As any hardcore Harry Potter fan knows, September 19th is a very special day. September 19th is Hermione Jean Granger's birthday and I think we all know by now that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would have been dead several times over without her. Hermione might not have been the main protagonist of the Harry Potter series, but she was no passive character either. She stood up for what was right, even and especially when it wasn't easy, and her legacy of activism continues off the screen as well. The actress who portrayed her, Emma Watson, was named a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women and she's already pushing for more women to be actively involved in politics. And for the first time, in 2014, the Harry Potter Alliance Chapters launched the Granger Leadership Academy to give everyone the leadership skills they need to become "heroes of their own narratives".
"Hermione was the chief activist and community organizer of the student resistance against injustices that occurred at Hogwarts, whether it was unfair treatment of house elves or the proliferation of pro-Voldemort sentiment among the school's leadership," said Lauren Bird, Communications Director of the HPA. "In a sense, Hermione was the original HPA Chapter Organizer. Granger Leadership Academy will provide a variety of workshops that will allow people to make positive change in their own schools and communities."
According to Bird, the HPA's Chapters Program is all about giving young adults the opportunity to take their passion for literature and culture and channel that passion into social change. It relies on the strength of fan activism which, for anyone who might scoff in confusion, can actually be a very powerful thing. Think of all the campaigns that got beloved shows back on air or got offensive things shut down, just on the strength of an organized group of angry fans. It's an under-appreciated and thus untapped resource for change, but it makes perfect sense that a group like the HPA would utilize it. In the years that Harry Potter was a huge sensation, everything from huge fan conventions to midnight book release parties were put together purely on the strength of fan activism.
To take that passion and channel it into social improvement is exactly the kind of thing that Hermione would approve of. After all, the Battle of Hogwarts was mainly won on the strength of students banding together to stand up for what was right. "Hermione has been a key role model for an entire generation of young women, and the results speak for themselves: millennials of all genders are breaking down gender barriers like it's their job," said Bird. "Which it is, of course, but it helps to have a hero like Hermione to demonstrate the importance of owning your intellect and channeling your strengths into actions that improve the world around you."
Watson is more than getting the ball rolling, between her feminist statements and international activism, but there's no such thing as too much social action and the more people that Hermione and Watson inspire to take a stand the better. For many people, it's not so much that they don't have the desire for change as it is that they don't know how to go about it. And that's where the Granger Leadership Academy would come in, allowing them to meet with leaders and others interested in activism and then learn the tools they need to effect change. And that's a truly beautiful thing.
The deadline to register online for the Granger Leadership Academy is October 7 and the conference itself takes place from October 17 to October 19. This will be the first annual conference, so missing it this year just means you should try to catch it for next year. The Harry Potter series might be over, but Hermione Granger's legacy is not. If she can inspire even one little girl to take a stand for something that they believe in no matter what the odds are against them, then our beloved heroine would definitely be proud. Not bad for a fictional character who just turned 35 years old within her own universe.