Why having fun is sometimes the best way to change the world

This is a guest post by Thao Nguyen of Thao with the Stay Down Get Down, who is performing tonight at PPNYC’s Roe on the Rocks Benefit Concert.

Being an activist is just as necessary to me as being a musician. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose between the two.

As an avid supporter of women’s reproductive rights, and women’s rights in general, I’ve toured and made music videos and talked and performed plenty to help raise awareness and draw attention to organizations doing inspiring work. I’ve also lobbied on Capitol Hill. That is where laws of the land are born but it is no rock show, I can assure you.

These experiences taught me that activism does not have to be such a dry task. Often you can reach more people and more of your message gains footing when there is joy and celebration in honor of your cause.

Tonight it is my absolute privilege to be performing in New York City at the annual Roe on the Rocks benefit show that supports Planned Parenthood of New York City. Given the ongoing political climate and aggressive conservatism that threatens the health care of women in New York City, and the entire country, I also consider it part of my civic right and duty. The fangs of legislation seeking to defund Planned Parenthood bare no merit in the fiscal or democratic realm– barring federal funding to Planned Parenthood does little more than rob millions of American women of the only trusted access they have to services far beyond family planning. STI testing, contraception, sexual health education programs, cancer screening and prevention, and the well-being and peace of mind of so many women are at stake.

I understand the schism between passionate outrage at the condition of our times and actually doing something about it. I have fallen into this lapse many times before, and still do. No matter my intense frustration with conservative political ploying and the endangerment of our social programs and welfare, I have often been discouraged out of political action because standing up to law-makers casts an intimidating shadow.

It is at times hard to believe in the efficacy of lobbying or petitioning, because ours is an obstacle course of a system, with red tape for miles and gauntlets of folks who strike me as people who don’t like women.

So I play rock music with my friends for fine folks like yourselves in support of vital organizations like Planned Parenthood, and that is a substantial part of my activism.

My college career plans were to work in women’s advocacy upon graduation. Eventually I realized the front lines of non-profit work were not aligned with my strengths and inclinations. When I committed to pursuing a career in music I also committed to using my music as a way to help causes I hold so dearly. It’s been very important for me to infuse what I do for a living with social justice work. Instead of diluting either, this commitment has enriched both- activism gives me a reason beyond myself to make and share my music, and making music helps me expand my reach and opportunity to meet and unite with amazing like-minded people who care about what I care about. An activist event does not have to be somber– the issues at hand are not to be taken lightly, but in the collection of like-minded people there thrives a vibrant joy and optimism as well. We have to keep our spirits buoyed and creativity churning if we’re going to keep taking care of each other.

I have found empowerment and renewed my belief in political action because I’ve been fortunate enough to find ways to channel my skills and interests into support for causes I love. If you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to keep looking, and with fervor. As we raise our activism in its best fitting forms, so rises our sense of ownership in our country, our citizenship, and our power. As a Planned Parenthood supporter and fellow activist, if you are in New York, I do hope to see you at the show.

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