowledge your learning capacity. Don’t think that you have to know everything before stepping in. I didn’t know much before entering this space—I just knew I wanted to be a part of it. We can learn just about anything, but what’s most important is having the drive and desire—a growth mindset, if you will. If this is truly your heart’s passion, then get after it, sisters! You WILL learn.”
Open Wing Alliance Events Coordinate at the Humane League
Romina Giel is the Open Wing Alliance Events Coordinator at The Humane League, an organization that exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food. Giel’s personal mission aligns with The Humane League’s mission; end the abuse of animals raised for food.
“Since joining The Humane League’s Open Wing Alliance, which works to end the use of battery cages globally, I’ve deepened my appreciation for collaboration. Working with them and knowing that we all have one common goal, is incredibly fulfilling.”
Giel’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in the movement:
“Get involved! Reflect on the skills you have and how you can apply them to activism. Organisations in the movement have volunteer opportunities in every department. Don’t ever doubt yourself or assume you won’t make a difference because you absolutely will! And if you’re not ready to commit to an organisation, showing up to local protests or signing up to receive online actions, makes a huge difference too.”
Founder of Stray Dog Capital
Lisa Feria is the CEO of Stray Dog Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage, mission-driven companies that aim to take animals out of the supply chain using innovative products and services. With over 26 investments, Stray Dog Capital is one of the leading early-stage investors in the plant-based market.
With the drive of Lisa Feria behind it, Stray Dog Capital works to accelerate a massive shift away from animal agriculture by helping amazing entrepreneurs deliver incredible food that doesn’t require people to radically change the way they eat!
Feria’s advice to other women looking to make an impact in the movement:
“Don’t be afraid to be visible and open with your thoughts, ideas and brand. Find great mentors and leverage them for introductions and influence. Finally, don’t stop learning and leveling your skills up.”
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