Harry Potter and Social Activism: Catching Fire
by Susan Piland
If Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen joined forces, could they strike a meaningful blow against economic inequality?
Andrew Slack ’02 is betting they could — and will. The executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a nonprofit that mobilizes young people by drawing parallels between real-life human-rights issues and story lines in the Harry Potter books and other popular fiction, Slack has started a new campaign inspired by the Hunger Games trilogy.
The Odds in Our Favor campaign uses fans’ knowledge of the crushing poverty and government abuses that fuel the action in the dystopic Hunger Games books to draw attention to disturbingly similar problems in the United States today.
One in six Americans goes hungry, reports the campaign video, “The Hunger Games Are Real,” available on YouTube. African-Americans are jailed at six times the rate of white Americans. One percent of the U.S. population controls 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Ultimately, the campaign hopes to draw attention to the pervasiveness of economic inequality in the United States — and the extent to which many Americans simply accept it — then point budding activists to organizations that try to make a difference.
Since its creation in 2005, the HPA has sent five cargo planes to aid earthquake relief in Haiti, constructed libraries around the world, funded the protection of thousands of civilians in Darfur and Burma, and worked in behalf of marriage equality and the Dream Act.
It’s currently mobilizing Superman fans on immigration reform (the HPA points out that Superman arrived from Krypton as an undocumented alien) and Star Trek enthusiasts on genetically modified food labeling.
“After all, fantasy is not an escape from our world but an invitation to go deeper into it,” wrote Slack in a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed published Nov. 25, 2013. “And we will keep going deeper until the odds are in everyone’s favor.”