Not so long ago, my family and I went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, in Southern California. In a word, it was amazing. Despite my being too broad-shouldered (and totally crushed) that I couldn’t fit into the seat for “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” (my wife and daughter said it was the single best ride of their lives), the trip was worth the drive to get there. So was waiting in the horrendous lines. What rendered moot any complaints of inconvenience was the near-constant look of awe and wonder on my daughter’s face.

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From taking a picture with a Hogwart’s Express conductor, to watching the parade of the boys from the Durmstrang Institute and the girls from Beauxbaton’s Academy of Magic, to seeing the portraits speak and interact in the halls of Hogwart’s, the experience was breathtaking.

DurmBeaux

As a family we’ve read the books, seen the films, and now we walked Harry Potter’s fictional streets. Fictional streets made, in the words of Umberto Eco, almost ‘hyperreal’ by teams of talented engineers, artists, and groups of wonderful actors.

We ate breakfast at the “Three Broomsticks.” A full English that tasted like the kitchen staff actually cared about preparing the meal. The prices were right, too. We were in fantasy heaven. After breakfast we got a butterbeer that was simply delicious—the frozen one is the move. After the butterbeer and more focused exploration, we stood in line for “Olivander’s Wand Shop.” (By far the longest wait of any attraction.)

Olivanders

We entered an anteroom designed to look like shelves upon shelves of wands. The level of detail in the shop was extraordinary. It felt magical. Our guide opened a “secret” door and ushered us in to meet the Wandmaker. Out of over a dozen children, my daughter was picked by the Wandmaker to see which wand would choose her.

The choosing ceremony is a wonderful piece of theater.

Gorgeous sound and lighting effects enhanced the already magical mood. My daughter handled three different wands until a holly and unicorn hair wand “chose” her. When wand and child were united, this beautiful white light shone down. The room was absolutely still. If I were allowed to take pictures, I would have captured my daughter in a state of complete and total joy. My wife and I were near tears. I don’t think we’ve ever seen her in the pocket of bliss. Fifty dollars and one purchased interactive wand later, we exited the shop floating on my daughter’s cloud of happiness.

cauldron

Looking around the park, every possible ethnicity was in attendance. They also had one of the most diverse staffs I’ve seen anywhere. Aside from the lines of the last few Fast and Furious films, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a diverse pop culture environment.

I looked at the replica of Hogwarts castle, all of the meticulously crafted shop façades, the interactive spell-casting displays, and it hit me just how Eurocentric an environment it was and how there was nothing comparable from any other culture.

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I am fully aware of the impact and importance of J.K. Rowling’s masterpiece. It is an amazing piece of art, and one of the best fantasy worlds ever created. But remembering the books, they weren’t that diverse no matter the retdiv (retroactive diversity) lens people apply to it.

Full disclosure, I was convinced that Hermione Granger was biracial until I saw the first film. Please read this for a most wonderful exegesis on a racebent Hermione Granger. Fantastic reading.

Not for a minute do I want to detract from or belittle our experience. Hell, we bought annual passes because it was so incredible. What irked me was that so many POC still have to immerse ourselves in Eurocentric environments and Eurocentric mythologies to get our fix of the fantastic.

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As a kid, comic books and Greek mythology was the spark, then Norse, then Arthurian legends. I was in my middle teens when I finally got to Caribbean folklore and African mythology.

I am a firm believer that everyone should read and experience everything in fantasy/science fiction/horror. I truly believe this. But seeing my daughter sleeping in her Gryffindor cap and bracelet, her interactive wand and Hogwart’s leather journal nearby, her Elder Wand keychain and Hogwarts snow globe, I felt a slight twinge of guilt.

On this site, I proposed the idea of an African Diaspora pop movement that very few people were willing to engage with. I’d love a Pacific Islander or Native or Arab or any other non-Eurocentric pop movement with as much weight and influence as Potter.

I’m not advocating for one or the other. What I want is for more than just one cultural voice dominating the conversation of the fantastic. I wish my daughter could have a primary source of fantasy that included characters who looked like her, her friends, and her parents. How amazing would it be for children of color to pick up a book, comic, or go to a theme park that centered them and their ideas of awe and wonder?

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3 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Magic Loving Black Girl

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. I would give my left (whatever I’ve got on my left) to go to an African or Asian Fantasy Theme Park. I’d be like your daughter and regress forty years.

    I know just enough about the Potterverse, to enjoy it myself. Reading about your daughter’s joy nearly brought me to tears, too. Now that is how you raise a FanGirl!

    At some point, someone, somewhere, decided that PoC don’t have/do any fantasy, and I think that’s a very sad and narrow thing.

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  2. There’s nothing more touching than the joy of a child. I forget the book it was some years ago but I read an urban fantasy book about diverse mythological beings I thought it was really cool. I also believe one voice should not dominate an other.

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  3. For Caribbean folklore check out The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste. A great scary kids story. Molly Danger (a 10 yr old superhero) comic book by Jamal Igle of supergirl fame is also great for middle schoolers. For the adults, I suggest you check out titles by Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Lord (classic scifi), NK Jemisin, Tobias Buckell (you cannot miss the positive influence of Octavia Butler on all–they are tremendous world builders). These authors are supremely talented and weave cultural tropes and mythology (Caribbean and African primarily and for some, mulitcultural and LGBTQ) throughout their work. When you read (or listen) to their work, its like being handed a cool glass of water, drinking, and only then realizing what it was precisely you were desperately missing. I have had the indescribable honor of performing the audiobook versions of all of these authors and had my worldview stretched, my inner geek completely sated.
    Enjoy!! Robin Miles
    FB: robin miles at work, at play @rmilesvox

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