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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Harry Potter Alliance Strives to Apply Literary Values in Real World

Published: September 6, 2012
Section: News

The “Harry Potter” books by J.K. Rowling are now being used to perform concrete social justice projects throughout the United States and the world.

In an effort to make social justice real for readers everywhere, Brandeis alumnus Andrew Slack ’02 created the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a group “that seeks to change the world through the stories we love,” Eileen Smith, senior executive assistant of the HPA, said.

According to the HPA’s mission statement, its goal is “to empower our members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world … [and] to make civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change.”

Smith also stated that the HPA uses “parallels from the ‘Harry Potter’ books … to spread the messages of love, equality and friendship into the communities that we live in, in the hopes that someday we might live in a world free from Death Eaters, Dolores Umbridges and Voldemorts.”

When the idea of forming a chapter was brought up on campus, it was greeted with wide support. Word spread rapidly among students, especially so in the class of 2015, which contained some of the students who proposed the idea, including Adam Ossip ’15.

The ideals of the HPA fit closely with the ideals of many Brandeis students. One of the 40 campaigns the HPA has led is the “Accio Books!” initiative, which came from “the belief that stories change the world,” Smith said. The HPA donated books all over the nation and built a library in Brooklyn. According to the HPA’s website, all campaigns strive to correct issues of “literacy, human rights, equality and empowerment.”

The process of formalizing the chapter, however, was never completed. When asked about the status of the formation, Ossip said that, as of right now, there “isn’t a recognized campus club that is the HPA or the Brandeis Chapter,” and that “the formation was put on hiatus.”

According to Ossip, despite the hiatus, the press for the creation of a Brandeis HPA chapter has not died. Ossip told The Hoot that he “see[s] nothing wrong with resuming it later” if students can find the time to commit to a chapter, which is an admittedly difficult feat amid the crazed academic and social spheres of Brandeis.

It may be difficult for students to find time though. The umbrella organization The Waltham Group, for instance, has dozens of sister groups that work actively toward a variety of social justice initiatives throughout the Waltham and the Greater Boston area.

Despite the overwhelming number of social justice clubs that already exist, Ossip believes a worthwhile cause such as the HPA will certainly flourish in an environment such as Brandeis.

The HPA has successfully partnered with other social justice organizations, including the Help Haiti Heal campaign, where it raised more than $123,000 in just two weeks. Smith told The Hoot that “after [the] Helping Haiti Heal campaign, all of the members from Partners in Health that we talked to said they had never worked with a more enthusiastic and caring group of individuals.”