At LeakyCon, HPA Executive Director Andrew Slack launched a new campaign at a press conference called EqualityFTW. So far Equality FTW has raised almost $40,000 for immigration, education, and LGBTQ equality. It has inspired amazing perks donated from Evanna Lynch, Starkid, Wizard Rock, Potter Puppet Pals, John and Hank Green, Maureen Johnson, and more (for more check out http://equalityftw.org).
The press conference at LeakyCon where Slack announced the start of Equality FTW included remarks from Julian and Jose Antonio Vargas. Jose is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who shocked Washington when he came out last year as an undocumented American. Since then, he started an organization, “Dream American” which is partnering with the HPA. Before Julian took the stage to speak, Andrew gave opening remarks:
We in the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) believe that if Harry Potter were in our world, he would do more than talk about Harry Potter, he would fight for justice in our world the way he fought for justice in his. In a powerful video called “We Are The Equality Generation,” one of the leaders of the HPA, Julian Gomez expands on this concept, notingWeeks later, on Harry Potter’s birthday, July 31st Julian Gomez put out the bravest video the HPA has ever been associated with, coming out of the closet as an undocumented American.When I watch Julian’s videos, I see someone who reminds me of a younger version of myself. Julian and I are both enthusiastic, nerdy guys who are passionate about Harry Potter fans making a difference in the world by embodying the message in the series. We both quote Buffy and Doctor Who more often than most folks talk about the weather. We’re both huge fans of John and Hank Green and have been longtime Nerdfighters. Both of us were close friends with the late Esther Earl (Esther was one of Julian’s best friends as both hail from Catitude) who has inspired the Harry Potter fandom in ways too difficult to number. We both come across deliberatively with pretty standard American accents, have spent our entire lives living in America, with hard working parents. The key difference between us is that I was lucky enough to be born with papers, and Julian was not. Julian is an undocumented American.
Though my ancestors faced great discrimination when they first came to this country alongside a wave of other Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrants, it was far easier for them to be granted papers. Our system no longer makes it so easy anymore for our nation to be the land of opportunity that made us great. A land of opportunity that heeds the words of Albus Dumbledore, where “differences of language and habit are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open,” where “help will always be given to those who need it” and where we acknowledge “it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow up to be.”
Like Harry growing up, the nearly 12 million Muggleborn Americans in this country are vulnerable to being bullied by the world’s Dursleys, often forced to go to sleep without dinner, and are exploited to do work where they are not valued for their magical gifts. Julian is only one of nearly 12 million and as he explains, not being able to go to a Harry Potter conference is small potatoes compared to the pretty terrifying challenges he has faced and certainly that others face as undocumented Americans.
Many people have asked what the HPA is going to advocate for in the wake of Julian’s video: the DREAM Act or some other form of legislation. But the main agenda behind this video is to simply state that Julian is one of us and that he’s been affected profoundly by an issue that most of us have had the privilege to only consider in a way that is cursory and abstract. For now, the only thing that we are pushing for is to rehumanize an issue that has been so dehumanized. When Julian first confided in me about his status as undocumented I was forced to confront my own internal stereotypes. Here was an American who reminded me of a younger me and had to live his life afraid of things that I never feared. The more I searched, the more I found that Muggleborn Americans without papers that prove a so-called “pure blood” status, those Americans who would never make it before Umbridge’s Muggleborn Inquisitorial Commission….that “they” are not a “them.” They are an “us.” And they deserve what we in the Harry Potter/Equality Generation have been taught is the world’s most fierce and powerful magic: love.
We are a generation that has endured a lot: 9/11, Katrina, violence at home, wars and genocide abroad, the existential threat of global warming, and the reality of a broken economy. But contrary to popular belief, it is an economy broken not by people like Julian’s hard working parents who pay taxes but by a system of Malfoy-like bankers and Fudge-like leaders that chose fear and greed over love. Rather than reacting to dark and difficult times by doubling down on the blindness of fear, we in the HPA invite us reach out to each other with the openness of love. This open attitude is not necessarily a mark of naive idealism nor does it have to be the idle fantasy of youth. We who love fantasy understand that fantasy itself need not be an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it. We who grow up meeting in the Room of Requirement with Dumbledore’s Army are prepared to stand up for the rights our world’s werewolves and house elves and Muggleborn Americans. It is not our intention to save the world. It is our intention to fall in love with it. It is our intention to greet each other in the spirit of love.
And it is with love that we greeted Julian’s video.
Julian had no idea that in a matter of days, his video would receive over 14,000 views, that it would rally his heroes Jose Antonio Vargas and John Green, that Harry Potter fans across the world would work to get him to this conference. But that is exactly what has happened. And now, thanks to the efforts of countless people, including generous “Harry Potter families” willing to drive him on the long road across America so that Julian Gomez will be at LeakyCon.
Consider it a metaphor. The road to rehumanize the plight of 12 million people is long but brave people like Julian Gomez, Jose Antonio Vargas, and our partners at Dream American, and with supportive communities like Harry Potter fans, it is more than possible: it is probable. The arc of history is long, but it bends toward equality. And as Julian comes out of the cupboard as a Muggleborn American, he begins a much bigger campaign that we are introducing which I will get to at the end.
LeakyCon and the Harry Potter fandom are magical – so is the dream that our founders laid out when they created the American Experiment. It is our job to ensure that it stays alive as a beacon of light in dark and difficult times where we must choose between what is right and what is easy – between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Between preying on our deepest fears versus praying for our higher nature. Between giving our soul to the dementor’s kiss allowing for the security of mass oblivion or being Dumbledore’s men and women through and through, and send out light and love as a collective Patronus. In bringing our friend, fellow fan, and courageous role model, Julian Gomez to LeakyCon, we in the Harry Potter/Equality Generation stand with every Muggleborn American in this nation.
It is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Julian Gomez.