We all know that there is something about books that changes you – perhaps only for a little while, when you are reading the book. In other cases the influence of a book, or several books, stretches much farther than “just” the appreciation for a story. Sometimes, books activate people to do great things – or not so great things. But let’s focus on the positives!
A great example of the positives is the books-inspired activism by the Harry Potter Alliance (the HPA), founded in 2005 by comedian Andrew Slack and the members of the “wizard rock” band Harry and the Potters. Originally meant to draw attention to the violations of human rights in Sudan, the HPA grew to be a large nonprofit organisation that focuses on a wide array of topics: literacy, (LBGTQ+) equality, sexism, climate change, mental health, labour rights, United States immigration reform and economic justice.
The organisation is inspired by the group that comes into being during Umbridge’s tyranny1 over Hogwarts: Dumbledore’s Army. And now Muggles are finally able to join, too.
There is something different about the HPA compared to other nonprofit organisations. The company’s human touch, the personal connection that they have with their supporters through social media or the option to start a subdivision of the HPA in a community or school, definitely helps to engage people who want to, in some way, actually participate in creating a better world. Since its conception, the HPA has grown to be a large organisation with about 85 so-called chapters – the subdivisions of the HPA – and together with the members of these chapters and other supporters of the HPA, it has achieved quite some successes.
For example, the HPA has managed to stop the passing of a proposition that would have repealed marriage equality in Maine (the name of this project was ‘Equality FTW’), raised more than $123,000 for an organization that provides health care in Haiti (a project called ‘Help Haiti Heal’), organized an annual campaign called ‘Accio Books’ to collect books for children all over the world who do not have easy access to fiction, and, after four years of campaigning, persuaded Warner Bros. to use chocolate in their Harry Potter chocolate products that is fair trade (this campaign was called ‘Not In Harry’s Name’).
Every campaign draws a parallel between itself and the canon of Harry Potter, but nowadays the canon of more and more other fandoms that inspire positive social change, such as the Hunger Games fandom, is used for campaigns. An example of that is the #myhungergames campaign to raise awareness to poverty. By doing so, the HPA gains attention from fans of other fandoms who perhaps would not have been involved with the HPA before. And more and more famous Harry Potter fans, such as Evanna Lynch, the actress who portrays Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies, and John Green, writer and vlogger, show their support to the Harry Potter Alliance. J.K. Rowling herself said: “It’s humbling, and it’s uplifting to see people going out there and doing that in the name of your character.”
In the end, the HPA is a great and enormous example of how books can change people and their actions, and how, maybe, books are able to inspire their readers to change the world.
For more information or if you want to participate:
Website of the HPA: http://thehpalliance.org
The Dutch and Belgian HPA Chapter: https://www.facebook.com/groups/315553841877340/
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Umbrigde is appointed Headmistress by the Ministry of Magic, and Dumbledore, the original Headmaster, has to leave. While seeming to be a sweet lady in her pink outfits and pink room decorated with ceramics with kitten-print, Umbridge is bigoted and cruel, and she does not mind applying vile corporal punishment.
- People without magic abilities (“Non-magic folk” in Hagrid’s words).