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The Harry Potter Alliance—social justice enabled through new culture

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Features

October 23, 2015

The Brandeis Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is not a fan club. They are an activist organization devoted to making change in the world through pop culture-based campaigns, dealing primarily through the lens of movies and television shows. Describing themselves as “Dumbledore’s Army for the real world,” the organization is a national non-profit run largely by people who find commonality in their love for Harry Potter, setting out to “turn fans into heroes” by using “the power of story and popular culture to inspire fans to be like the heroes they read about.” The national organization was created and co-founded in 2005 by Brandeis Alumnus Andrew Slack, and the Brandeis iteration of the Harry Potter Alliance was founded seven years later in 2012.

Emily Kalver ’18, a psychology major and linguistics minor is both a member and the communications representative of HPA. She recently spoke about the club and its intentions on campus. Comprised of 15 members, the club is a chartered group. Kalver says that they “bring Brandeis’ love for social justice together with HPA’s love for relevant culture to try to get people excited about issues in a different way.”

HPA does get people excited about issues in less conventional ways. Among many social justice campaigns, the larger organization held a national “Hunger is NOT a Game” campaign as a part of their Imagine Better project, partnering with Oxfam and the Hunger Games fan base to fight hunger issues. They also held a “Not in Harry’s Name” campaign in a successful effort to use an ethical source for the cocoa used in Harry Potter chocolate products. As a 10-year anniversary celebration, HPA is now holding an Indiegogo fundraiser to continue their mission for positive social change.

The Brandeis extension of HPA has had a flurry of activity in recent years. Last year, the club organized a book drive to donate books to a children’s hospital in Boston. The club has also held bake sales, including a very successful one just last week. The club is organizing a ’DEIS Impact event for this spring.

Last year, the ’DEIS Impact event that was organized was a life-sized Game of Life. In a case of unfortunate timing, the event was scheduled during the Super Bowl (during which the Patriots were playing), but it was put on regardless. The goal of the game was to educate about how difficult living could be on a small income. “You could win some money or you could lose some money,” Kalver stated, “but if you were wealthier you might win more, and if you were poorer you might not be able to cushion losses. You just had to rely on getting a good spin.”

The club’s hopes are that they can get more known on campus. “We’re trying to get our name out there more,” said Kalver, “A lot of the people who do [the club] are big Harry Potter fans, but we keep people in the club to improve the world and to imagine better.”

Kalver spoke of the club members, saying “We have a really dedicated membership. We are small, but we are very committed, and everyone is always really excited to participate.” She spoke about how during the recent bake sale, the members of the club “spent all weekend running around, buying ingredients and baking, and they were happy to do it in their spare time.”

The club’s ultimate hope is to bring fresh ideas about how social activism can work. “[Activism] is often not really accessible to people who don’t already know what’s going on” said Kalver. The Harry Potter Alliance wants to bring in people who want to know more about social activism, and bring them the activism in an interesting package. That way, Kalver notes, true change can be made.

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