If you ever fantasized about joining Dumbledore's Army when you read Harry Potter as a kid (or an adult, if I'm being honest), now is your chance. Organized by students at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the Resistance School is in session, and it can teach you everything you need to know about protecting our rights and progressive values under the current American government. Well, maybe not everything, but you'll certainly come out more informed than you started.
Following the results of the 2016 election in November, many citizens were caught between the desire to do something and the confusion of determining what "something" should entail. "The election of Trump was a catalyst for us coming together as a group of friends and classmates, and starting to talk about what we could do to fight for the progressive values we believe in," explains co-founder Shanoor Seervai to Bustle over email. Much of the group had political experience prior to the election — their ranks include human rights advocates and former staffers for presidential campaigns — so they decided to take the opportunity to teach others how to resist effectively.
Enter the Resistance School, a free, student-run training program dedicated to fighting the normalization of... well, everything the current White House is attempting to normalize, because — as has often and necessarily been repeated — none of this is normal. ( The program is unaffiliated with the university.) "What we’re doing here is trying to help people across the country strengthen their skills so they can take political action that has sustained momentum over the long term," Seervai writes.
Each session features a new speaker and focuses on a different theme, from mobilization to sustaining momentum in the long term. There's even suggested reading and homework for students to complete. Although the campus has limited physical space, but viewers can tune in to the livestream on Facebook or the school's website. To encourage a sense of community, the school suggests signing up as a group, and lectures are designed with this in mind.
Seervai describes the first session, led by historian and activist Timothy McCarthy on April 5, as a "huge success." More than 15,000 viewers watched the program online, and about one hundred people attended in person — more than double the number of registered groups beforehand. Wednesday's session focused on communication in advocacy, teaching viewers to effectively initiate conversations and use narratives to support political values.
"We need to do a better job of identifying and communicating our values," McCarthy explained during his lecture, according to a press release.
Although the Resistance School was founded with a "strong orientation toward U.S. policy," Seervai tells Bustle that groups and individuals from 20 countries signed up for Wednesday's session. "The tools that people will get from the program — communicating your values, or sustaining momentum in a movement — are relevant in a variety of contexts," she writes.
The next session, titled "How to Mobilize and Organize our Communities," takes place on April 12 at 6:30 p.m. Speaker Sara El-Amine has served as Executive Director of President Obama’s advocacy arm, and she is known for her work linking on- and offline advocacy. When asked about the possibility of sessions after the anticipated four, Seervai says the program is focusing on getting off the ground first. "We can't wait to learn what communities want to organize around... Resistance School, and this will help inform our future," she writes.
By the way, the founders are aware of the comparisons to Dumbledore's Army, and considering the Resistance School has tweeted at Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, something tells me it's not an unwelcome parallel.
To join Resistance School, head over to its website to sign up, and prepare to hit the books.