"AR" 2019

Animal Rights National Conference 2019… What a trip. This was my first time on the east coast, and I gotta say, it did NOT disappoint. I remember rumbling into the airport with San Diego Ravens, Eddie and Haley, at too-early-o’clock in the morning, boarding the plane from San Diego to D.C., and thinking, “I wonder what sort of person I’ll be on the flight back.” And by that, I mean, how will I grow? What will I learn? How will I change?

And boy oh boy, did I learn a lot. From panel presentations to workshops to one-on-one networking, each and every day of this conference left my brain in a state of deep contemplation. There was SO much to learn about, and ergo, so much to think about. I won’t try to explain everything I took in during this conference because then you might be here for 48 hours. My brain was so happy during these few days -- and so was my heart. I will shift focus and say this: uniting with fellow Ravens from The Raven Corps was incredibly uplifting and empowering, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that.

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Ravens from Portland, San Diego, and Adelaide all joined forces for this conference. Claire, co-founder of The Raven Corps, and her partner in crime/master chef, Jesse, were our parents for the week. Remember that substitute teacher from back in primary school that you were always SO excited to see when you walked into class? That’s them. (Not because they let us slack off -- because they’re amazing people.) The day before the conference began, we all met up at DCA and had our first family adventure -- an outing to Trader Joe’s. I don’t recall what we all talked about during that trip, but I knew right from the get-go that these were my people.

The next day, while Ravens took shifts holding down our booth at the conference, Lead Ravens Sophia, Melissa, and I prepared for our panel, titled “Teen Activism: Let the Youth Lead.” After hours of practicing, editing, cutting, and improvising, it was go-time. We spoke our truths; we spoke about inclusivity, we spoke about compassion, we spoke about our personal journeys, and more. I remembered feeling only a little uneasy going into it, but sitting there with Sophia and Melissa, and seeing our Raven family in the front row seats, my nerves were next to nil.

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Our audience had humans of all ages -- and one pig. (Shout out to Josephine and Franny!) You never know how someone will react when they’re receiving information that could contradict what they believe to be true, especially if it’s coming from a young person. But people were actually very receptive! Several attendees were even taking pictures of our “tips for adult allies” slides. I really ought to take my own advice and give people the benefit of the doubt. In the end, we ran out of time for Q & A, but we could linger in the room because we were the last panel of the day. We received SO much positive feedback during that time -- it was both relieving and humbling.

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Our workshop the following day, “Activism for Gen Z,” was equally amazing and seemed to be pretty ground-breaking for a lot of the older attendees. We have an approach to our advocacy that focuses more on community involvement -- we meet people where they’re at in their plant-based journey and build from there. Each Raven presented a piece of our tour of The Four Phases. The workshop was covered live by Jane-Velez Mitchell from Jane Unchained News, and she sums it up pretty well: “They’re doing [activism] differently, because they’re young people and they’re thinking differently -- we can learn from them.”

We made some fantastic connections during this conference, with both older activists and young activists interested in starting their own Corps. After stepping off the plane, back in San Diego, I was reminded of the thought that crossed my mind when I was bound for DC. How had I changed? I left the conference feeling more inspired than ever to up my advocacy game, for one. I also felt incredibly fulfilled and whole from spending time with my extended family of Ravens. We’re all so different, yet so similar. We’re just people that want to better this planet, for both ourselves and the beings we share it with. I love these people so much, and I’m so grateful that I got to attend this conference and break some boundaries with them.

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Claire Howe