After yesterday’s Bills’ game, we could all use a boost of joy in our lives. Thankfully, this city is home to the Buffalo Joywalkers, a group of people who sporadically come together to spread joy to others. Recently, group members attended a tribute for Buffalo’s Bubble Man, who passed away. The presence of the Joywalkers was something else – they effortlessly lifted the moods and the spirits of everyone at the event, by simply being themselves.
I spoke to original group member Linda Abrams about the formations of the Joywalkers, and their ongoing contributions toward a more joyful Buffalo.
“When people are down, they need an extra boost to balance things out,” said Linda. “The group started off in 2014, with some members from Occupy Buffalo, and other grassroots people who wanted to turn the streets into places of joy and connection. It’s like a pop-up, or the Merry Pranksters – it’s contagious. It started as simply as getting some music, and a bunch of friends to go outside and dance. This is our eighth year. People are really starting to recognize us. When we first started, police officers would walk up and check on us, to see if we were crazy. Now the police cars and firetrucks pass by and wave. We see people in their cars dancing as they go by.”
Linda told me that the Buffalo Joywalkers Facebook group is now up to 700 members, all of whom support the idea. About 50 people regularly attend the dances, which are sort of flashmob-esque. Then there are the core diehard members that don’t miss a gathering.
“Aside from dancing and spreading joy, I started to realize that people were having important conversations,” said Linda. “Gandhi said, ‘Be the joy you wish to see in the world.’ It’s getting really heavy out there. There are people who are having a crummy day, or year, or even life. So many people feel that you have to walk a certain way, or dress a certain way… to be so contained, or caged. This is about liberation. We would rather dance than march through life. I once had a homeless man tell me that he was embarrassed because he had no teeth, but that he couldn’t help smiling. I will take that with me always. Another woman on the Facebook page says that she’s in a wheelchair, but that she wants to come to sit and watch. Some people are shy, but they they get dancing and their mood changes.”
It’s so heartening to see a small-ish faction of people who are able to bring so much joy to so many people. Buffalo is lucky to have such a fabulous squad of merri-makers who take to the streets year round.
“We’ve been getting more popular in the wintertime,” Linda told me. “It’s possibly because of the pandemic. I would Joywalk every day, and so would my friend Dale. Right now we are meeting up on Fridays at 5:30pm at the corner of Elmwood and Bidwell, and then on Saturdays at 2pm at the corner of Elmwood and Allen (Bubble Man Land). When we would show up at the corner of Elmwood and Allen, the window would open and the bubbles would magically appear. The corner is now a vortex of joy in his honor. It’s like a call to action – Bubble Man was like a superhero of joy. The street is filled with a bunch of characters, coming together in a way that is delightful, silly, and unexpected. It’s unbridled joy and liberation. It’s about what’s most beautiful about humans, who can be so guarded. Let no one steal your joy.”
Be sure to join their Facebook group page to learn about more about these joyful outings… and attend one of the upcoming meetups. Dance, watch, clap, sing, be merry. Bring your bubbles and your boogie shoes… and feel free to submit your favorite song recommendation to the dance party playlist, via the Facebook group page.