I’ve recently experienced quite a bit of empathy for my friends (current and former) after experiencing nervousness before my most recent protest. I decided to write this letter to explain just how much I understand why it wasn’t as easy to support me the way thought it should be… Enjoy the read!.....
I’m sitting in a coffee shop preparing for my first Anti Circus protest and I have sooooo many emotions swirling up inside of me.
I’m anxious, nervous and mostly excited to be able to speak for these beautiful beings whose cries go unheard.
I’m anxious because as an animal activist, I have a major responsibility and that is to save lives.
Ever since I was young when people would ask me what my goal was I’d always say, “to save the world”…can you imagine?! Walking around with that weight on your shoulders?! That’s a huge responsibility for someone to have but I truly believe that my purpose on earth is to save animals! That’s why I exist.
The more involved I became in animal activism, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I saw how crazy and cruel this world can be.
Can you believe that there’s actually an event/show in long island where monkeys ride on dogs backs and “race” around a track! What about the zoo in Indonesia that’s been named “the death zoo” because hundreds of animals die every day from starvation and hardly anyone even knows about it! (Google it!)
I don’t even know how I come across half of this stuff but it made my goal of “saving the world” seem so far fetched and I became really overwhelmed. I started going through major bouts of depression, my anxiety rose, I even found that I became easily angered and aggravated.
I started reaching out to my friends because, of course, I needed help saving the world!
What I didn’t realize was that although that was my goal…it wasn’t my friends goal.
Of course it was easy for me to support my friends dream of being a rapper, or support my friends dream of being a basketball star or a journalist or a model, but for me to ask them to change the world with me….was a lot to ask for, and I can finally admit that now.
Which leads to my nervousness… It takes SOOOOOO MUCH COURAGE to raise your voice for a cause that isn’t popular to a lot of people.
I see a lot of “Black lives matter” activists on my Instagram as of lately.
I believe it’s a popular and amazing stance to have, especially in my community, like duh, it should be obvious that we matter!
It’s unfortunate that we have to remind people that our lives matter, but nonetheless it’s a pretty popular movement. How can someone tell you that you’re wrong and you can’t believe that your life matters? (Although I know some folk do).
Now imagine protesting an all black circus that to your community, is like a version of church.
It’s an event they look forward to every year.
When I hosted my very first protests against the Universoul Circus, in queens, people were literally coming in dresses and gowns, as if they were going to a wedding, when in reality they were attending something close to a funeral.
I will never forget standing outside of the circus holding up a sign; my dad stood right beside me and was holding up an “elephants are abused” sign.
A woman crossed the street and cursed us OUT. I can’t even write the things she said, even my dad was offended! He couldn’t believe that’s what I had to deal with sometimes at these protests.
Even after she got in the dollar van, she continued to yell out the window and curse us out.
That’s how it feels to stand against an unpopular opinion. That’s what I was asking my friends to subject themselves to.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the protests I do are peaceful. The protesters are all peaceful.
It’s the outside world that tries to ruffle our feathers, degrade our message and become the provocateurs. It isn’t their fault, they don’t know any better.
There’s a huge misnomer behind animal activism and protests, I wrote a whole other blog about it and I am so excited to post that one because it’s pretty funny (if I do say so myself).
I remember my friend attended the protest that I organized (along with the help of Eric from Peta) and when it was time to take pictures, she hid some of her face behind the sign she was holding. I never really knew why she did that but I remember being so pissed!
After the protest ended I believe she saw just how beautiful the experience really was and how courageous everyone else around her was and in our final photos she stopped hiding her face and stood proud because she was able to be a part of something so major.
I remember when I created a huge Anti Circus video, I got a lot of my friends involved and posted it on my Youtube. I created an entire movement….but trying to get those videos from some of my friends was like pulling teeth!
Some of their videos came our blurry, some of them were whispering or talking in an unenthusiastic manor, some of them took months to send me the videos; one of them even recorded the video in her pajamas!
Others showed up and showed OUT! Their videos were more then I could have ever asked for! They were enthusiastic and passionate! It was so beautiful and thanks to them my vision came to life.
I remember when my mentor reached out to me and she told me she shared my video with PETA and that they were going to post it on their social media, WHICH WAS HUGE!!!
I asked all my friends to sign a video release agreement and a very close friend of mine at the time said her mother said she shouldn’t sign it because someone could change her words around in the video to say something she hadn’t said.
That very moment stuck with me to this very day. It hurt because she had been so supportive and her decision to not sign the release form could have put a halt on a major victory!
But it wasn’t until this very day that I realized that it takes courage to have your face out there, speaking up against something that a lot of people just don’t agree with or simply aren’t open to learning about.
I’ve asked friends to post pictures on their Instagrams, I’ve sent them the caption to post and everything!!!
They would either take months to post it (after the circus was out of town) or they would post it for two days and then delete it.
I say all of this to say, that I understand now.
I’ve felt nervous before a protest but never like this.
I think I feel so nervous because I feel like we are truly about to make a difference.
Change can be scary. I consider myself to be an extremely courageous person, I am an animal activist, THIS IS WHAT I DO and I’m still scared!!!
So I cannot imagine how nerve wrecking and scary it is for some of my friends who aren’t used to taking a stand. Whether it’s standing up for animals, for another cause or even for themselves.
My mom learned this quote and she says it to me all the time.
She tells me sometimes when you’re scared to do something “You just have to do it afraid”.
But it isn’t loving of me to hold grudges, anger or malice against someone, simply because they were afraid.
So without being asked for any forgiveness, I forgive you.
If you don’t feel like you need forgiveness, please understand that this was more about me and my mindset and less about you.
As I prepare for this protest I’d like to give a huge shoutout to everyone who is coming out today, it’s like a homecoming in my opinion. I feel like I’m coming back home, coming out of my cocoon and I’m embracing this voice that I’ve been blessed with and I’m using it for good. Instead of focusing on all the things that I felt others should’ve don’t for me, I want to give love to those people, along with those who have given their all to support me.
Without your support and motivation I don’t know how I’d have the strength to keep fighting. I know it’s in me and it will always be in me, but your reminders help, so thank you for those who have encouraged me and motivated me to keep fighting! Even if we’ve never met, you are appreciated.
Now I’m about to head out and be the voice for those three elephants, two camels, tigers, horses and zebras who have lost their freedom.
Now that I’ve found my freedom, I am able to help them find theirs.
Xoxo Love Atiya
written on september 13th, 2016