Faerie Magazine: What does it mean to be a mermaid in New York?
Kai Altair: We are so lucky that New York City is surrounded by water! Being a mermaid here means Coney Island summers, Rockaway Beach dreaming, organizing beach cleanups, and helping clean our local waterways to restore them to their natural health and beauty. It means vibrant communities of creative sea creatures that parade together and make art all year round.
Ali Luminescent: Being a New York mermaid means you have to hustle a little harder than just basking on the shore! It’s a busy place and there is a lot of splashing to
be done, children and adults alike to inspire, and events to shake your tail at! Also, you can’t just be a fair-weather mer-friend here—you must also embrace the icy winters too. We have Ice Mermaid parties and encourage activism around Antarctica and glaciers too! Mermaiding is a year-round responsibility!
FM: How did you become interested in ocean causes?
KA: About ten years ago I took a trip back to the Caribbean island that I lived on as a little girl. I was so excited to be with the huge clouds of fish and rainbows of coral
I remembered from my childhood. I was met with a heartbreaking view when I looked beneath the surface: All the fish were gone, and all the coral was dead. As I sat crying on the beach, I promised the ocean that I would be a champion for her and devote my creative and musical talents to helping her heal and flourish again. I was also one of the millions of people moved to action after watching The Cove, created by the Oceanic Preservation Society. The reality of the lives of whales and dolphins around the world being hunted and enslaved in circus shows drove me to create Mermaid Lagoon. It was the only way that I could deal with the pain in my heart for the ocean and her creatures.
AL: Growing up next to the ocean, it is hard to ignore the ever-changing landscape. Witnessing the tides wash up everything from beloved sea animals to surreal amounts of trash, to experiencing the change in flood plains resulting in storm surges to come up and over your house, it becomes impossible to turn a blind eye. I knew from a young age that there had to be a better way to care for our planet and have dedicated my art to it ever since.
FM: What is Mermaid Lagoon?
Mermaid Lagoon is an ocean benefit produced by the NYC Mermaids: Kai Altair, Ali Luminescent, and Debra Tillinger. We work with musicians, circus performers, dancers, set designers, ocean educators, and dreamers to create an underwater wonderland that sends thousands of dollars annually to the local New York City waterways and to organizations supporting the release and rehabilitation of whales and dolphins in captivity. Debra Tillinger, a.k.a. Dr. Mermaid, is a doctor of oceanography and teaches at the Museum of Natural History here in New York. She helps us build entertaining educational content into the experience and keep our facts on point!
Mermaid Lagoon is a way to help people connect to the magic and mystery of the ocean through the beauty and power that mermaids bring to the world. Mermaids carry the siren song that calls people to them! Once you have people’s attention, they are more likely to listen. Let’s face it: Mermaids are more enticing than statistics or pie charts. That has always been the role of the mermaid, to lure people in, but now we can reclaim and transmute the purpose, leading to positive change rather than to the literary watery grave.
We have especially loved identifying smaller organizations making a big difference and doing a cycle of fundraising on their behalf. We feel they receive a bigger impact from our support than a larger, more-funded organization might. Some smaller organizations we have spotlighted in the past include Orca Network and the Billion Oyster Project.
Ali also recently completed a fundraiser for the Seahorse Hawaii Organization.
This year, the money that we sent to Orca Network helped the organizers purchase plane tickets to Miami and California to attend important events to help free Lolita the orca to a natural sea pen where she can live out the rest of her days. Lolita is the most eligible orca for retirement in the world and has been a circus slave in an illegal swimming pool in Miami for over forty years.
HOW CAN OTHER PEOPLE HELP? There are lots of ways you can help! Inspired friends, please get involved with our online community at mermaidlagoon.org
+ Organize beach, river, and pond cleanups in your local areas. e Eat only sustainable fish and seafood, which you can check at this resource: seafoodwatch.org e Support laws that support and protect our oceans and its creatures.
+ Don’t purchase items that exploit marine life.
+ Use environmentally friendly cleaning products, as they all go down the drain.
+ Bring your own bags, straws, and reusable takeout containers. Also travel with metal,bamboo, or glass straws and bring extra to share.
Always ask for no straw when ordering a drink to spread the message that they are being used unnecessarily.
Ready to make a difference?
You can get 10% off with my mermaid discount code “SPLASH” on your own handmade glass straw from SeaSaverStraws here: etsy.com/shop/seasaverstraws?coupon=SPLASH