Iga Szlendak, a human rights advocate from Poland, and Nathan Shearn, an American activist advocacating for LGBTQ asylum seekers, met during the first virtual Humanity in Action Warsaw Fellowship/2020 Academy of Human Rights. They found they were both drawn to stories of injustice and exclusion and decided to focus their shared Action Project on amplifying the voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in the US. One way to humanize the ongoing debates around racial justice and police violence is to give these voices a greater public platform.
Having volunteered with prison reform groups and interned at the Legal Aid Society in New York City, where Iga supported attorneys in providing aid to indigent defendant-appellants challenging their convictions on direct appeal, Iga is well versed on the subjects of criminal justice and mass incarceration. Whereas Nathan has experience with direct action organizing and social media campaigns.
Their Action Project has twofold components: an educational and activist.
They have designed a website featuring the stories of formerly and currently incarcerated people in the US, as well as of immigrants who are held in detention centers. The site features audio recordings of the interviews as well as personal background, images, and video clips. It is accompanied by a podcast called Voices From Inside that features stories of BIPOC, women, queer, and trans folks.
As an educational part of the project, Nathan Shearn and Iga Szlendak co-hosted a discussion on propaganda and personality cults in the age of the strongman leader with historian and cultural critic Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, who is an expert on fascism, authoritarianism, war, and propaganda.