INTERVIEW: Harry Potter Alliance’s Granger Leadership Academy is Shaping the Next Decade of Activism

Jul 09, 2020

Posted by: Gianfranco Lentini

Charity, Fan Events, Fandom, Fans, News

Attention all Potterheads, Demigods, Padawans, and everything in between! This year’s Granger Leadership Academy is only weeks away, and for the first-time ever, in response to COVID-19, the annual conference for fan activism will be going virtual on July 17-19. So whether you normally travel by Floo Network or X-Wing, this year is all about changing the world from right inside your living room.

Organized by the Harry Potter Alliance, whose mission is to turn fans into heroes, the Granger Leadership Academy is entering its sixth year and is open to attendees of all ages and fandoms. Leaky sat down Janae Phillips, Conference Organizer of the GLA and Director of Leadership & Education at the HPA, to hear about what’s in store for attendees new and old.

“[The Granger Leadership Academy] is the only fan activism conference in the world, and it is designed to be a hero training experience academy for our world,” says Phillips. “If you’ve ever wished that you could be at Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood or at a Rebel Training Center, this is your opportunity to be there. [Camp GLA consists of] sessions that focus on building up leadership and activism skills, and also talking about social change and fan activism as a methodology or discipline.”

It doesn’t take Hermione’s intelligence to know that 2020 has packed its share of punches. From COVID-19 to the ever-growing social justice movement around the world, the GLA has built a line-up of sessions this year to train aspiring and practicing activists on how to take action against adversity.

camp gla, granger leadership academy 2020, a conference for fan activism, by the Harry Potter alliance

“We have sessions that reach across a number of topics,” says Phillips. “We have a panel on the next decade of fan activism. How do you express your fandom and your art in ways that help change the world? What does it mean to be a fan activist right now? It’s a very no-holding-back program on social activism… We also felt that with the way the world is changing so rapidly, even more so than it has been for the last several years, we really wanted the programming to feel relevant to the conversation now.”

Leading these sessions is a brilliant panel of new and returning panelists including Henry Jenkins, Sangita Shresthova, Black Girls Create, Kris Henderson, Nikki Grant, Karan Nevatia, Charli Renken, Xanda Robinson-Burns, Grace Gordon, Caitlin Elizabeth Harper, and more to be announced as the conference date approaches. Over the course of the 3-day event, this gathering of writers, activists, strategists, and teachers will use current events to discuss decentering whiteness in media, putting empathy into action, defunding prisons, media literacy and news bias, and much more.

Amidst the flurry of organizing, Leaky was admittedly curious to know, with the state of the world, what goes into turning this traditionally in-person experience into a virtual experience?

“The thing that I’ve really been telling people about GLA is that [it’s not] just a collection of webinars,” says Phillips. “The thing that makes events really special are all of the in between moments. We’re still assigning attendees to teams so that they can meet other folks at the conference and have a support system. We’re sending people their workbooks and giving them space to talk through the different activities. We’re actually having a chef create a menu that can be shared in advance so that folks can all make the same food to eat during our feast at the beginning. We’re really trying to do everything we can to make those community elements come together.”

Promising to be a welcoming and transformative experience for all, the GLA boasts an average success rate of 100% of attendees reporting after their time at the conference that they identify as an activist. And many attendees have even reported back to the HPA saying that they used their training immediately in daily interactions.

“It’s a reflection of all the work we do,” says Phillips. “It’s about being very explicit about where we stand in progressive organizing, where we stand as fan activists, and what kind of the stories we’re telling about heroes in our world.”

And Leaky would be remiss to say that the GLA doesn’t remind us of a certain group of students who took a stand and saved the world.

“Dumbledore’s Army is the [comparison] that gets used all the time,” admits Phillips. “I think that metaphor resonates so much [because the DA] was a place where students of any experience level, range, and skill were accepted and given the opportunity to learn and train and and step into their own as leaders. That’s really what we’re creating with the Granger Leadership Academy: a space for you, no matter what place you’re on in your own hero’s journey… The way we’re able to connect with people and then connect those people to each other, [it causes] ripple effects that they will have for the rest of their lives.”

Tickets for the Granger Leadership Academy are on sale and start at only $25, and scholarships are available for financial aid. Each ticket includes:

  • 20+ programs from fandom leaders, community organizers, academics, and creators
  • Wrock concert featuring Tonks and the Aurors, Lauren Fairweather, The Lovegoods, and Ludo Bagman and the Trash and a Community Mic Night presented by Wizards in Space
  • Community activities like pajama parties and s’mores around the virtual fire
  • A custom banquet recipe sent in advance so you can enjoy your own themed camp snacks
  • Access to exclusive community gathering spaces and opportunities to meet other fan activists like you
  • Downloads of workbooks and printable conference accessories

The GLA has Leaky’s seal of approval, and certainly has Hermione’s as well. Grab your tickets now! And while you eagerly await this year’s conference, read up on prior coverage of GLA here and an interview with Katie Bowers, Director of the HPA, here.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.