The Harry Potter series has been accused of promoting witchcraft, Satanism, general paganization and overall corruption among young Muggles the world over. But seven books, eight movies and 14 years later, the phenomenon has also done some good.
The Harry Potter Alliance, based in Boston, is a group 100,000 activists-strong in chapters all over the world.
The alliance, founded in 2005 by 31-year-old Potter fan Andrew Slack, has raised $15,000 for aid in Darfur and Burma and $123,000 for Haiti.
As fans all over lined up for July 15 midnight showings of the series' final film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the Harry Potter Alliance was celebrating the work they've done on the Deathly Hallows Campaign, a social change effort that's attacked hunger, bullying, child slavery and more.
But even though it's the end of an era for the series, Potter fans will continue their activism work.
Just as Potter fought for equality in the stories, Slack urges fans to fight for what's right, Boston.com reports.
"I think most people who love stories, they want to see something bigger than themselves,'' Slack said. "Rise to a bigger occasion.''
The Deathly Hallows Campaign spanned November 2010 to July 2011, the nine months in between the two "Deathly Hallows" movies.
One of the campaign's successes was convincing Warner Bros. Studio that all Harry Potter-themed chocolate should be fair trade certified. The campaign also donated 9,283 books to help create a library for school children in the Bronx, according to its website.
The alliance also announced on July 12 the final "world evil" it will tackle: climate change. Its Imagine Better contest asks fans to submit art that raises awareness of environmental issues.
The Harry Potter Alliance spreads its message by making the moral lessons in the stories accessible for young activists, according to its website:
Just as Dumbledore's Army wakes the world up to Voldemort's return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we:
-Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide
-Raise funds for partner NGOs to support equality, literacy, and human rights
-Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place.
Michigan chapter member Melissa Veighey, 22, describes to Royal Oak Patch the parallels she drew between her world and that of Potter. She grasped issues such as child slavery through the eyes of characters like Dobby, a family slave who's starved and beaten.
"It puts it in the context of: Wow, that is happening to kids in India," she said.
And it's working. The Harry Potter alliance is a new kind of activism, Prof. Henry Jenkins, who has studied the phenomenon extensively, tells NPR.
"The newer activism may be informed by newer stories," Jenkins says. "Stories that matter deeply to the people who listen to them.
"When you hear about Darfur, you think,'That's a different world, I can't affect that world,'" he points out. But Harry Potter fans, he says, "have already gone to a different world and experienced the life of another character.""
In a comment posted on the Harry Potter Alliance's website, J.K. Rowling, who used to work for Amnesty International, said in a 2007 TIME Person-of-the-Year interview:
"It's incredible, it's humbling, and it's uplifting to see people going out there and doing that in the name of your character."
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