In this episode of the Sentient Media Podcast, we meet Christopher “Soul” Eubanks to hear about his work in animal advocacy, the intersections between human, environmental, and animal rights, and his new nonprofit, Apex Advocacy.
Ana Bradley: Today we are with Christopher “Soul” Eubanks. And we’re going to chat about his new nonprofit, about content about the media. Maybe a little bit about TikTok. But first, before we get into all of that a little bit about Christopher. So Christopher is an absolute powerhouse. He is a creative through and through, he’s an activist, and he left his job in corporate America seven-plus years ago, we’ll get into that, to pursue his mission for creating meaningful content for the causes that he believes in a few highlights from the last few years from Christopher. So he helps co-organize Atlanta, Georgia’s first-ever animal rights march, which is quite an achievement, and a recent recipient of the People’s Fund Award from Mercy for Animals. He has a degree in filmmaking and a relentless dedication to getting the message out. Christopher uses education, public speaking, and of course, his creativity, to speak for the environment for animals and for all injustice. So thank you so much, Christopher, for joining us today.
Christopher “Soul” Eubanks: Well, thank you so much. That seems that’s it makes me sound like, I’m just doing everything. So that’s a great introduction. I was like, wow, what are you talking about?
Ana: You are doing everything. And I really appreciate you taking time out to chat with us. I really enjoyed digging into your story. As I prepared for this chat, and especially I enjoyed listening to your music and your tunes. So we’ll play a little bit of that for everybody as well. But it seems that you’ve got quite a varied background with creativity, kind of tied in some aspect to everything that you do. And I know that you transitioned into the animal advocacy space, where you started considering animals on our plates in 2016. But I couldn’t find much like too much apart from the music about the like the pre animal advocacy side of things. So I was really curious, like, what were you doing before 2016? Like, where were you?
Christopher: So before 2016 I guess the immediate thing I was doing before that was working as a teller at a bank. But even before that, just my story is I was born in Ohio, and we moved to Atlanta when I was around three years old. And I grew up in East Point, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, which is just further south of Atlanta. But Atlanta is all one big smorgasbord of other cities. So everybody from the surrounding areas just say they’re from Atlanta. But yeah, I was raised in East Point and went to Tri-Cities High School, which is a creative-driven high school. It’s like a magnet school. So people may know OutKast and TLC, and Xscape. I know one of the members from OutKast went there. I know members from Xscape. I think some members of TLC went there. So it’s a real environment for creatives. So I went there I majored in, I was focusing on television production. And it’s funny because I started doing that years later. But while I was in school, I didn’t do too much of it, it was more of an activity. But after that, I started to bounce around from college to college. And so I kind of settled into going into a trade school for learning filmmaking that was like in my early 30s. So as I was at this corporate job at this bank, bank teller, not really having it resonate with any of my creativity. I just decided, Okay, this isn’t what I want to do. So I decided that I was going to leave and say that I was going to save up enough money to kind of just float by for a couple of years. So that’s what I did, I saved up and took the money out of my, at the time pension that I had with them and said, You know what, I’m going to save, and when I leave, I’ll just go to school. And then I’ll learn how to make films or creative things like photography and graphic design. So I did that. And during this time, when I was off, I just, I had this, it’s amazing the things that you learn about and are able to experience when you don’t have to worry about money. So for these two years, I was just living I was like, just going to school. And that was it. I didn’t have any real financial obligations. I had money saved aside from rent and everything like that. So this is kind of what led me into focusing more on activism. I’ve always been very keen about social injustice just growing up as a Black man in America. I remember the Rodney King story, when I was I think I was like, 10 when that happened, and that was like the first time I recognized race in our society, and how those things tend to clash and how they interact and how they intersect. So from there, unfortunately, there were tonnes of other stories of like, many Black people being done wrong by police or by authority. And, you know, this was definitely something that permeated my brain for a while. So I just wanted to do small events here now, like I marched a couple of times, but I wasn’t really as active with other social and justices as much as I was, as much as I am with animal rights. But I did a small documentary, in 2015 I believe, on a Black Lives Matter march. And I actually, it’s not on my Instagram anymore, but I may, I think I’m gonna put it back up at some point. But yeah, so the extent of my activism before animal rights wasn’t heavy, it was just going to events here and there, documenting them, here and there. But um, yeah, once I got into animal advocacy, it was just full, full fledge. And I think that’s because I realized that I was contributing to so much oppression. And I didn’t even think about it, it was something that never even crossed my mind. And it was something that I saw that is accepted by society. So once I realized that I just decided, oh, wow, I have to really work hard and focus on bringing more light to this because everyone in our society is practically contributing to it, and no one is even realising it. So I think that’s what really drove me to focus more on animal rights than other social injustice is because I think those social injustice is, you know, kind of get the respect in the proper light that they deserve.
Ana: Right, so, but something that you do do is you focus on, I’d say, like three key areas, because you talk about, like human rights, animal rights, and environmental rights, the environment, whereas, okay, so I’m fairly new to the animal advocacy space in the sense of working in it. So I only started working in it when I joined Sentient Media, you know, I joined as a volunteer in 2019 and became executive director in 2020. Again, that story of having the freedom to not have to worry too much about money to be able to donate your time, or to be able to focus on educating yourself, if that resonates so much with me. And yeah, I, if anybody has the opportunity to take even a little bit of time out to do volunteer work, then I fully, I fully support that. But one thing that was new to me was this idea that animal rights could exist in a silo where we don’t consider human rights or environmental plights as well. And that’s something that I believe you, you’re joining the dots between those three kind of key areas.
Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the things that I’ve been focusing on lately, just with my organization, and what I’m trying to do with that, I’m trying to help people understand how one they aren’t separated, but to also bring the animal rights movement, in the same way to some of the other movements and have people understand the significance of oppressing nonhuman animals, and how that psychology impacts how we interact with each other, the environment that the world, other beings. So yeah, I think it’s very important. And I think a lot of times, you know, at least when I was introduced into the animal rights movement, and I don’t want to say, this is only animal rights related, but a lot of social justice movements sometimes are often hyper-focused on the injustice that they are working towards. And sometimes they are blind spots for other social and justices. I will say that maybe I’ve seen that a little bit more in the animal rights movement because maybe it’s not as diverse as it could be. And, you know, there’s a lot of reasons as to why that could be. But I think, yeah, my goal is to kind of help people connect those dots, and you know, just to try and add more diversity within the movement. So it doesn’t all look the same, it doesn’t all sound the same. It’s not all from the same viewpoint, because I think that’s the roadmap to true liberation is when you can have all parties involved. But if we only have one particular group that continues to see it, and operate it, and are the face of it, for the most part, we’re not going to get as much work as we can do. So that’s why it’s super important for me to kind of focus on that right now.
Ana: That’s, that’s also really interesting like in respect to you, like you have kept your voice like maybe it’s because you were slightly older when you came into animal advocacy, you’ve done a lot of, you know, work on yourself and, you know, a lot of educating yourself. But to me when I’m like looking at your social feeds, and well, we’ll get onto your Encompass essay shortly. But to me that the way that you come across is so authentic and so, like, so honest, and that’s rare as well, because I feel like one of the problems that we could face is, we just have people show up from all over the world or all walks of life, but we’re all saying the same thing. Do you see what I mean? Yeah. Yeah, you’re definitely helping, you know, shift by being, you know, authentic to yourself. And by being true to yourself?
Christopher: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think that’s what makes, you know, one people, just as a person, I think that’s what people like, from people is just being authentic. But I think we should also be able to include our individuality in advocacy work. And I think that helps also. And when we don’t do that, when we just say the same things have the same talking points and express them the same ways, it just comes across as pitchy. It just comes across as reading a script. And you know, it’s nothing wrong with learning and picking up the main talking points, but you still got to throw your style, your flavor, your personality, your perspective on that, because if not, people can really pick up on that. And it may not be something that they say, but I think it’s something that they, I think it’s something that they feel, and I think it’s something that they read, and when they hear that it just doesn’t resonate, as long as if you were to say things from your heart and say things that were true to you, even if you mess up and don’t say it right, or say it perfect. I think that vulnerability and authenticity is something that we should use more.
Ana: Absolutely. One of the thing, a lot of environmentalists still consume meat and dairy, right, and we still serve meat and dairy, you know, food summits and things like that. We’ve got the UN food summit this week, for example. I mean, what do you think that this disconnect? Where do you think that disconnect comes from?
Christopher: Well, definitely, from culture, just how normalized oppressing animals and consuming them is, in our culture. Like I say, one of the reasons I transitioned into animal advocacy work was because it, the oppression of nonhuman animals was so visible, it’s so ingrained in our society, so I think that’s a part of it one, too, you know, a part of that conditioning and culture is ingrained in our daily habits and our everyday habits. And it’s very hard, when we have to change ourselves to actually, you know, try to give something because the one of the things about the animal advocacy movement, or just being vegan, is that you know, you do have to take a look at yourself and change your everyday habits. So, you know, other things like the environment, you know, some people like to do things like use paper straws, or, you know, consume other things that are recycled, or things like that, which doesn’t quite challenge all of the things that you do as much, but with not consuming animals anymore, that literally has an impact on something that you do three or four times a day. And you have to be more adamant and more persistent, you have to read food labels. So is it a so it’s not dancing but is more effort than a lot of other things that you may have to do so I think that’s a part of it, too. And, and, you know, and also animal agriculture has money to suppress the ways that they are having an impact on the environment. So some people so people are starting to notice it, but animal ag has a lot of money and they can spend these stories and they can, unfortunately, sponsor a lot of these initiatives and sponsor a lot of these companies. So you know, it’s a myriad of reasons, but you know, those are some that I think.
Ana: So yeah, I agree. And these are, this is the kind of thing that I feel as well, but I also get these arguments from environmentalists that I know, like, time and time again, like one of them is, oh, well, the data, you know, we don’t know 100 percent if you know if it’s 7 percent or 14 percent, or 37 percent is you know, industrial animal agriculture. So, you know, I might it’s not gonna make a difference if I have, you know, my hamburger, whatever. Like, are there any kind of common arguments that you hear time and time again from environmentalists?
Christopher: I wouldn’t say common, um, as that’s definitely one that I’ve heard before you And, you know, oftentimes I lean more towards the ethics of it, as opposed to the benefits of concern of not consuming animals on the environment. Because I do think, you know, honestly, there are ways where probably someone could consume animals in a more environmentally friendly way. You know, if someone were to only eat the animals that they kill and survive off of that, that would technically be better for the environment than some of them, I go, I guess, a vegan diet where someone buys a lot of processed vegan meal. So, you know, technically there are certain instances where, yeah, it could be better for the environment. Now, that’s not the norm. Obviously, most people won’t do that. And that’s not what most people are arguing. But I’m just saying that as an example as to why I tend to try to make it more about the ethics as opposed to the benefits for the environment or for your health, because those things can fluctuate, and you’re sure someone can find a reason to, you know, support harming animals, because it doesn’t have as much of an impact on the environment, or it doesn’t, or maybe there’s some data that says is healthier and some necessary. So when it comes down to your ethics about being violent towards others, when you have the opportunity not to, there’s not really much of a rebuttal against that it’s not really much of a retort that someone can push back on that knowing that they’re, you know, causing harm, unnecessary harm. It’s really hard to explain why anyone wants to cause unnecessary harm when they have the option not to, but yeah, but I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s going to happen over the next maybe, generation is the impact of animal agriculture, on the environment. And as much as people may or may have statistics, you know, we also have stat, statistics that support what we’re talking about, too. I mean, even the United Nations has come out and say that eating a plant-based diet is better for the environment is something that’s going to be more sustainable. So, you know, we do have the truth or the truth on our side. So as much as people may try to spin things and statistics, you know, we do have the ultimate truth on our side.
Ana: Absolutely. I’d love to talk for a minute about family and friends if you don’t mind. What would you say your breakdown is in your kind of social circles? Like how many like what percentage would you say are plant-based or vegan?
Christopher: Hmm. It’s funny you asked that. So I have like two sets of friends or two sets of people that are engaged with, I guess, is my vegan community and my non-vegan community, it’s rare that they overlap, I can think of maybe one person that kind of overlaps both. But my vegan community and friends or people that you know, I’ve met through my journey, are my co-organizers are the activists that I work with people that I’ve met, doing, doing activism, people that I talk to, and work with about animal rights, those tend to honestly stay in one section. And the other people are friends and family and lifelong friends. And practically none of them are vegan. Like I said, it’s only one of them that’s vegan. So what is two different worlds then? It’s weird because I was just thinking about this recently how, when I do activism, and when I do advocacy work. When I’m with my friends and family, I don’t really talk about it as much, I don’t really engage with them as much about animal rights and ethics of consuming animals. I remember recently I was at my mom’s house for it was her birthday, her birthday is July 2, and you know, she had like a fourth of July celebration, or get together. And she was just cooking the most disgusting-looking cow flesh. on the grill that I seen. I don’t know what this cow flesh was. It was just long strips of cow flesh, and it was just so disgusting. And yes, my mom, I love my mom, I’m not, you know, going to not talk to my mom. But I was truly disgusted at what I was seeing. And, um, I didn’t bring it up. I didn’t mention it. I didn’t say Mom, how could you do this? How could you be cooking this? You know, she knows who I am. And she even apologizes. She’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m doing this.’ And it wasn’t because I brought anything up. It was literally just her. I guess knowing me and knowing what I’m about. And you know, her just feeling the need to apologize or say something about it. But yeah, that’s it’s kind of like a 50/50 breakdown. I have my world outside of activism in my world outside of my friends. And yeah, I will say it’s about a 50-50 breakdown for me, but um, yeah, I rarely overlap in those areas. And like I say, I kind of turn off my activism when I’m around friends and family. Not that I’m pandering or anything, it’s just, I devote so much of my time and energy to advocacy work. When I’m not doing advocacy work, I’m just like a normal person. Like when I go into the grocery store, I don’t have conversations with people about veganism unless for some reason comes up. But I just don’t feel the need to really talk about it as much outside of advocacy because it is, it is a lot of work in it in the work that we do is pretty heavy is this, this is hard. This is hard topics to cover and things to talk about. So that’s what I do for self-care. That’s kind of how I manage my, my life, with my friends and family in advocacy work, I just kind of keep them separated as much as practically possible. But once again, I am unapologetic. So even when my sister was talking about throwing a birthday party, our birthdays are two days apart. And I was telling her, okay, we can do this and do that. But I’m not paying for anything animal products-related. I don’t really want them there. But I’m definitely not paying for anything that comes from an animal. And we spoke about that. So, so yeah, sometimes they overlap. But for the most part, those two words are separate from me.
Ana: That’s interesting. So it’s kind of like, I guess, is a self-care tactic, like you say, like this compartmentalization of these different groups. So that Yeah, when you’re not doing your advocacy work, you can just be fully present, you know, with your family, I find that personally incredibly difficult. Like, I’m the person who if they’re cooking, you know, a turkey or whatever, I’m the one sitting there going, do you want me to show you some footage, like where that came from? But you know, no, of my family have gone vegan as a consequence. And I’ve been doing that since I was like, six years old. It just upsets, it upsets you, and it upsets them. So it’s like, but I can’t, I can’t help it.
Christopher: Absolutely, there’s nothing wrong with it, I would never tell anyone to not do it, I just know it, that that’s the only solace that I get, like, I get solace in just being able to kind of turn off for a second or a little bit, or not have as amplified. But I know like, I have friends that are like, they have to say something, because if they don’t say something, they won’t have that peace of mind. So it just goes to show that you know, you have to do what’s sustainable for you, and what makes sense for you.
Ana Bradley: Absolutely. And is your mission is obviously not just to speak to vegans, right? You want to be outside of the like, 100% vegan community. So do you feel like you’re kind of learning lessons when you’re talking with your non-vegan friends about you know, how they refer to animals? Or how, you know, are you learning ways to kind of bridge that gap? Or do you think that it will be forever to kind of separate buckets?
Christopher: Um, so I don’t know if I’m learning how to bridge the gap necessarily. I think some of that is, but I think one of the biggest benefits is operating outside of the vegan bubble. Like, I think a lot of times, we have a lot of friends and a lot of family, a lot of friends and advocates that we work with, and we see all of these amazing accomplishments that are happening. You know, as of recently, there’s been this big resistance against for from a lot of companies, and we see so many companies dropping firms, you know, left and right. And it seems like, oh, wow, we’re making such progress. But then when I talk to my regular, I guess, friends and family, you know, none of these things are penetrating through, like pop through regular culture as much. So it kind of puts things in perspective, like, okay, yes, I see that we’re making these great accomplishments. Like every day, I see fish news, posting something about, you know, McDonald’s has a new plant-based burger or KFC has new vegan chicken nuggets. And these things are great. But when I talk to my friends and family, they talk about consuming animals. Like, these things aren’t happening. So it kind of helps me understand that, you know, for the most part, 99 percent of the world is still operating the way that they have been over the last, you know, last couple of centuries, in terms of contributing to the exploitation of animals, we are making progress. But we can’t forget that the progress that we make that we are making right now hasn’t made the impact that we want yet, but it’s still a great accomplishment. So it definitely helps me realize where society actually is and the fact that they still consume animals and view animals in these ways. As products and as beings that are there for their consumption for the most part. So you Yeah, just this just makes me more aware. And I can take some of that information and try to do my best to, you know, know how to speak to, you know, the common folk or regular everyday people that aren’t in the vegan bubble. So, yeah, take lessons from it. I haven’t applied it quite yet. But it’s good to know that I can tap into that and see what the rest of the world is saying and thinking and not just see it from the vegan bubble that we tend to operate in.
Ana: Right? Yeah, you’re staying in the real world as well. And you’re understanding what’s going on in the vegan world too. One thing, as you know, as a content creator, that you are a creative. One of the things that is often touted around about like the vegan community or animal rights community is that we have no sense of humor, and that there’s no comedy, there’s nothing fun going on, you know, with our content that we produce. What’s your take on that?
Christopher: Yeah, so I think that could be true, I don’t know, a lot of the pages and people that I follow, I think maybe it’s two different worlds, because I think, inside the vegan community, you do have separation. So I believe like, a lot of the Twitter world, maybe a lot of the TikTok world is more funny and more carefree a little bit. And maybe those mediums don’t showcase as much. Maybe the activists themselves don’t use those platforms as much. And the more activist-based community is more stern and more forceful and more rigid in their approach. So I do think we have groups of activists and advocates that are doing different things, but we definitely have to make room and allow all different types of personalities, because I don’t think is going to be you know, one type of approach that works. And that’s not only with humor or sternness or seriousness, I think that also extends to welfarist or abolitionists approaches, we’re going to need a variety of people doing a variety of things to really be to really make the leap way that we want, but I follow a lot of hilarious vegans in a lot of I see a lot of vegan memes. And I noticed one thing that I’ve tried to inject with my social media content, sometimes I have a stern approach. And other times I make jokes and curse words and just say what I feel. And if it’s on my mind, I just say it, and don’t really worry about how it’s coming across. But that once again works for me, but yeah, we could definitely I would just say we embrace both and embrace all of them, excuse me, because I don’t think it’s going to be just one approach that leads us into animal liberation, we’re going to need someone to see that we can meet and make that connection. And then we’re going to see someone that needs that serious approach and make that connection in that seriousness. So I’m fine as long as everybody is expressing themselves and we have a diverse set of thoughts and ideas.
Ana: That’s a very diplomatic answer. Yeah, that’s great. So I think we’ve kind of touched on by any kind of style is necessary all styles of content are necessary. For us, you never know what type of content is going to excite which person and create change right? But what about thinking about the mediums and thinking about perhaps like the more like sinister side of it so like TikTok is opening up this whole new world of communication and whole style of content, which is awesome there’s a lot of great stuff a lot of fun stuff happening there. But alongside you know, this kind of fun innocent memes you know, having a laugh stuff there also comes the advertising side of things so on TikTok, you get targeted adverts you know, from Burger King or other you know, fast chain fast food chains targeting the demographic who were on TikTok, you know, usually younger people feeding into their, into their social feeds, you know, go and get your, your burger or whatever. Like, I guess I would ask you like, what do you think about the way big meat and dairy advertise on the social platforms.
Christopher: Um, so I don’t know, a lot specifically about how they particularly advertise. But I think to my point earlier, they are one of the biggest industries and entities that exist so they’re going to have the ability to advertise and target how they see fit. And, you know, our responsibility is to try to resist and fight them as much as we possibly practically can. And whether that’s through actions to, you know, supporting people like the, like the vegan back row, and what she’s doing with her organization trying to fight and offset some of the subsidies that animal agriculture received, it’s going to take us, you know, in all of these different areas, combating all of that because they are, I think a lot of times we forget that we are up against the biggest industries in the world, they have virtually unlimited capital, capital, they have lobbyists, they can practically make laws with the money that they have. I mean, they have ag-gag laws like that is unreal, so they are advertising to younger generations, they are spending, you know, billions, if not trillions of dollars, on advertising, and programming us socially. But I think one of the things that is coming forth with the next generation is this, this new internet, society that exists right now is something that, you know, I didn’t grow up with as much I didn’t grow up with access to as much information. As you know, my little brother has now at the tip of his fingers, he has access to way more information than I had as a child. And I think that’s going to be one of the things that kind of offsets, you know, like I said earlier, we have the truth of the truth on our side. So although they do have tonnes of money, tonnes of advertisement budgets, you know, we ultimately have the truth, and it takes a while for any change to really happen, it’s not going to happen in, you know, a year or two, what’s going to probably take generations for what we’re fighting for, to actually change. So that’s just another battle in this war that we are doing. So maybe there’ll be companies that, you know, we can partner with, that we can create advertisements for, or who knows, maybe there’ll be some type of way to offset that or challenge it a little bit more. Maybe there’ll be a whole nother subset of activism, how do we challenge these advertisements and bring truth to them? So I think ultimately, that’s just another battle, another type of battle. And we just have to work diligently to try that one, too.
Ana: Absolutely. I mean, do you fundamentally believe in the power of the media and the power of content, like the social media content to shift narratives around social justice, for the environment, for humans and for nonhuman animals?
Christopher: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think this platform, these mediums are the reason we’re seeing so much change in our society. The reason that we’re seeing so many discussions that we haven’t seen before, like this generation is growing up with terminology that I didn’t have as a child, they’re growing up with information that I didn’t have in a lot of that is social media basis is because these conversations are happening in real-time. Like, I wasn’t raised as much with the term, you know, white supremacy, and colonialism, and just all of these terms, and like intersectionality, or these things are common jargon now that strongly believe that’s because of the impact of social media, we are talking about these things publicly and openly, and able to have these broad conversations with people from all over the world. And I can speak to someone literally across the world in a matter of seconds. As opposed to you know, when I was younger, I would have to have a long-distance phone call, it would take, you know, I’ll have to run up my mom’s phone bill to practically talk to someone in another country. Like we couldn’t do this right now. You know where you are, as easily as we did right now we just hopped on a zoom call. So technology’s amazing social media is advancing, but I truly believe social media is going to change the world is going to continue to change the world and it’s going to be some negativity that comes with it, but it’s also going to bring like a lot of positive change. So I definitely believe in the power of social media to have an impact and influence on society and culture.
Ana: But what about I agree with you but I also I’m like, maybe, maybe because I’m British. I’m more skeptical. But, you know, what about this, you know, echo chamber theory with Facebook. So once you’ve created an account and built an identity for yourself, and Facebook labels you you know, as a vegan activist, the content that you produce goes to those groups. people ultimately Facebook is building algorithms to make sure that the content is clicked on, and therefore they’re giving it to the people who are most likely to click on it, who are more likely to be the people who already agree with what you’re saying. Like, do you have any strategies? Or do you have any thoughts about how to kind of combat that kind of, you know, beat the Facebook ad dollar?
Christopher: Yeah. So I think one of the things is kind of something that I alluded to earlier is not being inside of that bubble. And it’s so I think, you know, we have to kind of use social media as a tool, but not let it be something that we like, I don’t watch social media, or engage in social media, the way I engage with going to the movies or television. And you know, for me, that’s slightly different, like I’m watching a TV show, which is, you know, scripted or documentary, or whatever it is, the medium is different. But with social media, like you said, it’s very specific, like your eyes are seeing something new every 20 to 30 seconds in terms of messaging, programming. So I think one, we have to definitely use social media cautiously and have to be aware of it. It’s kind of like smoking a cigarette. Like when you read the label Surgeon General warning, I think that’s how we should look at social media. Like, look, this is a tool, and there are a lot of things that come with it. So we should understand that there’s a certain type of programming that comes along with it. So when we engage with it, we engage with it responsibly. But I do think like I said earlier, it’s existing outside of our bubbles on social media, because social media is, is only a is an outlet. It’s a tool. It’s not like our real life, you know, like I can go and have a conversation with someone, meet up with my friends and family, have a dinner with them. That’s real. What I do on TikTok, and what I do on Instagram, and Facebook isn’t real. I mean, it’s real in the sense that it’s something that exists in the world now. But it’s not an equal experience to talking to people and engaging with people and having real fluid conversations and not operating in only that social media bubble. So I think we just have to engage responsibly, and educate ourselves about what it is and I think more information is coming out about the impact of social media. Like, I can’t remember the name of the documentary that was on Netflix. Is it The Social Dilemma?
Ana: The Social Dilemma? Yes, yes.
Christopher: It talks about that. It talks about how the advertisement how they sell your information, how is this you print your thoughts of being, you’re being fair thoughts before you even realize it, and I think more of that is going to come to light. So it’s almost like right now we’re in the phase of really uncovering this because, for the last five or 10 years, we didn’t really know it was just like, oh, I just hop on Facebook. And that’s that but now we see the strings that are being pulled by the puppeteers and we have to educate ourselves more about that. So I would say use it cautiously. operate in the real world, but just be balanced of how both play how you can operate in the world and how you can operate on social media, and don’t lose yourself in it.
Ana: I think there’s absolutely right education, like building it into our curriculums. Even you know, for primary school children do further than what you call Primary School in America. The youngest people
Christopher: Grade school. That’s pretty much Kate kindergartens.
Ana: Yeah, right? Yeah. So the Yeah, the youngest, the newest little people, you know, teaching them about all of this and then at the same time teaching, you know, the boomers who, who don’t necessarily understand what social media is, and believe, you know, all the fake news and everything that I also I would really like to touch on your incredibly powerful article as part of the Encompass Essay’s series. So this whole series was published on Sentient Media and is now available in print and you were at the launch party last week, right?
Christopher: Yeah, you were too.
Ana: I was there in recorded form for I think it was like 1 a.m. my time I was absolutely gutted to not be there personally. But yeah, how was the lunch? Was it fun?
Christopher: Oh, it was amazing. It was so much fun and it was so well-paced. So I had I got on the call maybe 15 minutes or so before it actually started. And you know, we’re reviewing how everything is going to go and so at that time, There was an okay. So you know, you’ll go on at around 30 minutes. And then he was like, okay, so we’ll see you in about 30 minutes. So I’m in the launch party, and we’re watching the presentations. Before I knew it. My time has been, I’m being called. And I was like, wow, 30 minutes went by. so quickly. It was just so amazing, Aryenish and Michelle, they spoke about Encompass, and why they started the book and read excerpts from it. And it was just an amazing experience is one of the better experiences I’ve seen online in terms of presentation with debuting something, it was really well put together, it was so much fun to be a part of it. They asked some of the contributors to answer some questions. So it was like a speed round, whatever first comes to your mind. And I usually melt with things like that, when I have to answer questions very quickly, it’s not my strong suit. So being asked questions in that quick, fast-paced type of way, again, I was a little nervous at the beginning. But after, you know, a couple of seconds, I was totally fine. But it was so much fun. And it was about 300 people there in the chat. And we were all just talking, communicating. There were no trolls or anything like that, it was really an amazing experience. And everyone was really there to really celebrate the book and the contributors and everything that Encompass is doing so I had so much fun being a part of it.
Ana: So glad. Yeah, I think it was such an important series and to see it be kind of, you know, extended and turned into this book form is, is really exciting. It’s a wonderful thing to see. And I hope it does help us shift these narratives, but your essay and perspective about being a Black man in animal protection, I’ve spoken to you before about this, you know, it was really eye-opening for me. And I want to say thank you, you know, for writing it and for sharing your story. And I would encourage everybody who’s listening or watching this to go ahead and read that essay online or buy the book. And all of the essays, in fact, to get a better understanding of why equity in animal protection is vital. If we want to grow like everything you’ve been saying on this call today is like, yeah, we need to have a diversity of voices, opinions, backgrounds, like if we want to, if we want to end animal oppression, then that’s what we have to do. But I wonder for those of you that like for those who are listening who are not familiar with the series, or familiar with Encompass, could you tell us a little bit about your role with Encompass? And a little bit about the article you wrote for the series?
Christopher: Absolutely. So I learned about Encompass a couple of years ago, about the work that they do. And at the time, it was just like, oh, that they’re, you know, they have a unique approach to helping address some of these issues and their work. So I will say I found out about them in 2019, saying at the Animal Rights Conference in Washington, I believe so I would say maybe a year later, I was approached by actually the Animal Save Movement. So I work as a vegan outreach coordinator for the Animal Save Movement now. And there was this, they were doing this racial equity training, and Save in a lot of different organizations participated in this training. So it was a two-day course it was like a six to eight-hour day. And you know, you have different members from different organizations, going to this training. And we’re all you know, in this training together via zoom. And it’s about I think it was about 30 or 40 of us, maybe even 50. And we’re learning about all of these different types of ways race impacts the movement in learning new jargon, we’re learning techniques, we’re learning how it’s good to have a diverse set of thoughts and ideas and conflict. While we are organizing. And while we’re talking about these ideas, because that conflict is actually it can be good, it can be productive when you have these different ideas bouncing off of each other. So Encompass lead that and like I said, it was a two-day training. And it was just one of the most powerful experiences learning and education-wise that I’ve had in animal advocacy. And it was so many diverse people, so many people from different areas in all spectrums of these organizations, so Mercy for Animals, say 10 representatives, the Save Movement had 10 I think people from a lot of different organizations were there. And they were all just learning about racial equity and how can we balance and implement new processes and things inside of our organizations that will help bring about more inclusion in more equity. So that was the first time I really worked hands-on with them. And a few weeks after that, they reached out to me about the series about these lectures and what they were trying to do. And I was totally taken aback because, you know, I had only seen the work that they were doing, they were just like this amazing organization. And they’re doing these amazing things. And I’m like, little old me, I was just, you know, y’all want something from me to, you know, help contribute to this thing that you all are doing. So I was honored and so I wrote the essay. And, you know, took a minute to write a, we worked on it for about a few weeks. But that was the first time that I worked with them, and the essay came out really good. And they reached out to me slightly, we’re doing that process about being an advisory member with them. And so now I’m on the advisory board. So you know, every now and then, you know, I share my thoughts if they need some feedback about initiatives that they’re working on, or things like that, I’m one of the people that they contact also. So it’s been an amazing experience. And they have another initiative that they’re working on, that’s going to come out later this year, that I think is really going to be extremely beneficial. I can’t remember if they’ve made it public. So I never talked about what that initiative is when I talk about it. So I don’t want to say what it is. But I’ll just say it revolves around race and equity within the movement, and it’ll definitely be produced at the end of the year. So it’s been an amazing experience. And just personally working with Aryenish and learning from Michelle and everyone, at Encompass, it’s been an incredible experience, because they’ve also had this program, this executive program, where they educate and share information with, you know, people from the global majority, so Black and Brown and Indigenous People. There’s this program that they created, where they were all together, we’re all talking to each other about organizing by strategy about finances, about learning how to get grants and learning how to, you know, form an LLC or a nonprofit, it’s just a like, it was like an eight-week course, specifically to help develop new leaders from the global majority in animal advocacy work. So I was fortunate to be a part of that. So the work that they’re doing is incredible. And I think it’s one of the things that we’re going to need to bring about more inclusion.
Ana: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more I’ve really enjoyed working with Encompass. And I actually was fortunate enough to meet Aryenish at the very beginning of my time at Sentient Media. So working with her and the other people at Encompass, and Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House. Throughout the last couple of years at Sentient Media has been really eye-opening. And, like you say, it’s incredibly important, but the title of your essay, “As a Black man, I felt uncomfortable becoming an animal activist,” you know, you’re not, it’s incredibly clear, and demonstrates the whiteness of the movement in one sentence. And I know you’ve been in the space for only, you know, a few short years really, but have you noticed yet any shift in that kind of imbalance?
Christopher: Um, I will say the biggest shift I’ve noticed so far is the discussion about it, like the discussion has become more prevalent, the actual day-to-day scope of having more people of color or more diverse communities involved hasn’t quite accelerated yet. I think I’ve definitely noticed more, and I’ve seen more people from the global majority be active and there are incredible people of all different diverse backgrounds. But when we talk about the face of in, you know, the biggest organizations the biggest names, that hasn’t changed dramatically, but I’ve seen improvement, but um, yeah, yeah, that that article was definitely came from a real place and the examples that I used in there about the racism that I experienced as a part of an event and how I experienced it, and you know, why people of color are kind of reluctant to join the movement. Yeah. It was something that I wasn’t thinking I would share, but it’s kind of felt appropriate and I’m glad I did because I think it helped to open a lot of people’s eyes and help them understand, wow, OK, this is why we have to have these discussions. This is why we can’t not talk about these things because even if we aren’t intentionally you know, perpetrating anything type of racism or discrimination, you know, the white supremacist culture has been embedded in so many things. And it can play out in ways that we aren’t even aware of, in ways that we don’t even notice. So it’s I’m glad I was able to add that perspective. I hope that at least somewhat answered the question.
Ana: Of course, absolutely did. Yeah. And you touched on it just there. But in the essay, you say that, if you’d have gone vegan, younger, you wouldn’t have joined the movement as an activist. And I was wondering, like, you know, do you have any tips? Or any thoughts that you would pass on to younger people? Who are people of the global majority who are looking to get into animal protection? Now in 2021?
Christopher: Oh, yeah. So I will say it just for anyone that hasn’t read the article. The reason I say that is because when I was younger, I was so really, I was just in a, an, honestly, in a darker space, personally, I was filled with so much anger about the injustice towards Black people in our society, towards Black men. And that was kind of like how I land the lands that I saw the world through. So at that point, joining a movement that is predominantly viewed as white or seen as white, or mostly white representatives, or Caucasian representatives, and it’s not a lot of diversity, I would have definitely been uncomfortable joining. But I think, you know, like I said, I had to do a lot of internal work to get to deal with that better, you know, because that is a lot to deal with. And I have a lot of friends personally, in my real life and activism, that really are still dealing with these issues are still dealing with the way white supremacy has impacted culture and how that impacts them and their family members. And there’s still a lot of resentment towards the systems of injustice, there’s still a lot of personal trauma to deal with this. So yeah, at some point, I would have not been comfortable joining the animal rights movement. But like I said, I had to address that personally. But also, I think one of the things that people can do is look towards the organizations and people that are doing both, like there’s amazing work being done. Like with organizations like the Food Empowerment Project, even Encompass, the Afro-Vegan Society, activists, such as myself, and you know, so many people on social media that are advocating and stand up for animal rights, whether there is you know, someone like Iya loves life on Twitter and Instagram, I will definitely look towards outlets that match the criteria and make me feel comfortable and make me feel invited and where I don’t feel so. Well, I don’t stand out as much for, you know, for my race, and the color of my skin. So is this a little difficult because there aren’t as many as there as it should be. I do think the tide is shifting. But we still have a long way to go. But yeah, definitely. And I will say one thing is don’t, don’t suppress it. I think when I first started doing animal advocacy, I didn’t talk about it as much. I was so hyper-focused on the animals. And I don’t want to say that that’s a bad thing. But I just wasn’t talking about the issues of race and how I felt about him. Just because I felt like okay, this is the movement about the animals, I don’t want to address that or, you know, I don’t want to stir up any controversy or distract anyone. But these things need to be addressed. Because I know I wasn’t the only one feeling that maybe there are other people for other reasons that were feeling similar. So I will say definitely, don’t, don’t silence yourself, talk about it, be vocal about it, and be unapologetic about it. But also, that doesn’t have to stop you from being active. So definitely look for these outlets where you feel warm and comfortable invited. And in other spaces where you don’t feel as invited, make it known. This is why I don’t feel as comfortable because I don’t see any other people that look like me or talk like me or sound like me in these spaces and ask the leaders, what are they doing? Like? Are you all are aware of this, do you all care, you will not care? And if so, maybe you all could maybe you could start a new initiative, maybe you could do outreach in new places. So you never know what could come from these conversations, but you definitely want to be vocal about your feelings and how you feel about it.
Ana: That’s really good, really good advice. And then I would love it if you could tell me a little bit about your new nonprofit.
Christopher: So the aim of the nonprofit is Apex Advocacy. And Apex stands for animal protection, equality intersectionality. And the two goals that I have for this organization is one to bring about more diversity within the animal rights movement. So that’s the internal work for the movement that I would like to achieve and work on through Apex Advocacy. And the other goal is to do the work outside of the movement is to help people understand how the oppression of animals is impacting other social and justices. So how animal agriculture is negative, how that plays an impact on things like environmental racism, how the animal exploitation industries, oppressed marginalized communities by pretty much targeting low-income communities and pretty much you know, working with prisons to transport people from prisons and have them work in slaughterhouses. So I want to help people make these connections and, you know, bring in propel animal rights, and help them see animal rights as a social justice movement, as much as they see any other social injustice as a movement also, so I noticed a lot with pretty much I want to do work inside the movement and outside the movement. But um, the goal is to do that work. And I’m first starting off with focusing on creating some content that I first initiative is a celebration of Black vegans, and I’m doing it in a very interesting way. So I hope once this comes out, once people are able to see how we’re celebrating these Black vegans, it will help to bridge that gap and so that there is space, excuse me that there is space for people of color inside the movement and that there are amazing people doing amazing work advocating for animals. So I’ve been working with a team of creatives, for the last month or so we have a lot of different types of creative content that we want to put out. And it’s all going to be animal rights-based, because we are an animal rights organization. But we won’t be solid and won’t be quiet about the other ways that animal oppression impacts on society. And next year, hopefully, I can start to do some actions because I am an activist at heart so I have to do some type of activism. I’m still figuring out the ways that I want to be active and the actions that we’re going to do and what that’s going to look like how’s it going to feel but next year, we will definitely start to do a lot more grassroots industrialism in actions. So that’s the plan for Apex Advocacy right now.
Ana: Where should our listeners, viewers, and readers, where should they go to find out more and to support the work that you’re doing?
Christopher: Absolutely. So you can always go to my website souleubanks.com and it has the links to all my social media, my Patreon if anyone wants to support and on social media, I am soul_eubanks that’s on Twitter that’s on Instagram, that’s on TikTok and Facebook. So you can always stay updated with things that I’m doing there. I think I don’t update my website and my social media as much as I would like I need to get better at that. But for the most part, I try to post somewhat regularly on some type of variety of all those social sites so but if you just get connected to me, Instagram is probably the one where I’m slightly more active and giving more updates so they can go Excuse me, I’m there to kind of find out the things that I’m doing and the work that I’m doing.
Ana: Amazing. Thank you so so so much for your time today. It’s been really eye-opening and really exciting to speak to you and hear about what you’re working on and I can’t wait to see more.
Christopher: Absolutely thank you for joining and I’m loving to look at this incredible background that you get. So thank you for that too.
Ana is the Executive Director at Sentient Media. Her background is in content production and startup consultancy. She also creates social impact within Black communities as Digital Director of Do it Now Now.