The Weapon We Have Is Love

It’s no secret I love being busy. Just four months after I graduated college, I had somehow managed to lock down a full time job, a part time job, and a volunteer position. And while many people could not understand why I would want to spend my free time doing work that I wasn’t getting paid for in addition to a 40 hour work week, I couldn’t be happier. Especially because my volunteer position was with one of the best organizations out there – The Harry Potter Alliance.

I’m sure you’ve seen posts from me over the past year sharing about the HPA’s campaigns, various articles I’ve written for our Medium publication, or simply expressing my love for my fellow HPA volunteers and staff members. When I talk about the HPA to my friends and family, I always describe it as “a social justice initiative themed around Harry Potter”…to which most people respond “how did you find something so perfect for you?” And honestly, they couldn’t be more right.

Even though my full time job is also at a nonprofit, The Harry Potter Alliance has given me the opportunity to expand my social justice actions even further. I truly can’t imagine myself doing any other work besides somehow helping people, which is why I was drawn to nonprofit work in the first place. So it’s no surprise that even when I’m not at my 9-5 job, I’m continuing the fight for social justice with an organization that not only aims to improve the world by turning fans into heroes, but also believes it’s just as important to share your Hogwarts House as it is to share your pronouns.

It’s been one year since I’ve joined the HPA as a volunteer, and in that time I’ve had the opportunity to take on many different roles on our campaigns team, better known as the Department of Magical Causes and Correspondence. First and foremost, I am the LGBTQ+ Researcher, responsible for keeping our staff updated on the latest LGBTQ+ related news in the world and providing resources and information that can be referenced in future campaigns, on our social media channels, and other projects conducted by the HPA. I’ve also spent time on the social media team, contributing to the HPA’s Pinterest page and assisting copywriters on various platforms. I also love to write articles for Medium, as well as generally help behind the scenes however I can. Working with the HPA has helped me embrace the fact that my love of fandom and my love of activism don’t have to exist separately. In fact, they’re infinitely stronger together.

Fandoms are a place where I’ve always felt comfortable. Whether I’m gushing about Harry Potter or YouTube or Broadway, I thrive when I’m surrounded by other people who share my level of passion and aren’t afraid to show it. There’s nothing more freeing than connecting with others who respect, understand, and celebrate your authentic self. With the HPA, I’ve been able to do that on a whole new level that I’ve never truly experienced before.

People feel comfortable in this group the moment they join. Though our communication is almost exclusively virtual, our relationships develop quickly and are always a solid form of support. We have come out to each other before anyone else in our personal lives, we’re open about our struggles with mental health and the need to take time off and recharge, we share self care techniques when we notice someone struggling, we have staff-wide discussions on how to better our communication both within the organization and out in the world, and more often than anything else, we’re always sending love, positivity, support, and lots of virtual hugs.

There are people in this organization that I’ve never met before who I consider some of my closest friends. We share jokes and bond over TV shows and always know the perfect GIFs to send each other. We all share a passion for making a difference, and it just so happens to be in a way that attracts other like-minded Harry Potter fans. Working with this group of superheros, wizard activists, and genuinely caring group of nerds is quite literally the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to magic. I could not be more grateful.

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Dear Reader,

This post, like everything I write, comes from a place of explicit sincerity. For some reason, it felt important to remind y’all of that before I get started. Here we go.

Needless to say, this election was a fucking nightmare. When I think back to that dreaded week in November when it all came to a head, I still feel its horrible remnants. The hope I had built up from my peers and my supportive community came crashing down in a matter of hours. Some people were able to put their anger directly into action, while others had a more difficult time getting back on their feet. For three days following the election, I physically struggled to get out of bed. I had no fight in me whatsoever – which was extremely difficult for someone as passionate as I am about actively participating in working toward change. I had experienced depression before, but this was the first time I had ever felt depressed to the point of not knowing any way to end the suffering. All around me, my peers were encouraging the importance of fighting back. But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t find it in me.

And if you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, saying to yourself “Stop being so dramatic” or “Get over it”…congratulations, you’re privileged. Take a second to meditate on that. It’s hard to accept and acknowledge your privilege, but it’s too necessary to ignore. Because believe it or not, we are not acting spoiled or overdramatic about this. We are trying to swallow the fact that there are people in our country – peers, friends, relatives, etc. – who do not understand the extent of our adverse circumstances. We are struggling to understand how people we love and care about can actively (or sometimes passively) support the deterioration of our civil rights. And if you don’t think the circumstances are that drastic, you’re woefully ignorant. And that’s not me being an entitled millennial or whiny feminist – it’s a fact. Educate yourself.

Here’s the deal: the new administration is dangerous. Because of these people in power, basic human rights continue to be denied to marginalized communities, including women (and basically all genders that are not cisgender men), LGBTQ+ people, people of color, immigrants, low-income citizens, people with disability, the homeless, incarcerated, and so many more varying intersections of people in the United States. And while I could go into detail about how there is actual proof to back up these claims, I truthfully don’t feel qualified enough. Instead, here are some sources:

My main intention for this post is to share how we can continue to take care of ourselves in such a heightened moment of need. While I have spent as much time as possible taking care of myself in this post-election dumpster fire, there is still a fear that the reality of Friday’s inauguration will hit me harder than I’m ready for. For any of y’all who are feeling similarly afraid, I wanted to share some self-care techniques that might help you get through the weekend. Because I am unable to participate in any of the women’s marches happening this weekend (if you are looking for somewhere to march, take a look here!), I figured sharing some of these techniques would be a good idea for anyone else who wants to feel productive, supportive, or just plain distracted.

1. Surround yourself with like-minded people

For some people, having time to themselves is a crucial part of their self-care routine. However, if you do better during difficult times when there are people around you, it could be particularly important this weekend to make sure they are like-minded friends, peers, etc. For example, while spending time with family might be a go-to method for you to unwind, make sure you’re not putting yourself in a potentially toxic environment. This could also be the case with friends or others in your immediate circle. Make plans now with people you trust will understand your needs. At least for these few days, try to take politics off the table by asking those around you to respect your wishes and wait to have those conversations at another time. 

2. Make your voice heard

Personally, this is my favorite way to combat any feelings of defeat or lack of purpose. We all have the power to take action and participate in making positive changes in our society. I find that by actively voicing my opinions against our system’s injustices, I can stand a little taller with the satisfaction of making even the smallest dent.

As some of you may know, I am a volunteer at the Harry Potter Alliance. We are currently running a campaign called Neville Fights Back to encourage everyone to take action in our political system. The HPA offers links to help find your representatives and their contact information so you can easily make your voice heard – literally, you can call them and share your message. I also like this infographic called How to call your reps when you have social anxiety. Personally, I hate speaking to other humans on the phone, so I found this resource super helpful.

Additionally, I stumbled across this handy dandy Google Doc called the “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet. Basically, this is your one stop shop for who you can call, scripts for exactly what to say, and additional tips for how this actually works and why it’s important. Share it like crazy and give Kara all the credit for being an activist superhero.

3. Unplug

It might be a good idea to stay away from social media as much as possible. While this can often be an outlet for us when we want to feel connected to a greater cause, it could be draining to continue refreshing your pages only to find repeated coverage of the same event. Trust me, if anything extraordinary happens, you can read about it on Monday.

4. Donate

When it comes to donating, most people immediately think of money. While that’s definitely a wonderful option if you have the means – FYI, I’m personally a big fan of the movement to Donate $20 to Planned Parenthood on 1/20/17 – money isn’t the only way you can contribute to the causes you care about. We all have our own unique passions and skills, and this is your opportunity to share them in a way that can be both selfless and selfish. Write, create art, share your voice and share it out loud.

5. Don’t forget the basics

If you feel like you need to stay in bed all weekend, don’t get discouraged. Just make sure that at the very least, you’re taking care of yourself on a very basic level. Eat breakfast, drink plenty of water, take your medication, change your clothes. Take a short walk around the block for some fresh air. Text your best friend. Rely on your favorite self-care techniques, whatever they may be.

Let me know what your plans are for this weekend. Are you going to a march? Spending time with your pup? Having a Harry Potter movie marathon? ALL THREE? The possibilities are endless! Stay strong. Remember that you’re not alone and we are all in this fight together. I love you.

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