“Crocodile Rock” blared from the speakers at Pat’s Dance Studio on Long Island, New York as I shuffled out backwards in a line with my other tap classmates. We were preparing for what would be my first of many tap recitals. I was reminded of this wonderful moment and the gorgeous dance costumes shown in the photo above (sense the sarcasm here, folks) when I read an article written by Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House called Taptivism: Shuffle-Ball-Changing the World for Animals.
Jasmin wrote this inspiring piece which focuses on how picking up tap lessons again has helped her enhance her activism skills. She honed in on some key points that got my wheels turning and motivated me to write this blog post. I’ve taken tidbits from her full article and posted my responses below them, but I highly recommend reading her thoughtful, humorous post in its entirety.
“Building, finding, and fostering community is vital. For those who are not immersed in a world of vegans and fellow activists, as I am, it is especially important — in order to be in it for the long run — that you find and foster a group of like-minded folks with whom you can be yourself.”
Early on when I first went vegan, I thankfully found a small community of like-minded individuals at a local vegan book club. Laura, the owner of Dough Bakery, decided to start a book club this year because she had a long list of books she wanted to read and needed some motivation to actually start some of them. She showed me the list one time and I was impressed (and secretly hoping we’d be able to get through all of them in due time!). I’m so thankful that Laura started this book club because it really helped me become more comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I get off-topic at book club and ask the vegan ladies in the group their expert advice on some questions I have as a newly vegan. They’ve been super supportive and have really helped me gain my own voice in the vegan community. And, if it weren’t for this book club, I wouldn’t have found out about Jasmin and Our Hen House – see, it all comes full circle!
“Clapping for one another when we take our turn across the floor is soul food. In tap, when people take their turn across the floor, the rest of the class whoops and hollers. That moment is about them, and we’re there to support them.”
When people tell me they’re flexitarian or pescatarian – or are just plain and simple eating more tofu – I get super excited. I know they’re trying and I especially know that not everyone can become vegan overnight. I sure didn’t – it took me 3 1/2 years of vegetarianism to finally take the plunge into veganism. So, I help them celebrate these small victories and encourage them to keep up the good work. I think it’s important to be supportive and applaud them for heading toward a more compassionate lifestyle.
“Connections come in unexpected places. In activism, you just never know how your life will change.”
I made friends with a fellow vegan where I least expected it, and boy am I glad that I met her! I help organize a women’s leadership program at work, and at one of the sessions I met the president of Georgia Animal Rights & Protection (GARP). She has played a pivotal role in my activism by showing me the ropes on how to get involved in my local community. I’ve learned so much in the past few months by attending their meetings, volunteering at events, and taking the lead on one of the campaigns. I’m so thankful to have met an ally in the vegan community at such an unexpected place.
“Embrace what you’re good at.”
Jasmin ended a section of her article asking what we’re good at, which made me think long and hard about where I excel. I know I’m really great at fundraising and have already started using those skills in the animal world, volunteering my time to non-profit organizations by helping with their fundraising campaigns. I’d love to do more fundraising, though, and might do something with running soon (I wouldn’t say I’m really great at running, but I love it and want to incorporate it into my activism). Also, I’m a good cook and every chance I get, I whip up a vegan meal for someone. They always wind up loving it, which leaves me feeling rewarded knowing that I just fed someone a cruelty-free meal. I’m also pretty decent at writing, which I’ve been practicing through this blog by talking about animal rights and my own journey with activism.
“Sweat a little. It feels good. It gets your juices flowing. Be passionate about what you’re doing, and don’t shy away from the hard work. Being out of breath is not a bad thing.”
I’ve definitely been sweating up a cruelty-free storm lately. I’ve fully immersed myself into a steam bath, dripping with animal activism from every pore in my body. I’m not going back to being a couch potato either – I’m in this for the marathon, ultra-marathon, iron man…you name the endurance event and I’m there.
“Be consistent. You made a promise to yourself. What is your life’s mission? Is it to change the world for animals? There is a way in for each of us to do just that, and it is up to us to figure out how to do that in a way that works for us, in a way we can be excited about.”
This is such a tough question to answer – what’s your purpose? I would like to think that it has to do with living a compassionate lifestyle and showing others how to lead a kind, openhearted life. I also would hope that changing the world for animals has something to do with my life’s mission. I’m still exploring this while trying to not let my ego get in the way.
“Show up. I’ve got to show up, or I will be cheating myself. And with animal activism, if we don’t show up, we’re not only cheating ourselves, but we’re also cheating the animals.”
As I said earlier, I’m not going anywhere. Although I don’t fully know my purpose in life, I do know I’m in animal activism for the long haul. I will gladly book up all of my free time to serve the mission of helping the animals. Even if I feel like my (vegan) plate is getting full, I am completely committed to serving as a voice for the voiceless. Whatever it takes, I’m going to keep on crocodile rockin’ my way to helping the animals.