I joined a popular activism group on Saturday for the very first time and wanted to share with you all exactly what it is like to get out there and be an active vegan trying to make a difference in the world! I had reservations for years but now I will never look back and here is why...
Why I Decided To Be An Activist
So I have been somewhat of a 'closet vegan' up until I started my blog and haven't until now fully immersed myself into the real world of speaking out to the general public. Of course I have done my public speaking at events such as VegFest, but that's educating people that are willingly listening, wanting to listen in fact, already Vegan or having already made the choice to soon go vegan. I found myself often thinking "How do you reach those that are still completely in the dark?". The answer- You go out into the light of day and speak up!
How Did I Decide What Activism To Be A Part Of?
As you know I have always avoided the 'nasty' side of things, I keep my material suitable for people of all ages to look at with my angle set to be the extra smiley, silly face pulling, positive voice within our growing vegan community. Thinking about small kids seeing graphic footage did trigger my instinctual mothering mode to kick in, but then I realised that I need to protect them from being a part of this even more so! The truth may momentarily make them sad, but isn't it worse when you're an adult and find out about what you have been a part of for years? I think it is. So the Cube Of Truth with the amazing Anonymous for the Voiceless group it was.
They have outreach tactics that fit comfortably with my own methods by only interacting with the public that approach them. The cube itself is a silent protest meaning you aren't portraying any aggression or causing any hostility and they aim to advise people to learn more when they leave, only if they have shown a genuine interest and want to make a difference.
Above all I respected their respect towards the sensitive content that children could see. They have rules in place to ensure that if any child is watching without an adult present, a member of the AV team will come over and find their parents or walk them away from the footage and talk to them.
O.K so you have to wear all black and although I am a massive fan of the 'all black errthang' look on occasion, I did feel like some sort of Ninja when I was running through Derby city centre trying not to be late for the briefing!
Upon arrival it was a mixed feeling of nerves and excitement in the air. It was a big turn out thanks to Earthling Ed joining us and many of activist newbies (including myself!) were looking like lost puppies; but what with us being vegans everyone adopted a pup and looked after each other! Everyone got briefed and the day began...
Cube Of Truth
I started in the Cube Of Truth, wearing the symbolic mask and gripping onto my iPad. As I pulled the mask down I felt a wave of panic come over me, but within seconds it left and I was completely lost in the tranquillity of literally being stood still, silent and only able to observe what was directly in front of me. If nothing else this experience was like free meditation! How often do you stand still and simply look?
Observing peoples reactions was fascinating. Some people saw and quickly looked away (avoidance mode), some looked, stopped, understood then walked away (denial mode), but others, others stopped and truly took it in. The people that were directly in front of me looking down at the pain displayed on my iPad had a sorrow in their eyes. Some cried, some looked horrified and some even looked angry, but what they all had in common was compassion. This is when an outreach member steps in.
After some time I raised my hand and asked for a break from the cube and joined in with the outreach team. The outreach team are the guys that stand outside of the cube and speak to the not so passing public that stop and stare. I was pretty nervous at first but having the support of the team that run this group made it easy.
I quickly learnt to lead with questions. Ask them how the footage made them feel, and conversation flew fluently from then on. All of the answers I got to that question were heartbreaking, I could see the sadness, feel their concern and totally related to the instant guilt they had.
Once a person sticks around to talk to you long enough and shows a genuine want to find out
more, we offer them an information card with all the links to popular and/or current documentaries about living a Vegan Lifestyle and then you leave it in their hands. But not the way you'd expect.
Talking even for a few minutes with people you don't know, about such a sensitive subject, makes you connect in a way that's honestly quite fascinating. For someone that is renowned for being pretty awkward (OK I am a lot awkward!) I found it incredibly easy to wish strangers well, shake their hands, and give them a hug before parting ways. You have just opened their eyes to something that is a very hard truth and unexpectedly guilt triggering for them. You find yourself wanting to support people immediately. It truly is a united and beautiful community to be a part of.
How Did The Day Go?
Great! Fantastic! A 'I want to do it all over again instantly' kind of situation, and I will. Just because its a dark hidden truth that we are revealing doesn't mean that the day is harrowing and gloomy. Ironically it was raining all day but my energy honestly felt like that of a summers morning were everything is alive. It may sound cheesy (vegan cheesy) but its the truth, and the truth is what activism is all about.
Earthling Ed raised to the occasion as always and we followed his lead with how to speak compassionately but factually to those that approached the cube. If you haven't seen his videos yet then they definitely need to go on your 'to watch' list!
As promised (...possibly slightly intimidated by me to do so) Vegan cook Epi Vegan showed up with a tray of his homemade Vegan Brownies in hand to keep us energised and of course to support us. Such a compassionate guy with a presence of true integrity; he is definitely someone worth hitting the follow button for.
At the end of the day we all headed into a local pub for some vegan grub and caught up with each other. I couldn't believe what I was hearing when Heidi, a member of the AV group, told me that her lovely daughter Ella, who had been outreaching all day, was 12! For me, founding the Grow Up Vegan blog and my main message being that the younger generation are literally the future of veganism, this felt like winning a full line in the lottery! Ella is absolute proof that the children of today are the vegans of tomorrow and I am proud to have been a part of her first experience in activism.
How To Get Involved
Click this link to find out more about Anonymous for the Voiceless. To join in, select the 'events' tab to see when the next event is, local to you. To find your local AV group then click the 'Locations' tab at the top of their home page.
I hope this has opened your eyes to how activism really is, how it can be made fun at the same time as being taken seriously and that it is not scary at all! I have made some fantastic friends already and cant wait to go to the next event to spread the message! Follow Grow Up Vegan on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Don't forget to subscribe to the blog for more articles like this! #GrowUpVegan
Photography By Ewelina Eve Rozalska