The importance of consistent anti-oppression. Interview with Julia Feliz.
Julia Feliz (formerly Feliz Brueck) is a resource activist, independent scholar, activist, and founder of Sanctuary Publishers, a non-traditional book publisher committed to consistent anti-oppression through the creation of bridges between movements and the raising of marginalized voices. Julia is a vegan of over 13.5 years and a parent of two. They released their most recent title, “Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression” in an effort to create a bridge between the Animal Rights/vegan movement and the LGBTQIA+ movement. Their previous books, “Veganism in an Oppressive World” and “Veganism of Color” have addressed consistent anti-oppression veganism through the raising of voices of Vegans of Color. In this interview Julia talks about their experiences and how they led them to become an activist. They further show why being consistent anti-oppression is key and how this reflects in their activism.
Q: Julia, thank you so much for this interview. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your activism journey? Where and how did you start and where are you now?
I have been vegan for almost a decade and a half. I became an animal rights activist at the same time. Through the years, where I lived influenced the types of activism I took part in. Eventually, my activism took a turn thanks to the accessibility that the internet and social media provided to people like myself in that we were able to connect with others and have a whole virtual life, as well as the possibility to use writing and art in ways that were not available before. This path eventually brought me to resource activism and to founding Sanctuary Publishers as a way to raise the voices of those seldomly heard and often denied a platform. I’ve now actually found myself going backwards after acknowledging that consistent anti-oppression cannot be consistent if we do not address our own hand in oppression at the roots. This is something that is missing from folks when they attempt to embrace this praxis. You can’t be consistently against all oppression if you have not examined the ways you add to the oppression of others, whether you are aware of them or not. Because of this, I am now ensuring that I continue to create bridges by teaching courses for white folks on anti-racism advocacy and how this intersects with other forms of oppression via Anti Racism Classroom. I am also working to create activist workshops with other vegans to ensure we don’t just end the conversation at “this is the problem” and ensure we extend it to “and this is how to address it”.
Q: Why did you start Sanctuary Publishers and how did the project evolve over time?
I felt frustrated and exploited, and I decided I didn’t need anyone’s permission to do the things I felt were right. For years, I had tried to support many organizations but felt tokenized or just…well, exploited. Eventually, I found I did not have much in common with the vegan movement or other communities because I had grown beyond single issues after searching myself and understanding how I moved in the world and why. I also understood that I had benefits over other marginalized people even though I was, myself, a marginalized person.
I had always wanted to use my abilities as a writer and illustrator to help nonhumans somehow, and eventually, I recognized that I could do this for many other groups, and this became the way that I could give back and work with others interested in the same goals.
I started Sanctuary Publishers from scratch and we’re still really grassroots but with many, many goals. For example, we’re currently translating some of our titles in Spanish, and I hope to eventually offer the books as audio books and as audio attached to text books for people like myself that have reading disabilities.
Q: By now, a number of both interesting and important books have been published through Sanctuary Publishers and you personally edited three of them: “Veganism of Color – Decentering Whiteness in Human and Nonhuman Liberation”, “Veganism in an Oppressive World – A Vegans of Color Community Project” and the recently published “Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation through Consistent Anti-Oppression”. What did you take away from the process of editing these books? What were some of the most important lessons or insights that you gained from other vegans from marginalized groups sharing their stories?
Honestly, I felt validated in knowing I was not alone, especially after the first book. There’s a vulnerability in putting out a call for submissions and basically seen as “no one” and not knowing if you will find others that want to be part of something so personal that you have hope will come to life because you believe it could help across movements.
I also actually learned so much from each and every single person that added their voice to these projects. I came to realize that we, Vegans of Color, for example, all had a special understanding of nonhuman animal oppression rooted in our identities and mistreatment by society just for who we are seen as. This connected us all across the world in wanting to ensure we used our voices to raise theirs but to also reach out to our own communities.
This only helped to keep me going. There is so much racism, disregard, silencing, and senseless competition in the vegan/Animal Rights movement that I have become burnt-out, hurt, and just left wondering if I should go on or pack it all up. This is not easy work at all, especially for a single-parent of neurodivergent and disabled children and I have not made a profit for myself. However, all the people that have believed in these books and have added their voices is a reminder that activism is not about me as an individual. Activism is not about feeling good or the enjoyment because it is rooted in the reality of oppression. This is why I keep going.
activism is about using the time we have on Earth, which is actually quite short, to leave things better off than the legacy we may have inherited or come from.
Q: How do you feel about the ‘mainstream’ vegan movement?
I feel sad. Instead of getting better, I see the mainstream movement still stuck and left behind while other movements have understood the importance of working on intersecting issues and moving forward from there. It is frustrating that mainstream vegans do not seem to recognize that in order to center nonhuman animals in their own movement, they must decenter themselves and actually do the real work to address all the root issues connected to nonhuman oppression.
Q: You also co-wrote the Vegan Bill of Consistent Anti-Oppression. Why did you and your co-authors Carol J. Adams, Meneka Repka, and Carolyn Bailey feel there was a need to write this bill?
It was around 2017 when I released the words “consistent anti-oppression” into the world in the hopes that the mainstream vegan/NonHuman Animal Rights movement would understand what was and is needed to move forward. Single-issue activism had long stopped making sense. It felt like nothing ever changed despite almost a decade watching the movement. After writing “Veganism in an Oppressive World”, I recognized that mainstream vegans needed additional tools to ensure they understood what aspects of the movement were holding it back. At the same time, I had seen Carol J. Adams [interviewer's note: click here for our interview with Carol J. Adams] publicly stating that she would not speak at venues that tolerated and support groups drenched in sexism and accused of protecting sexual harassment and abuse. I approached Adams about a collaboration and we then included many different vegans of MaGe (marginalized gender; coined by Crystal Michelle) from different areas of the world to make it as representative as possible. I am a believer in community projects because I do not believe in “leaders”. I feel that we all have something important to add to the conversation and with regards to a role in our community.
Believe it or not, my unapologetic stance towards consistent anti-oppression has, ironically, enforced the “angry Brown ‘woman’ stereotype” over me. However, I hope that by ensuring I take a strict and active stance to speak up against all oppression, others will feel that they too should and can.
Q: What would be your main advice to vegans and those advocating for other animals?
Vegans need to look within themselves to identify how they add to the oppression of others beyond only nonhuman animals. As has been covered in several of my books, nonhuman oppression is tied to many other forms of oppression still on going to this day.
As a movement focused on a group in which we are their oppressors, it is imperative that vegans recognize truly centering nonhumans means addressing the issues tied to them, that we also add to including racism, xenophobia, anti-blackness, ableism/neuroableism, transphobia, nonbinaryphobia, homophobia, anti-semitism, etc.
It really is all connected. I don’t feel empowerment is something that vegans should feel in order to do the work. Injustice is something we have a duty to address and this should drive each and every one of us to push ourselves as far as we can go. I worry that mainstream vegans seem to address veganism from a sense of saviorism without realizing that going vegan is literally the most basic action they can take for nonhumans. Liberation for nonhumans will not happen without liberation for all humans as well. This is where consistent anti-oppression comes from and how it is tied to veganism.
Q: Which other projects are you involved in and could you briefly tell us what they are about and why they are important to you?
Through Sanctuary Publishers, I have worked on many different resources, such as:
Veganism of Color – a resource for Black, Brown, Indigenous people and other People of Color in order to ensure they have access to content that is relevant to our own communities. There is also a free brochure hosted on the site that discusses different issues relevant to Communities of Color. The site also hosts the VoC Conference, which has been hosted in person and virtually across the globe.
Neuro Ableism – a resource to help build a bridge between Neurodivergent people and neurotypical people by helping neurotypical people understand how neurodivergent people communicate and other details.
New Pride Flag – is a call to action to center Black, Brown, and Indigenous Trans women and people of marginalized gender (MaGe: coined by Crystal Michelle), the LGBTQIA+ movement’s most vulnerable. It is a commitment to remember the history of Pride, the Black, Brown, and Indigenous trans womxn that were its founders, and to give credit where it is due.
Anti Racism Classroom – going back to the roots of oppression. This classroom takes a consistent anti-oppression approach that includes veganism/nonhuman animal oppression.
We [Sanctuary Publishers] also have a Mail-A-Book project to make books more accessible. We’re also going to begin accepting freelance work for those interested in self-publishing this fall.
CalmSeasCare End-of-Life Services – is a personal project of mine in which I focus on end of life care, as a death doula/end of life advocate. I hope to bridge the gap between end of life care and Communities of Color through education and support for people of all ages, and especially for elderly people.
These are all ways in which I attempt to build bridges between social justice movements through Sanctuary Publishers, which I started because of my commitment to veganism. However, that commitment has grown and expanded through the years as I continued to understand my role, my identity, and how to lessen the harm that society indoctrinated us all to ignore and accept. Creating these types of platforms is a way for me to attempt to help others have resources to learn from and use to also lessen their own harm over others as they continue their journey through life. It’s a way to ensure that we don’t get stuck and keep moving forward.
Q: Activism can be both very rewarding but also really draining. How do keep up with all your numerous projects and (how) do you keep a positive outlook on life and activism?
I think this is something that divides vegans from more protected groups and those of us with less protections because of our identities. I have never seen activism as rewarding. My existence and life, as well as my community’s history and that of other Black, Brown, and Indigenous people across the world is tied to fighting oppression now since the time of colonialism – about 500 years – when racism was established by Europeans and my ancestors were faced with genocide or enslavement. My activism for nonhumans has always stemmed from my understanding that no being should ever be treated as less than or seen as less than in a planet where we all share and have a right to regardless of species. I don’t think I have ever experienced a feeling of reward at a protest or vigil or tabling. I’ve felt urgency, sadness, commitment, and pain for nonhumans and humans. I keep up with the work because I recognize the advantages I have over certain groups, such as nonhumans (human privilege/speciesism) and even as someone with lighter skinned privileges in a society rooted in anti-Blackness. We all have advantages and automatic benefits over others depending on where we are in the supremacist hierarchy that sustains things like nonhuman oppression, as well as the oppression of marginalized humans. I feel a responsibility to use those advantages I may have to ensure I break the cycle of oppression that we have been conditioned to uphold through hierarchies that decide everyone’s place in our current society. I have made a commitment since recognizing this all to keep going, and at my age, as someone with Brown skin, I can say I am tired of the way society treats me for my identities, of which some I wear on my skin for all to see. I find enjoyment in little moments throughout my days, in conversations, in human and nonhuman connections. However, activism exists because there are people being killed, jailed, punished, caged…there is not positivity in that.
Activism is a duty we must address and choose to or not; it is not just something we do for others out of pity or feeling bad.
This is why it is so important to understand our role in this world within invisible hierarchies that guide our experiences and even determine our “worth” in society over others.
You can find out more about Julia on their webpage.
This interview was carried out in written form via e-mail correspondence. We thank Julia Feliz for taking the time and effort to answer these questions.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed and informations provided in this interview are prepared to the interviewee’s and the interviewer’s best capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Vegan Rainbow Project itself. Please also note that people change and so do their opinions. We kindly ask you to be mindful of that when reading articles and/ or past statements that are referenced in this interview.