My first interaction with anything to do with VINE was at a vegan book swap organized by Jamie Hagen and Olivia Lane at the Cambridge Women’s Center in Central Square. The turn-out was awesome, raffle prizes, new people to meet that I had only “met” online through facebook, twitter, and the like, and lots of books to choose from! That’s where I learned that VINE Sanctuary was: 1) Intersectional; 2) LGBTQ- run; 3) ecofeminist; and 4) pretty rad. At the time, I had been familiar with the animal sanctuaries that did many tours, kept different animals separate from each other, and focused exclusively on animal rights issues. Don’t get me wrong—that isn’t a bad thing, per-se; I am just highly interested and more likely to involve myself with organizations that work within an understanding of intersectionality.
After that exposure, VINE stuck out in my mind as an org that I definitely wanted to be part of, if only by visiting sometime in the summer with a group of queer vegan friends to meet the animals and help out. A few months later, I jumped at the chance to table for VINE at the Boston VegFest. Learning more about the sanctuary, seeing pictures, and volunteering (even for only an hour) was a lot of fun! What I noticed most, once I sat down, was that they had Sistah Vegan for sale!! As a WoC I often feel left out in many conversations/events having to do with veganism because of racial divides within the community. I’ve gotten into arguments after bringing up theses concerns, so to see a book that validates my experiences and concerns really made me feel like I made the right choice representing VINE that day.
While volunteering for a different organization at the Anarchist Book Fair in Boston last fall, I encountered VINE again and met pattrice for the first time. [Interjection from pattrice: What I noticed that day was how ably and energetically Brandie managed her own table while also networking with what seemed like everybody in the room. Later, on social media, I saw how enthusiastically she promoted not only her own organization’s events but also the projects of others, always keeping intersectionality in mind—that’s the VINE spirit!]
A few months passed, and my time at a local Boston non-profit was coming to an end, when pattrice messaged me about an opportunity. Curiously, I responded and learned she was interested in me possibly joining the team at VINE! It was a great day to say the least. After an email dialogue, we both felt like it might be a match, and soon I was arranging my trip up to Springfield, Vermont!
The visit was well worth the travel. All of the animals’ stories of survival and resistance were SO inspiring to me! My favorite, though—although I’m sure I’m not allowed!—is Broggy! His dear face and his persistence in following me around and butting me with his head sent me head over heels. My next trip up, I’m sure, will give us more quality time together. In addition to meeting the nonhuman animals, I met the incredible team of workers who keep the animals happy and healthy throughout the year. As my time came to an end that day, pattrice offered me the job! I was so excited: After having some trying times, wondering if I was really cut out to do non-profit work, everything was falling into place!
As I said before, one of the reasons (but also ALL of the reasons) why I wanted to work for VINE is because they are so intersectional. As a social justice activist, I find it SO, SO important to address oppression in all of its forms as well as the ways that those forms intersect. As a person with multiple identities—a queer, cis-gender, feminist, vegan, atheist, able-bodied, mixed race, lower-middle class, woman of color (and many more, but we can get into those another time)—when someone is discussing, for example, race, there is that one layer of my identity that the topic applies to. But living as a cis-gendered, mixed race, woman of color, is much different than living as a black, able-bodied, cis-gendered, hetro, man. We have one identity in common, but two different experiences. It’s important to shed light on that, but also be open to being challenged, called out, etc., about the different privileges we may have, or the different ways that we go through and experience the world. VINE Sanctuary address all of these issues, and forms of oppression when they look at each and every topic. They do not have “tunnel vision,” if you will, when talking about animal rights, as many organizations do. Those organizations aren’t very welcoming to me, which is why I have intentionally chosen not to participate for or with them.
My activism has included supporting and engaging homeless children through Horizons for Homeless Children; cooking meals for the homeless with Food Not Bombs; protesting with MARC (Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition), leafleting and demonstrating against vivisection and fur; tabling for the Vegan Metro West Network in Framingham, and modeling for The Humane Society’s clothing line. I organized two groups (for WoC and LGBTQ WoC) at the Cambridge Women’s Center. Last summer, I facilitated a workshop at the People of Color Climate Confluence in upstate NY; I spoke about veganism, race and intersectionality. Most recently I volunteered as Communications Coordinator for Hollaback Boston! There I gained confidence and experience in social media, organizing events and fundraisers, facilitating interactive workshops, and so much more.
With all of this under my belt, I hope to apply what I have learned to my position at VINE as Community Engagement Coordinator. It has a nice ring to it, am I right? As Community Engagement Coordinator I’ll be our chief cheerleader for volunteers and also will bear primary responsibility for VINE events, both organizing events for VINE and attending or tabling at events as VINE’s representative. I’ll also be a part of VINE’s fundraising and social media teams. (I’ve already set us up on Tumblr and will be adding my two cents to our Twitter and Facebook feeds.)
It’s only been a couple of weeks—there’s lots ahead to do/organize/tweet/reblog/take pictures of/cook for/get excited for. It is truly an honor to join the amazing team at VINE! The future is exponential, and one thing is certain: VINE is in my horizon, helping me become a better vegan, feminist, and supporter of all nonhuman and human animals. In my next post I’ll be discussing my “Path to Veganism,” so stay tuned.
P.S. I “met” VINE at a vegan book swap. You could help VINE and promote veganism at the same time by organizing a book swap fundraiser in your community. Write to me if you’d like to do that, and I’ll help you get started.