Humanity in Action Celebrates Nine Dynamic Senior Fellow Projects

April 25, 2016

April 25, 2016 – Earlier this year, Humanity in Action launched a grant competition to enable our Senior Fellows to take action on some of today's most pressing issues. Today, Humanity in Action is pleased to announce the nine winning projects of the grant competition

The range of projects is quite remarkable. From recording of the story of a Danish Holocaust survivor, to empowering survivors of domestic violence in Poland, to shining a light on the treatment of Native Americans – these dynamic projects and their various methodologies are united by one common thread. Our Senior Fellows are committed to move from theories and frameworks of human rights into action.

Photo courtesy of Deniz Akgun (2014) in partnership with Roman Medya. Roman Medya is a civil society organization in Turkey created by three Humanity in Action Senior Fellows. 

These Fellows observed a pressingneed in their communities to address critical structural inequities and sought out opportunities to make a difference. Embodying the spirit of Humanity in Action's mission to foster active citizenship, these Fellows have devised innovative and reflective project proposals to deliver a direct tangible impact to their communities. Each project was awarded up to $5,000 through a very competitive process. 

We encourage you to learn more about the incredible leadership of these Fellows. Humanity in Action is deeply grateful for the continued support of the Germeshausen Foundation for sustaining this important work. 


Winning Projects

2016 Humanity in Action Grants Competition 

© Senior Fellow Joseph Kolker (2010), Treblinka Memorial 

In late 2015, Humanity in Action invited grant proposals from Fellows and Senior Fellows for projects on any topic that corresponds to the mission of the organization. In addition to projects that are educational, awareness-raising, or activist in nature, Humanity in Action specifically encouraged proposals for artistic initiatives as well as collaborative applications from groups of Senior Fellows.

The following Humanity in Action Senior Fellows receive funding of up to $5,000 USD through the 2016 Senior Fellow Grants Competition.


The Ghoul Exhibition — Guns, Performance, and Social Justice
Héctor Pascual Álvarez (U.S. Senior Fellow | Netherlands 2006)
Performance art

This project is an artistic response to the unfolding tragedy of gun violence in the United States. As a solo theater performance piece, it charts the link between gun deaths, race, geography, economics, mental illness and discrimination, and questions how the “representation” of violence in the media and the arts actually contributes to the problem. It carves a symbolic space that honors victims, tackles trauma, records marginalized stories and reaffirms humanity. As a social justice project, it provokes difficult but necessary conversations about solutions to problems connected to gun violence, while bringing visibility to organizations that fight for “common-sense” legislation regarding gun control. The show will premiere in Chicago and tour to New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, receiving performances in non-traditional venues such as places of worship, housing co-ops, public libraries, college classrooms, homeless shelters, and people’s living rooms. These visits will also provide an opportunity to research and record local stories of gun violence from victims and affected communities that will, over time, become part of the show.


Empowering Victims to Report Hate Speech in Poznan, Poland
Grazyna Baranowska (Polish Senior Fellow | Diplomacy and Diversity 2014)
Training and awareness building

This project consists of setting up a number of volunteers to be skilled in identifying and reporting hate speech as well as in offering immediate support to victims of hate speech. As part of the project, there will be three calls for volunteers. Each cohort of selected volunteers will participate in a workshop on hate speech issues and visit relevant places and organizations (such as the Islamic Center, Roma Association, or Jewish Community) in order to explain the concept of hate speech and to establish contacts with civil society organizations. After being trained, the volunteers will be able to offer basic consulting services to victims of hate speech. They will be trained in accompanying victims through the process of denouncing the act to the police. Furthermore, selected incidents will be strategically publicized in the media (with the consent of the victims). Though the main goal of the project is to empower victims of hate speech and to make students in Poznan aware of the phenomenon, it seeks to lead to an overall increase in hate speech reporting in Poznan. It thus aims to make hate speech a more visible problem that is accounted for in official statistics. In the long run, statistical evidence will provide a basis for anti-hate speech programs and policies on the local and national level. This project forms part of a wider initiative launched by a number of NGOs in Poznan.


'Nagymama' and I - Conversations with a Holocaust Survivor
Mikaela v. Freiesleben (Danish Senior Fellow | Denmark 2004)
Historical memory and publication

In July 1945, a young woman arrived in Malmö, Sweden, a year after she had been torn away from her family, from her home town in Hungary, and from everything she had ever known. As she disembarked the ship in the new and foreign country, she didn’t know anybody, own anything, or know what would become of her, but she was sure of two things: she was alive, and she was never going to return to Hungary. This is the story of Ilona Ström (1923-2015), the grandmother of Mikaela v. Freiesleben. Mikaela v. Freiesleben is writing a biography about her grandmother, who survived Auschwitz and Belsen in 1944-1945. The objective is twofold: to bear witness, as her grandmother wanted her to, through a personal retelling of Ilona’s life, and to give an example, through her own personal history of how trauma is transmitted through generations. The latter makes the book especially relevant for understanding the often neglected dimensions of trauma in war-torn and traumatized families who seek refuge in the Europe and United States of today. The book will draw on recent research in transgenerational trauma in an approachable way, with the intention to affect and inform a broader audience. The grant connected to this project concerns the realization of a research visit to the hometown of the author's grandmother in Hungary.


Indigenous Corps of Discovery: Presidential Portrait Expedition
DeLesslin George-Warren (U.S. Senior Fellow | Denmark 2014)
Tour and historical research

This project seeks to introduce society to the Presidential history of the United States like never before. The aim of the project is to make people experience the silenced indigenous history of American presidents. The Presidential Portrait Expedition will conduct live, truth-telling tours of the Presidential Portrait Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. These tours will be free and open to the public. They will be guided by the team's indigenous tour guides who will help their audiences discover the strange, exotic, and often savage acts of America’s most vaunted presidents. They will offer the chance to learn about how the 44 presidents of the United States treated Indian nations and brutally expanded the 13 states from sea-to-shining-sea and beyond. For those who cannot make it, the Indigenous Corps of Discovery will be developing an online version of the tour, allowing anyone with internet access an opportunity to venture into the untold story of U.S. presidents.


Against Urban Antisemitism: Restoring the Local Jewish Presence
Jan Kirschenbaum (Polish Senior Fellow | Germany 2011)
Public programming and public awareness

The project “Against Urban Antisemitism: Restoring the Local Jewish Presence” aims at combatting nationalist prejudice and Antisemitism in Poland by stressing and making public the contributions of the Jewish community to the past and present of the country. It seeks to achieve this through the organization of a series of events dealing with contemporary Polish Jewish culture in Wroclaw and Warsaw, including, for example, exhibitions, concerts, and lectures in public spaces as well as ‬Holocaust and antidiscrimination education in local schools and NGOs in Wroclaw. ‬‬


Demokratie – Ein Spiel zum Mitspielen (Democracy - An Invitation to Participation)
Narku Laing (German Senior Fellow | Germany 2014)
Internship program

This project seeks to tackle the political and employability deficit of young Black Germans by offering them short-term internship opportunities in the German parliament. By placing young Black Germans in such internships, the project team wants to support them in understanding and contributing to Germany's political system. The initiative seeks to strengthen their sense of self-worth, increase their visibility for future employers, scholarship providers, and universities, and to motivate them to participate in political processes. Through dedicated press work, the team will raise awareness on the political participation of ethnic minorities in the country. The team's strategic partner is the SJID (Schwarze Jugend in Deutschland), a self-organized NGO for Black German youth. The project follows its partner's understanding that “Leaving them alone means leaving them behind.” Key elements of the project are an opening and a consecutive educational seminar. The prior will involve selected speakers from within the Humanity in Action network and cover a variety of topics ranging from “Networking,” “Asking the Right Question,” and “Self-Presentation” to “The German Democratic System” and “Understanding the Bundestag.” In cooperation with the SJID, workshops on self-empowerment and awareness as well as identity will be organized. The closing seminar will focus on offering possibilities for continuing political participation by inviting a variety of youth-led organizations to speak about possible engagements and also introduce scholarship as well as fellowship opportunities to the participants.


Last Days in Dilley - Visual Reflection for Community Driven Advocacy Against Refugee Detention
Aseem Metha (U.S. Senior Fellow | France 2012)
Documentary film

This project is a short documentary film that will tell the story of Ana and Katherine, a fearless duo who fought back against the United States government’s secret detention of refugee families for nearly 14 months. These powerful women not only fought the government, but also won. The surreal pairing of the quotidian details of their new suburban life with the utter absurdity of a prison for children will bring into relief fundamental questions about United States border policy. What are we afraid of? Whose lives matter? The film will provide a starting point for refugee families around the country to speak out about their experiences while detained, hopefully providing a spark to a nascent grassroots movement. With the world's attention focused on the journey of Syrian refugees to Europe, the short film seeks to draw attention to how the United States has quietly confronted a refugee crisis of its own. Over the past two years, tens of thousands of refugees fleeing brutal gang violence have come to the United States from Central America to seek protection. Instead of security and safety, they have often been greeted with barbed wires and militarized prisons. The United States government has gone to great lengths to obscure what is at the heart of this policy against Central American refugees: jails for children and mothers.


The Presence of Jewish Absence in Poland's Contemporary Landscape
Michelle Shofet (U.S. Senior Fellow | Poland 2011)
Multiplatform historical project

This project seeks to re-conceptualize the memorial by uncovering moments in the landscape wherein history, memory and absence are given room to live on spatially. Specifically, the initiative will examine alternative modes of remembering the Holocaust and Jewish life throughout the landscape of Poland. The project team considers the efficacy of memorials in promoting tolerance in the generations that follow the trauma. Through a multimedia approach, the project seeks to bridge the gap between past and present to provide a contemporary lens into history as a way of addressing the persistence of Antisemitism in Poland and beyond. It will address these issues using two methods. The first is an active exploration using fieldwork to “excavate” chosen sites through photography, mapping, audio recordings, and informal interviews with the people and spaces encountered. The second method is stationary and more workshop-oriented, wherein a group of young students will conduct their own fieldwork on several given sites, and will also cultivate a deeper understanding of the topic through workshops, short lectures, and meetings with local specialists and activists.


Sylwia Wodzinska (Polish Senior Fellow | Poland 2014)
Training initiative

Every other day, a Polish woman dies due to domestic violence and every fifth day a Polish woman is a victim of rape. As too few people remain aware of issues like these, this project wants to embark on changing realities of this kind. Given that schools in Poland offer virtually no education on women’s rights or women’s culture, it remains particularly difficult to put an end to the vicious circle of gender-based violence. In 2015, the initiative #MamyGlos (Polish for “We’ve got the Voice”), comprised of young female "avengers," was created to combat everyday sexism in their schools and beyond. Sixteen weeks of blogging, workshops and debates proved that where there is a will, there is a way. #GirlPowerAcademy is a new project launched by #MamyGlos. It seeks to educate and empower Polish girls to stand up and speak up. #GirlPowerAcademy will comprise of a series of events for Polish girls aged 13 to 20, including critical thinking workshops, feminist discussion clubs, film screenings, meetings with inspiring and established women, crash courses in anti-discrimination law, and self-defense workshops. Based on the belief that the world needs feminism, the project team seeks to strengthen the network of young Polish female activists and encourage them to co-create #MamyGlos with them. For more information, visit their fanpage, blog, and YouTube Channel (English subtitles available).


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