Wand Waving and World Saving

The SUNY New Paltz chapter of Dumbledore's Army's mission involves saving the world.
The SUNY New Paltz chapter of Dumbledore's Army's mission involves saving the world.

Since Harry Potter’s triumph over evil is limited to his fictional wizarding world, progressively-minded fanatics on campus have taken to arms in the real world with their own Dumbledore’s Army of New Paltz.

The group, founded by second-year English major Beverly Schreiber in March 2009, is one of many chapters of the international Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) and far more than a mere fan club.  Classified as one of the advocacy organizations on campus, the club brings followers of J.K. Rowling’s fiction together in combating global injustices.

“I started the group because I wanted to find people who shared my passion of Harry Potter and advocacy,” Schreiber said. “I participated in the Helping Haiti Campaign through the HPA and it felt so good to help raise $123,000 and I wanted to share that with people on campus.”

With its mission statement declaring a goal to “make civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change,” the alliance creates campaigns that parallel issues within the Potter universe, hoping to bring some of its magic into our own.

The most recent of the international coalition’s endeavors is the Deathly Hallows Campaign. Spanning from November 2010 to July 2011 – or the nine months between film releases, the campaign aims to seek out and destroy seven horcruxes of the real world.

The first of these is the Starvation Wages Horcrux, which the HPA is battling through petitioning for Time Warner, parent company of Warner Brothers, to use Fair Trade chocolate for any appropriate Harry Potter products. Similar to the slave-like conditions of the house elves, an end to this would cease exploitation, starvation and child slavery under Harry’s name.

This was kicked off immediately before the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” on Nov. 19 at Lumos Parties held around the world.

“[We] brought flashlights or candles to movie theaters for the midnight release to catch people’s attention,” Schreiber said. “We just got up in front of the theater and told everyone what we were doing and asked them to sign our petition.”

The group also plans on bringing the petition to classrooms, hoping to raise awareness and gain support from more of the student body.

“It’s something that has literally gone on for all my life,” said English and history major Lauren Nimetz, who serves as the group’s public relations coordinator.

Although their mission involves saving the world, whether making quilts for Goodwill or buying water bottles to stunt the water crisis, members of the alliance still manage to have a good time with other, more light-hearted events like film screenings, such as “A Very Potter Musical.”

“I love it,” said third-year creative writing major Nicole Petrone. “Awesome people can work together, help out other people and at the same time have an amazing time talking about Harry Potter.”

Dumbledore’s Army is currently working on establishing a Quidditch team, and considering hosting its own Yule Ball sometime in April.

“I would love to see Dumbledore’s Army become recognized on campus as something that’s not just ‘a Harry Potter club,’” Schreiber said. “There is way more to our club … we are actually trying to make a difference.”

Anyone interested in bringing more magic into the world can align with Dumbledore’s Army of New Paltz on Wednesdays in Student Union 405 at 8 p.m.