For many people, the Harry Potter book series was an integral part of growing up. Children longed to attend the prestigious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although the owl never came with the coveted letter, students have found other ways to join the magical world.
Bringing the magic to BU
The fifth book of the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, featured the creation of the student group, Dumbledore’s Army. Led by Harry Potter himself, this group’s mission was to learn how to defend themselves and parry the evil magic of the Dark Arts.
The Harry Potter Alliance is a community service organization that utilizes the positive messages in the Harry Potter series, including that of the self-defense club, to inspire civic wellness projects at colleges throughout the nation.
College of Arts and Sciences junior, Yi Feng and Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences sophomore, Lulu Xu head the Boston University chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, appropriately called Dumbledore’s Army.
“The mission of the DA was similar to the organization’s personal mission, to fight the figurative dark arts of our world,” Xu said.
Xu said passion spurred the creation of the DA, following the HPA’s mission to use Harry Potter as a tool for social change worldwide.
“I thought ‘I have so many friends who are so passionate about their own hobbies.’” Xu said. “There are so many themes in Harry Potter that can be applied to our world.”
“We use themes from the Harry Potter books, like equality and love, in order to help out various charities and have fun along the way,” CAS sophomore and member of Dumbledore’s Army, Katie Wurtzel said.
The Harry Potter Alliance
The parent organization, The Harry Potter Alliance, is a group that focuses on civic engagement. Based in Somerville, the HPA was co-founded by Andrew Slack, Paul DeGeorge (of the band, Harry and the Potters) and Seth Soulstein.
Sabrina McMillin, HPA spokeswoman and Tufts University sophomore said, through his work in children’s education, Slack realized that community work could be inspired through J.K. Rowling’s stories. The HPA addresses real-life issues with a community focus similar to the problems faced by Harry Potter and his friends throughout the seven books.
“Although the Harry Potter Alliance started humbly, it spread through plenty of Internet activism,” McMillin said. “I believe that a general sense of civic engagement was a key initiator.”
The alliance has united 60 chapters around the world thus far. Each chapter, comprised of both students and various members of communities worldwide, stands in a face-off against problems including global poverty, disaster relief and labor rights in cocoa production.
Causes for the Community
Dumbledore’s Army forwards the interests of community service within BU by performing various charity works and organizing fundraisers.
The BU DA also performs service through small fundraisers. The organization sells wizarding food featured in Harry Potter such as butter beer and chocolate frogs.
Feng said the DA runs a weekly program with a local elementary school, called Kidditch.
“Every Friday we go to Winship Elementary in Brighton,” Feng said. “We play with kids from Kindergarten through fourth grade and encourage teamwork and exercise [for them]. The name is Kidditch because it’s like kids playing the wizard sport, Quidditch.”
Feng said Dumbledore’s Army is planning another group activity, which is inspired by the HPA movement Accio Books. The members of Dumbledore’s Army intend to collect books that they can give back to the community through the national drive.
“As a small group we can’t raise tons of funds, so we look into things that will really make an impact on an individual,” Feng said.
The BU DA also performs service through small fundraisers. The organization also sells wizarding food featured in Harry Potter lore, including butterbeer and chocolate frogs, to raise money. The chocolate frogs sale is also in conjunction with the HPA’s campaign “Not in Harry’s name,” which advocates for the use of fair trade chocolate.
“Basically that campaign is getting Warner Bros. to use fair trade chocolate in their Harry Potter merchandise,” Feng said. “Currently they do not, or at least their reports don’t say that they do. Well, we want guilt-free chocolate frogs. So we ordered fair-trade chocolate to make fair-trade chocolate frogs to sell in order to raise awareness.”
For the more avid Harry Potter fans, the DA also hosts an annual Halloween potluck feast, horcrux hunts (scavenger hunts) and the game ‘Assassins’ with an extremely elaborate Harry Potter-themed plot.
“We’ve also talked about doing something like a Yule Ball,” Xu said.
Members tell their stories
Many Dumbledore’s Army members acknowledge the certain nerdy connotation the Harry Potter books hold, but they embrace that nerdy-ness to give back to the community.
“I know there are some who say that it’s silly to base something around Harry Potter. They will say that it’s just a kid’s book; that it’s nerdy and stupid,” Wurtzel said. “But to me, being a nerd is about embracing the things that you love and being proud of it. And I’m really proud of all that the DA has become and all that we will continue to be.”
Dumbledore’s Army is a place for people who are passionate about community service and Harry Potter to meet and bond.
“The DA is using Harry Potter as a link and a motivator for getting people involved in making the world a better place, just like [J.K. Rowling] did with the poignant themes in her novels about the young wizard,” said Emily Powell, a junior in the School of Hospitality and Administration. “It may also be a way for those of us not ready to accept that Harry Potter is ‘over’ to hold on and stay in love the series we grew up with, because we get to meet up and reminisce once a week with videos and games and general conversation.”
Emily Quinn, a junior in CAS, joined the DA when at its launch and has witnessed the group’s growth in members and ability to help people.
“In the last year and a half, the DA has expanded both how they raise money, and who they donate it to,” Quinn said. “But the DA doesn’t just raise money, the members donate their time to children in the Boston area. And on top of all that, the E-board members keep the meetings fun and Harry Potter-centric.”
For those who do not command the power of magic, the so-called “muggles” have proved that magic can be integrated into peoples’ lives without a Hogwarts education. The people within BU’s Dumbledore’s Army show that they can bring a different kind of magic to those who are less fortunate and bring change to the community.
As a freshman in CAS, Olivia DeFrances said being a member of Dumbledore’s Army made her first year of college a better experience.
“A lot of people are pleasantly surprised that BU DA exists,” DeFrances said. “I would highly recommend it to anyone interested. Being part of the DA has made my freshman year much less stressful and more fun.”
CORRECTION: In the original article Sabrina McMillin was identified as a student at Tufts Medical School, she attends Tufts University. The article has been updated to reflect this change.