By Amy Luebbert | September 1, 2020

Can you tell us a little about your story? How did you come to this work? How do you identify? 

I’ve lived in the middle of the United States my entire life, in either Illinois or Iowa, where the communities were mostly white, middle class, and entrenched in animal agriculture.

I considered myself an animal lover, adoring the companion animals who lived with me and my family and even swooning over cows in middle school! It wasn’t until I met someone who was vegan in 2001 that my entire life trajectory changed. I went home and googled the dairy, egg, and meat industries and was horrified at the trauma and death inflicted on non-human animals. I went vegan the next day and have been vegan ever since. 

At the same time, I was in college and learning about women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, fatphobia, and anti-racism. I started to expand my awareness beyond the white, middle class upbringing of my youth. I realized that oppressions were connected, but did not do the work to dismantle those systems. 

I continued on this path for years until I was shook by the 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and subsequent protests. When I witnessed the total disregard by the police and National Guard for Black and brown people in the community, I remember thinking, “would this happen in a white community?”  

I began working with white people to deeply examine our whiteness and how we were continuing to prop up white supremacy. What were we doing? What weren’t we doing? How were we benefiting from the structures and institutions throughout society? 

I began my lifelong process of cultivating a white racial identity rooted in anti-racism. For a few years, I facilitated a 9-month course at the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines to help white people explore the history and current state of racism in the U.S. This process helped me with my own white racial identity and being a better accomplice in dismantling racist systems. 

What are your hopes and aspirations for this work?

I am looking forward to seeing and contributing to Encompass’ growth. The United States was built on oppression and my hope, with the work Encompass is doing, is that I can play a role in breaking down these oppressive systems.

I truly believe for the animal protection movement to break through to people across our country and world, we need to engage Black, Indigenous, and people of the global majority (BIPGM) at all levels of our cause. Encompass’s work brings all kinds of people together and provides critical education, skills, and community to help break down racism within the movement and offer a framework and vision for the future.

As a white vegan woman, what do you see as your role in racial equity work? 

White people must be engaged in racial equity work. The systems of oppression that we live under were created by white people for white people. It will take many of us to relinquish our power with the goal of creating a culture rooted in equity and justice. In order for white people to get to a place where we think about the power we hold and how we can and should distribute it, we need to recognize the systems of oppression as true, learn about them, and how we are actively participating in them. Then we need to make amends and work to rebuild structures that work for everyone.

My specific role in race equity work looks like never-ending learning, challenging family and friends when they say racist things, sharing money with BIPGM and organizations they lead, naming racism in the workplace, showing up to protests and events, informing and engaging other white people in anti-racism principles and actions, and being engaged with local, state, and national politics.

What do you do outside of work?

I am actively involved in both vegan and anit-racist activities in my local community. I serve as the President of VegLife Des Moines, a 501(c)3 non-profit that works to inspire and educate about the impact of our choices on animals, the environment, and people. Pre-COVID, we hosted many events including a community vegan potluck once a month, Transition to Vegan classes, social events for vegans to build relationships, volunteering at community gardens/meals, and our large event, Des Moines VeganFest. We are finding a new path and I’d love to connect with other community organizations that have transitioned to virtual events successfully—I know Encompass is one of them!

For the past two years, I have also served on the leadership team of the local Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter. We support organizations led by BIPGM, as well as individuals, and we educate white people on how to disrupt racism, unpack our white racial identities, and re-learn the true history of our country/community. Specifically, I’m working on a project, under the purview of Freedom for Immigrants, to help break isolation for those being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a local county jail (and ultimately to abolish ICE). 

I also enjoy eating delicious vegan food, hanging out with my three cats, and being a novice gardener—I’m especially proud of the potatoes my partner, Kasey, and I have grown this season! 

Why did you decide to apply for the Executive Assistant position at Encompass?

I remember when Encompass became an organization, I was thrilled to see an intentional organization focusing on racial diversity, equity, and inclusion within the animal protection movement. 

The climate of the animal protection movement has been historically dominated by white people and challenging that system is risky and inspiring. I have followed Encompass for years and am inspired by the tenacity of Aryenish Birdie to found this organization and make it materialize into the dynamic and powerful organization that it is today. 

Having the opportunity to help Encompass move the mission forward is a dream come true! 

Why do you care about racial equity specifically in the animal protection movement?

If we plan to make any strides towards dismantling speciesism, we must care about our fellow humans as we work to fight for non-human animals. 

It is not sufficient for white, middle/upper class people to feel comfortable in the movement while everyone else feels like they don’t belong in this cause. We must be able to encompass the whole of humanity in order to create change that is lasting. I want the exploitation of non-human animals to end, but we won’t get there by exploiting and oppressing humans along the way. 

Amy recently worked for a national energy efficiency consulting firm as a Program Manager. She brings 15 years of business professional and volunteer activism/organizing experience to the role. She has a Bachelors of Geography from the University of Iowa.