Davida Douglas is a woman with a cause. Several, actually. She cooks for Food Not Bombs and sits on the board of the Mandella Community Garden. She’s a vegan activist spreading the word on the benefits of an animal-free diet. She runs Vegan Splendor, an online supplier of original recipe vegan chocolates to conscientious chocoholics throughout the United States. Recently, Davida took a break from hand-dipping peppermint patties, negotiating with City Council for the preservation of green space, and distributing “Why Vegan?” pamphlets to discuss the meeting point between activism and candy cravings.
What inspired you to go vegan?
I became a vegan over ten years ago. I was vegetarian for three years before that. I was flipping through a catalog of political buttons and bumper stickers and there was one that said, “Love animals. Don’t eat them.” I thought, “I love animals. I eat animals. Oh no!” The next day I became vegetarian. I didn’t know any other vegetarians. I lived in a small town in Missouri. Then it was a slow progression of accepting the issues involved with veganism and becoming conscious of the horrible things that happen with the exploitation of animals in the egg and dairy industries. I thought, “OK, [going vegan] is going to be harder, but it’s a matter of priorities. I can do it.”
Animal rights activists are stereotyped as crazy, red-paint-throwing fanatics. How do you deal with people’s defenses?
People get very defensive about these issues and I understand that because I wasn’t born vegetarian. I grew up eating meat and if someone had come up to me saying I was a horrible person, it would have been awful. I think [activists] have to realize that people may never have been shown anything else. If what you’re saying hits home, people are going to be defensive and maybe feel some guilt, and they won’t want to feel that reaction. Activists have to approach people from a positive angle and realize that every little bit helps.
How did you learn to make chocolate?
When I first became vegan, I wasn’t very good at it because of chocolate. I would deny my chocolate cravings except when I got really upset and then I’d buy a Snickers bar. The first vegan I met told me about a brand of vegan dark chocolate. I was able to survive off the solid chocolate bars, but I really wanted the chocolates with the centers and all the yummy stuff that goes with the chocolate and I couldn’t find them anywhere. So I got some candy-making books and I just tried and tried. It was trial and error and lots of yummy mistakes.
Which of your candies is your favorite?
The caramel pecan chews!
What do you say to people who think “delicious vegan chocolate” is an oxymoron?
I feed them some chocolate! People who aren’t vegan have told me my chocolate is some of the best chocolate they’ve had and I’m like, “I know!” I make all sorts of things people assume can’t be vegan, because I’m persistent and creative. This is useful at Food Not Bombs, too, because we make meals out of whatever food gets donated. It’s like, “We’ve got oatmeal, beans and flour. What can we make?”
What do you do at Food Not Bombs?
We provide free food to anyone that wants it. Food has become something to derive profit from, not something to sustain people. It’s not considered a basic right, but everybody needs food. Businesses throw away food because they can’t derive profit from it anymore and that seems vile to me. We use donated food, food that would otherwise get thrown away, food that is going to expire or that may not be pretty, like bruised produce. We prepare it and serve it in Cesar Chavez plaza twice a week, and it’s a lot of fun.
Is the food you prepare for Food Not Bombs vegan?
Yes. Food Not Bombs International has a guideline that the food be vegetarian. This incorporates the theories of non-violence that go along with vegetarianism, but it’s also a safety issue because we use food so close to expiration. If you have a pear that’s been sitting out for a couple of days, you’re not going to get sick if you eat it. If you have a steak that’s been sitting out, you’d better not touch it!
What’s the latest on the fight to save the Mandella Community Garden?
Right now, we’re working on convincing City Council to pass a resolution stating that Sacramento wants to keep the garden and asking the state not to put condos on it. The city would manage it under the Parks and Rec Department. We’re trying to get everyone to contact their City Council representatives and ask them to save us!
What’s your gift to the world?
Myself! That’s all anybody has. You know, it’s not a selfless thing to try to help people. I help them, they help me and everybody’s happier. Like with Food Not Bombs, it’s a lot of fun to do. With the candies, I don’t make big bucks off it, but I love seeing people get really excited about it. Anything I can do to make veganism easier for people is great, because that means fewer animals will be exploited. With the garden, by working to keep it here for everybody to enjoy, I’ll also be keeping it here for me to enjoy. It’s mutual aid.
To learn more about saving the garden, veganism, Food Not Bombs or cruelty-free chocolate visit www.vegansplendor.com.