2016 Grants Competition

Background on the 2016 Grants Competition

From December 2015 to January 2016, Humanity in Action invited grant proposals for projects on any topic that corresponds to the mission of the organization. In addition to activities that are educational, awareness-raising, or activist in nature, Humanity in Action specifically encouraged artistic project proposals as well as collaborative applications from groups of Senior Fellows.

Proposals for this grant competition were due January 31, 2016. Humanity in Action received several dozen strong project proposals across a broad range of issues and methodologies. The selection committee of the organization carefully selected nine projects that were marked by a particularly high level of innovation, originality, foresight, and sustainability.

2016 Grant Winners

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


The Ghoul Exhibition — Guns, Performance, and Social Justice

Héctor Pascual Álvarez (United States | Humanity in Action Fellowship Amsterdam 2006) + Team

The Ghoul Exhibition was an artistic response to the unfolding tragedy of gun violence in the United States. As a solo theater performance piece, it charted the link between gun deaths, race, geography, economics, mental illness, and discrimination, questioning how the “representation” of violence in the media and the arts actually contributes to the problems behind gun violence. It carved a symbolic space that honors victims, tackles trauma, records marginalized stories, and reaffirms humanity. As a social justice project, it provoked 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 premiered in Chicago and toured New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, performing 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 also provided an opportunity to research and record local stories of gun violence from victims and affected communities that, over time, became part of the show.

Empowering Victims to Report Hate Speech in Poznan, Poland

Grazyna Baranowska (Poland | Diplomacy & Diversity Fellowship 2014) + Team

This project organized for a number of volunteers to be trained in identifying and reporting hate speech as well as in offering immediate support to victims of such. As part of the project, there were three calls for volunteers. Each cohort of selected volunteers participated in a workshop on hate speech issues and visited relevant places and communities (including Poznan's Islamic Center, the Roma Association, or the Jewish Community) in order to explain the concept of hate speech and to establish contacts with civil society organizations working in the field. The training enabled the volunteers to offer basic consulting services to victims of hate speech. They were trained in accompanying victims through the process of denouncing the acts to the authorities. Furthermore, with the consent of the victims, selected incidents were strategically publicized in the media. Though the main goal of the project was to empower victims of hate speech and to make students in Poznan aware of the phenomenon, it sought to lead to an overall increase in hate speech reporting in Poznan. It thus aimed to make hate speech a more visible issue 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 levels. This project formed part of a wider initiative that was launched by a number of NGOs in Poznan.

'Nagymama' and I - Conversations with a Holocaust Survivor

Mikaela v. Freiesleben (Denmark | Humanity in Action Fellowship Copenhagen 2004)

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 Humanity in Action Senior Fellow Mikaela v. Freiesleben. Mikaela wrote a biography about her grandmother, who survived Auschwitz and Belsen in 1944-1945. The objective was 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 made 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 draws on recent research in transgenerational trauma in an approchable way, with the intention to affect and inform a broad audience. The grant connected to this project concerned 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 (United States | Humanity in Action Fellowship Copenhagen 2014)

Indigenous Corps of Discovery sought to introduce society to the Presidential history of the United States like never before. The aim of the project was to make people experience the silenced indigenous history of American presidents. The Presidential Portrait Expedition conducted live, truth-telling tours of the Presidential Portrait Gallery at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. These tours were free and open to the public. They were guided by the team's indigenous tour guides who helped their audiences discover the strange, exotic, and often savage acts of America’s most vaunted presidents. They offered 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. The Indigenous Corps of Discovery is developing an online version of the tour, soon allowing anyone with internet access an opportunity to venture into some untold stories of American presidents.

Against Urban Antisemitism: Restoring the Local Jewish Presence

Jan Kirschenbaum (Poland | Humanity in Action Fellowship Berlin 2011) + Team

This project aimed 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 sought 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. ‬‬

Last Days in Dilley - Visual Reflection for Community Driven Advocacy Against Refugee Detention

Aseem Mehta (United States | Humanity in Action Fellowship Paris 2012)

Through a combination of short documentary videos, community organizing and public presentations, this project elevated attention and facilitated the creation of resource networks to confront the mass incarceration and deportation of Central American refugee families by the US Department of Homeland Security. A series of short films provided a starting point for formerly detained refugee families to speak out about the hidden deportation machine that has separated tens of thousands of families since 2012. This project supported refugee activists to speak out about the injustices of detention and mistreatment of refugees. Activists took the stage at public events and demonstrations in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and San Antonio and helped spur reporting on the topic in national news outlets including NPR, Democracy Now!, and Fusion.

The Presence of Jewish Absence in Poland's Contemporary Landscape

Michelle Shofet (United States | Humanity in Action Fellowship Warsaw 2011) + Marissa Sophia Schneiderman (United States | Humanity in Action Fellowship Fellowship Copenhagen 2009) + Łukasz Posłuszny (Poland | Humanity in Action Fellowship Warsaw 2014)

This project sought 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 examined alternative modes of remembering the Holocaust and Jewish life throughout the landscape of Poland. The project team considered the efficacy of memorials in promoting tolerance in the generations that follow the trauma. Through a multimedia approach, the project sought 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 addressed these issues using two methods. The first was 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 was stationary and more workshop-oriented, wherein a group of young students conducted their own fieldwork on several given sites, and also cultivated a deeper understanding of the topic through workshops, short lectures, and meetings with local specialists and activists.


Sylwia Wodzinska (Poland | Humanity in Action Fellowship Warsaw 2014) + Team

Every second day a Polish woman dies due to domestic violence and every fifth Polish woman is a victim of rape. As too few people remain aware of issues like these, this project embarked on changing this. 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 the country. 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. 16 weeks of blogging, workshops, and debates proved that where there is a will, there is a way. #GirlPowerAcademy was a new project launched by #MamyGlos. It sought to educate and empower Polish girls to stand up, and to speak up. #GirlPowerAcademy comprised 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 sought to strengthen the network of young Polish female activists and encourage them to co-create #MamyGlos with them. See their success on their fanpage, blog, and YouTube Channel (English subtitles available).

Supported by

This grant competition was made possible by generous funding from the The Germeshausen Foundation.