Monsters, muggles and wizards attracted Nikki Ebright to the Harry Potter series, and she fell in love with the books' themes: People should take care of each other, and their character and the choices they make shape the world. Soon she was fully immersed in geek culture, where she found herself increasingly troubled by a lack of representation of people of color and varying gender identities and sexualities, a "graying of the fandom," as she dubs it.
When she created her own company, Shiny Productions, to bring a Harry Potter Event to Denver, she decided to address the problem head on. "There's a greater rainbow of fans out in the world, and they're not being reflected in the demographics that are showing up at our events," she says. So she set out to make geek events more inclusive of people of varying races, sexualities and gender identities, all while trying to avoid being yet another overly privileged white savior.
The things she and her team are doing to ensure the safety of fans are pretty basic — and all too rare. In one case, a participant requested that a name badge reflect a shift in the person's gender identity. "It touched me that they felt safe enough to make that request and knew that we were open to receiving that request," Ebright says.
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The roots of Shiny Productions have blossomed into Shiny Garden, which throws hands-on events such as the Myths & Legends Convention for modern myths including Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Firefly; WhimsyCon for fans of steampunk and costuming; and Hexacon, a celebration of board/tabletop games, miniatures and train games. At every Shiny Garden event, Ebright wants attendees to find inspiration, validation and encouragement to "go do the thing," work toward their passion.
Fortunately, she notes, she's hardly alone in making an effort to make geek culture inclusive. Indigenous Comic Con spotlights indigenous pop-culture creators at a three-day convention in New Mexico. 28 Days of Black Cosplay celebrates black cosplayers costumed as their favorite characters. Con or Bust (to which Shiny Garden donates event passes) is an organization that helps underprivileged fans of color attend sci-fi/fantasy conventions. Denver Gaymers is a gaming community specifically for LGBT/GSM gamers.
To continue to broaden its reach, Shiny Garden is recruiting potential members for its board and outreach team, as well as event volunteers and donors; Ebright encourages people of all background to apply. Find out more on Shiny Garden online, on Twitter and on Facebook.