PIQUA — As part Women’s History Month, Assistant Professor Beka Lindeman of the English department at Edison State Community College gave a presentation on activism with a focus on the local chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, of which she is member.
“The Harry Potter Alliance … is an organization that helps turns fans into heroes,” Lindeman said, adding that they want to use the power of storytelling to solve real-world problems. She said that, while books and stories can act as escapism from the real world, they can also be used to go deeper into thinking about reality.
“They believe in unironic enthusiasm,” Lindeman said. That genuine interest can be used to make a difference, Lindeman said. Lindeman added that they believe “the weapon we have is love” to be activists and make good changes in the world.
“So what’s this look like in the real world?” Lindeman said.
For example, Lindeman explained that the Harry Potter Alliance found out that the chocolate frogs at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were allegedly made through unfair labor practices. The Harry Potter Alliance then banded together to get Warner Brothers to use certified Fair Trade chocolate to make the frogs.
“That’s a big deal,” Lindeman said. “That’s not something I can do by myself, take on Warner Brothers.”
Other examples of initiatives from the Harry Potter Alliance include a voter registration drive, a yearly book drive called “Acciobooks” to promote literacy, their “Hunger Games” campaign called “Odds In Our Favor” to focus on issues of hunger and inequality, and more.
“Last year, they built a library in Uganda,” Lindeman said.
The connection to Women’s History Month is that, while the organization is open to everyone, approximately 85 percent of the members are women.
“The Harry Potter Alliance is most definitely women-oriented,” Lindeman said.
The Miami Valley chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance is called Diagon Valley and is open to anyone in the community of any ages.
As Diagon Valley, Lindeman said that they have done events like a live reading of “The Cursed Child,” a special viewing of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” craft sales, book drives, and more.
“We try to do things right here in the community,” Lindeman said.
They also try to encourage their members and other followers on social media to do “Magical Acts of Kindness.” They will suggest small actions that people can do to remind themselves to be kind, Lindeman said.
They once traveled to a shelter in St. Louis for homeless youth where they had a card-making party for the residents, along with giving them winter hats filled with toiletries. They also attended the Hermione Granger Academy.
Currently, they are working on planning another craft event where they can create items to benefit the community, such as making fleece blankets for people in need.
“Those are all acts of activism,” Lindeman said. “Acts of kindness. That’s one way to be an activist.”
Lindeman went over tips about how to be an activist, beginning with listening to others about a problem one might be interested in addressing and listening to learn.
“Listen so that you can learn about the actual issue,” Lindeman said.
Lindeman then suggested involving others and utilizing those people’s strengths.
“Understand how people want to be involved,” Lindeman said. She then said that activists should understand what their actual roles are as well.
“Also, set ‘SMART’ goals,” Lindeman said, defining SMART goals as specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. The realistic goals should focus on specific ways in which activists want to change the world, instead of a general, broad goal of changing the world.
“Then take action,” Lindeman said.
Ways that people can take action include joining a club or a group that addresses a specific issue, contacting one’s representative in Congress, attending events to learn more about an issue, researching to learn about an issue, and more. Lindeman also suggested listening to and learning about people’s different life experiences.
“Don’t discount their experience just because it hasn’t happened to you,” she said. “Understand that other people have experiences that are different than yours.”
After taking action, Lindeman also said that activists need a chance to recharge and focus on their personal needs. “Self-care is a form of activism,” she said.
Overall, Lindeman encouraged people to “just be kind to someone.”
For more information about the Miami Valley chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, visit www.thehpalliance.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also follow on Tumblr at thehpalliance.tumblr.com, Facebook @DiagonValley, on Twitter @DiagonValleyOH, and on Instagram @DiagonValleyOhio.
Reach Sam Wildow at email@example.com or (937) 451-3336