Activism

Animal Rights Activist

I’m a staunch (but not fanatical) animal-welfare advocate.

“The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’
nor, ‘Can they talk?’
but ‘Can they suffer?'” – Jeremy Bentham

I’ve volunteered with a Chicago wildlife rehabilitation center, Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, for years, patrolling the city at dawn during migration season to retrieve injured birds and ferry them back to be triaged. Birds flying before dawn towards the city will crash into skyscrapers and fall. Some of them break their necks instantly, some of them take longer to die and have to endure the stresses of being in hostile environments – such as being swept and thrown in the trash by hotel doormen specifically instructed to do so – in their last moments of excruciating pain. Some break wings. Just about all who are alive suffer brain swelling. I would walk the routes with the highest record of found birds. With bare hands, because it was easier, I caught them, picked them up, or handled them into paper bags lined with paper towels. Special stickers ensured we knew where to re-release them after restoring their health. I wanted to do the most hands-on helping I could, and this was the need of the city (and still is, despite slow attempts to construct more environmentally considerate structures).

I was also the go-to person whenever a friend’s friend’s aunt found a nest of squirrels or someone finds baby raccoons in their garage garbage. And so, I assumed the role of responsible caretaker and learned all about their individual species’ needs and provided for them until it was time to take them to a (real) wildlife rehabber. I even seriously considered fulfilling all the requisites to get my wildlife rehabbers license and zoning parts of my apartment for the animals, but I knew it wasn’t something I could do full-time.

It’s a love and fighting spirit that won’t go unexpressed. I still champion animal rights in a host of different ways: I spend about 95% of my life on the wagon of vegetarianism (if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again), I boycott all animal-tested products, I don’t wear new leathers and I don’t wear fur at all. I also put my consumer and investor dollars toward companies and causes that promote environmental protection and animal rights.

As for the future, I plan to donate larger percentages of my earnings annually, continue protesting, continue volunteering, launch various initiatives and programs, host dinners, tea salons, and galas, produce political and artistic films centering on ecological issues, and continue to love my dog Gia, and all the other animals I come across, unconditionally.

“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” – Theodor W. Adorno

Femme Activist

Every year on February 14th  I attend the 1 Billion Rising protests in Chicago. It’s the largest mass action to end violence against women in human history. It began as a call to action based on the statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.

It began Valentine’s Day 2012, and that event in Chicago was pretty amazing.
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My first event was positively vaudevillian in performances, political essays, vending of health super-foods, noise, laughter, cries of deep cathartic release, and wild timely banter. So, while there is certainly a fair share of rape-poetry and very very sad expressions of unbelievably horrific occurrences, it’s an important part of the process of healing and change. The alarming fact that violence against women is so prevalent calls for an equally alarming response. It’s time to get louder and louder. And it’s time to rise.

I rise for the sisters who’ve fallen before me, who have died so I can be here to fight the good fight and win. I rise for myself: I keep my own wise counsel, I discern the company I keep, I quietly command the respect I deserve and leave when it’s not supplied, I speak out against injustices in the moment, I advocate for young girls when I see their vulnerabilities played on, I look everyone in the eye, and I never apologize for any of it.

Now, let’s get something straight here. I don’t. Hate. Men.

I love men. Wildly.

As a fact, my personal definition of feminist is essentially the exact same as Gloria Steinem’s:

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

― Gloria Steinem

So just because I advocate for women’s rights and protest in the street for it, it doesn’t take away any of the positive feelings I have for men. It, for instance, doesn’t reduce my feelings on circumcision; Something I think is unnecessary and causes undue trauma to a small new being that hasn’t given consent to this scary thing happening to it’s body. In my subjective mind, it rips freedom and personal autonomy from this fresh and vulnerable entity. Seriously, what’s the harm in leaving the boy’s penis as it is until he’s old enough to make a well-considered decision about it?

I digress.

The point is, is that while I’m a feminist, I’m also deeply compassionate to the thoughts, feelings, and rights of men and boys.

Basic nature, foundational science, and every clue about our bodies points to the fact that men and women need each other to survive. If you think modernity can change this on an instinctual level, then we disagree. No, it’s not politically correct, but it’s scientifically correct. We’re still being affected by variables most of us give no thought to, because they’re working on us on a deeper level. The intuition, the instincts, the carnality, the ability to cause great pain and lash out in response perpetuating a human cycle. When the abuse that goes both ways is finally stopped on one side so that it can end completely, on a global scale, this is when the healing between the sexes can take place.

Hopefully humans will see that day.

Political Activist

I’ve definitely protested presidential administrations in my day, marched my ass out to Daley Plaza on Washington to show the media and the world there were Americans (and specifically Chicagoans) who did not approve of x, y, and z.

Nowadays, I’m flexing a new muscle. A different muscle. I had been corralled into union governance, and then I ran with it.

I serve on the Chicago board of SAG-AFTRA (which is the largest performers union in the world) for the 2015-2017 term. In October 2015 served as a Convention Delegate at the biennial convention in Los Angeles. This is where and how I speak, fight, and vote for the interests that serve the collective of artists, performers, broadcasters, dancers, journalists, and radio personalities worldwide. As a film and television actress, I love being able to nurture my industry and honor my peers. As an activist, I’m fascinated watching this large labor body change & grow with the times, and I’m very enthusiastic to play an active part of the shaping of the very industry I’m a part of.

I also serve as a Delegate to the Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization for unions in Chicago. The CFL is involved in political lobbying, is active in Chicago politics, and participates in many of Chicago’s civic committees (composed of business and city leaders).

If you’re a SAG-AFTRA union performer or are looking to join the union and have questions, suggestions, or comments, please email me directly at NataleeQuestions@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you!