Written by Dan Mims. Photos #2-4 courtesy of Derek Goodwin.
Like many good things, Aurora Lampworks, a lighting restoration and custom fabrication house (see example above), is a little hard to find. 172 North Eleventh Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is the address, and that’s good enough for determining the block. Along that stretch, I walk right by the narrow, nondescript door that looks at best like a side entry, not for public use. Failing any likelier options, my feet wander back and eyes scan around, finally settling upon a tiny wooden sign high above, adorned with a lightbulb carving.
Through a cozy drawing room, up a staircase, and across an upper landing, I step outdoors onto an expansive roof that’s already (it’s early on a breezy, cool summer evening) dotted with palpably happy people. Our raison d’être tonight is fundraising for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, an animal haven and advocacy organization located just outside Woodstock, NY. The supporting cast includes Blossom du Jour (savories), Vegan Divas (sweets), Cynthia King Dance Studio (entertainment), The Vegan Vine (wine), and Neumarkter Lammsbrau (beer).
Lately fancying myself a bit of a teetotaler, I deviate from my usual first stop—the bar—and head to the food table instead. From among several appetizing options, Blossom’s Picnic Salad, a.k.a. vegan chicken with green apples, cranberries, celery, onions, and vegan mayonnaise, catches my eye. Between bites, I commingle with friends old and new, then break away to try the chocolate mousse offered up by Vegan Divas. It’s smooth and rich, density well-balanced, flavor not too sweet.
Alone for now, I take a second to note the sun-soaked sky, the air sprinkled with pleasant conversation and laughter. Truth-warriors need nights like these. Most of the people here have seen the light about our current food system—diagnosing the real problems, prescribing the actual solutions, and taking responsibility for leading the way—and they’ve wisely taken this opportunity to get together, have a little fun, and replenish the stores of willpower it takes to honor that responsibility.
Not without continuing to advance the work, though. Jenny Brown (pictured right), WFAS’s Co-Founder, soon takes to the microphone to perform what would probably feel to most like an unsavory task: asking for money. But Brown is seasoned at this, and it helps that her organization is so eminently worthy. Voice pitching up and down, the crowd’s laughter increasing step-wise with her cadence, she says, “We hope that if you’ve got a little spare pocket change; maybe something that’s made of paper and not actually change; maybe even something that’s not actually money but is a check, you can leave that [with us].” This money will soon be doubled; an anonymous donor has agreed to match funds up to $100,000, which WFAS will use to advance the message and care for 200+ rescued farm animals upstate. Those animals continue to need healthy food, well-maintained fields and shelters, medical treatment, and—to heal from past wounds, both corporeal and psychological—time.
It’s still early in the night. In a few moments, the viscerally affable Maurice Malcolm, Jr., instructor at Cynthia King Dance Studio, will open the entertainment portion of the evening with an improvised tap solo. There won’t be any accompaniment, but his fast-tapping feet, slow-clapping hands, and zen-like demeanor will crowd-please just fine on their own. Then CKDS’ all-female troupe, dressed in flowing, high-necked, color-blocked black and white dresses, will perform a mesmerizing modern dance piece. Following that, CKDS’ B-Boy Crew (a.k.a. breakdance squad) will delight onlookers with some serious but seemingly effortless acrobatic displays. Starting with a raft of solos, each mediated by a combined transition (performing a joint move as one dancer exits and another enters), the show will culminate in an epic, all-hands-on-deck choreography.
Later, there will be drumming, fire dancing, and a s’more cookout, punctuated by interesting conversations. For now, though, it’s enough to breathe the cool summer air, gaze into the increasingly twilit horizon, and luxuriate in the simple presence of people who, when confronted with the choice to be conventional or to be kind, choose the latter.