I’ll never forget the year my mother bought me a Slytherin blanket for Christmas a few years ago. “But you like snakes,” she said to me over the phone, and I had to explain to her that that wasn’t how the Hogwarts Houses worked. “What are the Houses for then?” she asked. I released a deep sigh. I could only shake my head, knowing that over the phone she couldn’t see my bemused and yet disheartened facial expression. But recently, someone told me “You’re such a Gryffindor” and I’ve never felt more seen. I’d just gotten into an hours long debate in the Black Girls Create community Slack channel for Harry Potter talk on the validity of Ron as a friend and I went back to the text to support my point, not feeling judged at all for doing it. (The verdict is still out but I know what side I’m on.) I’m no different from any one else in the Slack. Most of us are Black. Many are women. More than that though, we all know what it means to be part of a fandom and needing a space to be us and be safe.
I’ve been reading Harry Potter since I was twelve, when it came to the United States. I almost didn’t read it. But another young Black girl, one of my closest friends at the time, insisted and I’ve never looked back. Over the years, the few friends I had growing up who at one point loved the series grew out of their love for Potter, leaving me as the only person I knew who loved it. The Twitter hashtag #BlackHogwarts that went viral in January of 2018 had been in good fun but it was a sensory overload and trying to sort the true Potter fans from people caught in the trend was exhausting. So I gave up. By this point, I was used to it being just me. I had accepted it. And moved on.
Months later, I finally requested to join the Black Girls Create Slack. Their podcast #WizardTeam had come across my feed enough to intrigue me. The fact that there was a podcast dedicated to a reread of the books led by two Black women made it worth a shot. The invite came and I was anxious again. I just didn’t know how worth it it would be. When you’re used to being alone with anything, it becomes hard to want to share it. You’re certain you’ll be misunderstood and that you’ll expose a side of yourself that others haven’t seen. I was worried that I would be disappointed to say the least.
My introduction was simple: my name, my Hogwarts House, my addiction to Disney, and my love of sports. Within minutes, people were saying hi and suggesting channels I may like. Without any reservations, I jumped into one conversation and the next thing I knew I was navigating between five different discussions, all while getting to know everyone. More so than that, I was having a really good time. Have you ever had that moment when it seems like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be? I had that moment within a few days of joining the Slack back in November. All of the anxiety I felt before about belonging and being accepted disappeared. It’s unreal to think back on a time when I was stressed about even joining the Slack. But it’s not all that surprising that I had doubts. I didn’t know what I was jumping into. Would this group of strangers be anywhere near as passionate as I am about this series? My husband accepts my love for Harry Potter, but doesn’t understand it. My friends get it, but only on a surface level that never tried to be anything more.
I’ve always known that I was a Gryffindor. Since the first book I’ve known it. As I’ve gotten older, nothing about that affiliation has changed. I wear my colors proudly and I’ve met plenty of Gryffindors along the way. But the first time I’ve ever felt like I’ve really found my place in the fandom was when I joined the WizardTeam Slack and jumped into a random conversation around Potter fandom without missing a beat. When I shared my Harry Potter books collection with a group of people and they got it. Where before, people had laughed and asked continually why I needed the same books multiple times, why a different cover, or even the British editions of the books mattered to me, this group understood how my love of these books could drive me to collecting multiple sets of the series. That understanding has brought me back to the Slack time and time again.
Relating with others on something as simple and complicated as a series of books has led to some of the most interesting, complex, mind blowing, and entertaining conversations I’ve ever had. More than that, I finally have a space where I’m not alone when I say that Fred dying had me in tears, that I’m shocked about how the Deathly Hallows were prevalent throughout the books, and how the play need never have existed. I’ve found a home. And after wearing the colors proudly for years, I’m finally somewhere that understands me and how those colors and this story has shaped me. I’ve finally found the nook where I fit in the Potter fandom.