“I had so much sadness for the dolphins being slaughtered in Japan and being captured and bought in cash,” Altair said. “I felt so much despair, I had to do something with it, and as an artist I knew I could.”
She felt a particularly strong pull due to her own childhood growing up in the Caribbean. After moving away, Altair said she had the opportunity to go back and visit in 2007.
“I was so looking forward to enjoying the beautiful snorkeling and coral and sea life, and I put my face under the water and everything was dead,” she said. “It was heartbreaking.”
All of that despair turned into something amazing, when Altair hosted her first Mermaid Lagoon benefit to give back to the ocean that she said has always inspired her.
The event has been running for five years now, raising funds to help save the ocean and its sea life by bringing Altair’s own version of the sea right to Brooklyn.
Mermaid Lagoon is a variety show, with underground circus acts, burlesque performances, music performances and DJs. Altair herself performs both her own music and as a mermaid.
Money raised at the event is given to a number of different organizations, which can change every year.
“We always try to give locally, but we also try to choose newsworthy events and things that are catching the public eye,” Altair said. “Things that already have a bit of momentum to them to add our voices and our ideas and our money to that.”
This year, Mermaid Lagoon will donate to the Hudson Riverkeeper, a local denomination of the Waterkeeper Alliance that keeps the Hudson River clean and healthy, as well as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organization.
Altair said this year, she is also looking for someone to match the funds raised.
“We’re hoping to send even more money than in the past,” she said.
The event is co-produced with fellow Coney Island mermaid Ali Luminescent and Dr. Debra Tillinger, a climate change educator at the American Natural History Museum.
Altair said that education is also an important part of the event each year.
“Each year we include a lot of educational ideas through the use of fun productive playful performance, and we find that people are enlightened by this new information every year,” she said.
This year’s event will take place on February 5 from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. at Lot 45 on Troutman Street in Bushwick.
Attendees can expect a great show and packed audience — each year between 100 and 300 people show up. But Altair said that the fundraiser continues each year only in part for the money.
“We’ve hit our fundraising goals each year. That’s certainly part of it,” she said. “But I feel like the real thing that drives me and the other producers of the show is the very real need that the ocean and the sea life in the ocean have for us to give them a voice right now. And the money helps, but it’s more the message.”
Those interested in buying tickets to the Mermaid Lagoon ocean benefit can visit the event’s Facebook page — Mermaid Lagoon Ocean Benefit: Sea Ice.