MAGIC MAN Harry Potter Alliance co-founder Andrew Slack (crouching, on left) says the best-selling books’ lessons can be used to help young people get involved in social justice.
Being Harry Potter must be pretty rad. He does what every well-intentioned person wants to do — strike down the forces of darkness and save the whole damn planet.
For Andrew Slack, a 31-year-old Potter fan of the highest order, there's not all that much difference between J.K. Rowling's world and ours. Harry's got evil. We've got evil. If that wizard kid can prevent total Armageddon in his universe, why can't we in ours?
>> READ: Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 by Peter Keough <<
"This is like Voldemort," says the bespectacled Slack, scooting to the edge of his seat. "No one likes to say it out loud, but it's an issue we can't ignore. And that issue is child slavery."
Slack is the co-founder and executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a globe-spanning nonprofit that draws parallels between the Potter books and real-world problems to get young people engaged in social justice. They do charity work, host voter-registration events, and campaign for a variety of causes, all in the spirit of their hero.
"It's absolutely amazing, the people that work for this organization," says Jessica Pratas, who joined the HPA as a senior staff assistant early this year. "They know who they're trying to reach."
With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 last fall, the HPA kicked off their widest-reaching project yet: the Deathly Hallows Campaign. This nine-month marathon of action spans the time between parts one and two of the film franchise's final installments, and focuses on taking out real-world Death Eaters and their ilk.
For example: to fight exploitative corporations, the HPA began a push for Warner Bros. to make all Harry Potter-branded chocolate fair trade. "Cocoa is one of the most corrupt industries on the planet," says Slack, citing abuse of workers and illegal child labor. Chocolate plays an important symbolic role in Rowling's world, most notably as an antidote for the deathly chill suffered after contact with a Dementor. The HPA wants to ensure that real Potter chocolate retains that purity.
"Not to mention that Hermione would throw a shit-fit if she were to find out the people behind chocolate being sold in her friend's name were actual slaves or the economic equivalent of slaves," says Slack.
ROCK AGAINST THE DARK ARTS
For decades, fans have written stories and composed folksongs based on their favorite fictions. Harry Potter fans were probably the first to form rock bands.
Brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge of Norwood formed Harry and the Potters in 2002. With their matching Boy-Who-Lived costumes and verses about Ginny Weasley, the DeGeorge bros set wizard angst to song. Potter fans totally dug it.
Soon there was a subculture of like-minded bands — the Remus Lupins, the Whomping Willows, and the Moaning Myrtles, to name a few — that played their Harry-loving hearts out, as if broadcasting straight from the halls of Hogwarts.