Conference Speakers

Pictured: 2013 New York Conference audience at The New School. 


The following speakers delivered presentations and workshops at Humanity in Action's 2015 New York Conference on October 17, 2015.

Aasha Abdill, Research, Evaluation and Strategy Consultant, Abdill Consulting

Aasha Abdill is an independent evaluation and strategy consultant and manages organizational efforts to assess and enhance the significant impact of programming. She holds an MA in quantitative methodology from Columbia University and a PhD in sociology from Princeton University with a concentration in organizational theory and race and ethnicity. Currently, Aasha is a Research and Evaluation Consultant with The Annie E. Casey Foundation working on an initiative to increase the diversity of researchers and evaluators providing valuable skills, insights and scholarship to philanthropy, policy and nonprofit practice. Prior to this position, Aasha was awarded a fellowship at the Buckminster Fuller Institute, which, through their prestigious annual international competition, recognizes and curates comprehensive solutions to pressing global challenges. Aasha was born and bred in Brooklyn, New York.

Hector Alvarez, Senior Fellow (Dutch Program 2006) 

Hector is a multidisciplinary artist and writer passionate about literature, theater and the intersection of the arts and human rights. Over the past ten years, Hector has written fiction, poetry, plays, book reviews and articles. He is currently working on his first novel. Hector has acted in over twenty productions and directed five shows, most recently an adaptation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba focusing on the play’s themes of gender violence. He is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Netherlands 2006).

Stephen Duncombe, Professor of Media and Culture, Steinhardt School of New York University

Stephen has over two decades of experience as both a teacher and organizer. With a PhD in Sociology from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, he has taught in the City and State University’s of New York and is currently a Professor of Media and Culture at New York University. He received the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching while at SUNY and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at NYU. An activist his entire life, he co-founded a multi-issue community activist group in the mid 1990s, the Lower East Side Collective, which won an award for “Creative Activism” from the Abbie Hoffman foundation. He was also a lead organizer in the international direct action group Reclaim the Streets. He is the author and editor of six books, including Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and the Cultural Resistance Reader; writes on culture and politics for a wide range of scholarly and popular publications; and is the creator of an open-access, open-source, web-based edition of Thomas More’s Utopia. Duncombe is currently working on a book on the art of propaganda during the New Deal.

Johanna Fernández, Professor of 20th-Century U.S. History, history of social movements, political economy of American cities & African-American history, Baruch College

Johanna Fernández holds a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and a B.A. in Literature and American Studies from Brown University. She is a former Fulbright Scholar to Jordan and Assistant Professor of History at Baruch College of the City University of New York, where she teaches 20th-Century U.S. History and African American History. Professor Fernández has written numerous articles on the Young Lords and is author of the forthcoming When the World Was Their Stage: A History of the Young Lords Party, 1968–1976 (Princeton University Press). She is editor of Writing on the Wall, Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015) and the writer and producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Her writings have been published internationally, from Al Jazeera to the Huffington Post. She gives interviews often and has appeared in a diverse range of print, radio, online, and televised media including Democracy Now! With Amy Goodman, the Fox News shows Hannity and The Kelly File, the Spanish language HITN-TV and Telemundo 47, NPR, Al Jazeera, and The New York Times.

Aisha Fukushima, Senior Fellow (Dutch Program 2007)

Aisha is a multilingual, multiracial African American Japanese woman whose work is influenced by her global upbringing with roots spanning from her birthplace of Seattle, Washington to her other hometown of Yokohama, Japan. As a leader of the ‘RAPtivism’ project, Fukushima has engaged in hip hop communities across the United States and from France to Morocco, Kazakhstan, Japan, Germany, England, South Africa, Senegal, India, Denmark and beyond.  Fukushima’s ‘RAPtivism’ work has been featured by Oprah Magazine, KQED Public Television, The Seattle Times, TV 2M Morocco, The Bangalore Mirror, HYPE, South Africa’s #1 Hip Hop Magazine, among others. As a public speaker, Fukushima combines the art of performance and lecture. In her speeches she links themes such as hip hop, global citizenship, youth engagement and activism in a way that is accessible to audiences of any age and background. Over the last 8 years, her passion for empowering young people through the performing arts has led her to build educational programs such as Turn Off The Stereotypes (2005), Whitman Institute of Summer Enrichment (2006) and SISTARZ, an all-girls hip hop club (2012). She was the first non-Native person to deliver a keynote address at Montana’s 2012 Schools of Promise Conference for Indigenous youth and has presented at such diverse venues as Stanford University, Michigan State University’s Asian American conference, People of Color in Independent Schools (POCIS) conferences, UMass Amherst, TEDxSitka, TEDxWhitman, TEDxUWCCR, Rock The School Bells, Osaka University, among others. 

DeLesslin George-Warren, Senior Fellow (Danish Program 2014)

Raised just off of the Catawba Indian Nation’s Reservation, DeLesslin "Roo" George-Warren is an artist, performer, activist, and researcher. He holds a BA in Music from Vanderbuilt University, where he has led several student organizations and was recognized as Vanderbilt’s 2014 Most Outstanding Senior for his involvement in campus leadership, service and activism. He has performed and exhibited in New York City, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Nashville but his primary research interest lies in indigenous communities throughout the world and how media, art, and policy either promote sovereignty or continue legacies of colonization. His current projects include a queer reimagining of canonical texts, a massively collaborative online poem and a performance-lecture about the great history of the Catawba Indian Nation. He is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Denmark 2014).

Alfredo Jaar, Artist, Architect, Filmmaker

Alfredo Jaar was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1956. He attended Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura, Santiago (1979), and Universidad de Chile, Santiago (1981). In installations, photographs, films, and community-based projects, Jaar explores the public’s desensitization to images and the limitations of art to represent events such as genocides, epidemics, and famines. Jaar’s work bears witness to military conflicts, political corruption, and imbalances of power between industrialized and developing nations. Subjects addressed in his work include the holocaust in Rwanda, gold mining in Brazil, toxic pollution in Nigeria, and issues related to the border between Mexico and the United States. Many of Jaar’s works are extended meditations or elegies, including Muxima (2006), a video that portrays and contrasts the oil economy and extreme poverty of Angola, and "The Gramsci Trilogy" (2004–05), a series of installations dedicated to the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, who was imprisoned under Mussolini’s Fascist regime. Jaar has received many awards, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award (2000); a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1987); and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987); and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1985). He has had major exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2005); Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome (2005); Massachusetts Institute of Technology, List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (1999); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1992). Jaar emigrated from Chile in 1981, at the height of Pinochet’s military dictatorship. His exhibition at Fundación Telefonica in Chile, Santiago (2006), was his first in his native country in twenty-five years. Jaar lives and works in New York.

Steve Lambert, Artist 

For Steve Lambert, art is a bridge that connects uncommon, idealistic, or even radical ideas with everyday life. In 2008 Lambert worked with hundreds of people on “The New York Times Special Edition,” a utopian version of the paper announcing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other good news. In 2011 he built a 20 x 9 foot sign that reads CAPITALISM WORKS FOR ME!, allows passers by to vote TRUE or FALSE, and is touring it across the United States. His work has been shown everywhere from marches to museums both nationally and internationally, has appeared in over fourteen books, and four documentary films. He was a Senior Fellow at New York’s Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology from 2006-2010, developed and leads workshops for Creative Capital Foundation, taught at Parsons/The New School, CUNY Hunter College, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and is currently Associate Professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase. Steve has advanced degrees from a reputable art school and respected state university. He dropped out of high school in 1993. 

The Moth

The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, and a recipient of a 2012 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions. The Moth has presented more than ten thousand stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Their stories dissolve socio-economic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges and see with new eyes. The Moth podcast is downloaded nearly 25 million times a year, and the Peabody Award-winning The Moth Radio Hour, produced by Jay Allison and presented by PRX, airs weekly on radio stations nationwide. The new Moth Mobile App for iOS and Android, and the national bestseller, The Moth: 50 True Stories, are available now. Workshop instructors for this year include Dawn Fraser, Cyndi Freeman and Bonnie Levison.

Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, PEN American Center

Suzanne Nossel is the executive director of PEN American Center. Before joining Amnesty, Nossel served as deputy assistant secretary of state for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State, where she was responsible for multilateral human rights, humanitarian affairs, women’s issues, public diplomacy, press, and congressional relations. Nossel also served as chief operating officer for Human Rights Watch and deputy to the ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. In the private sector, she has served as vice-president of U.S. Business Development at Bertelsmann Media Worldwide, vice-president of strategy and operations for The Wall Street Journal, and a consultant at McKinsey & Company. During the early 1990s Nossel worked in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the implementation of South Africa’s National Peace. Nossel is the author of a 2004 article in Foreign Affairs entitled “Smart Power,” and coined the term that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a defining feature of U.S. foreign policy. Nossel is also a columnist for Foreign Policy and has published hundreds of blog entries, op-ed pieces, and numerous scholarly articles. She is the author of Presumed Equal: What America’s Top Women Lawyers Really Think About Their Firms, and has served as a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, the Center for American Progress and the Council on Foreign Relations. Nossel is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Tides Foundation and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Philanthropy Social Enterprise Fellowship

The Philanthropy and Social Enterprise fellowship sets out to explore the contemporary trends in philanthropy, community development and entrepreneurship across the United States. Traveling first to Detroit to study the impact of philanthropic leaders and social innovators in revitalizing the city, participating fellows then embark on a six-month period of independent research to investigate the role of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship in addressing economic development and issues of social equity in their home communities. Fellows who presented at the conference were Alexandria Margolis, Jasmine Burton, Ryan Richards, Susannah Shattuck, Terin Mayer and Zachariah Falconer-Stout.

Lina Srivastava, Co-founder, Regarding Humanity; Faculty, School of Visual Arts

Lina Srivastava catalyzes and amplifies social impact through creative media. She is a strategist who combines technology, culture, art and storytelling for social transformation by bringing new narrative forms and distribution techniques to human rights and global development initiatives; using cultural expression and cultural identity as foundational elements of social transformation; integrating needs expressed by local communities as instrumental in program design. The creator of the Transmedia Activism framework, which guides the development of media, art, and technology projects from story to social action, she is currently one of a handful of people in the world creating narrative-based social change initiatives with NGOs, global institutions, and independent media creators, combining both field experience with skills in documentary engagement and transmedia design. Lina has provided project design consultation to a group of social impact organizations, including UNESCO, the World Bank, UNICEF, MobileActive, Internews, 3Generations, VODO, Apne Aap, Shine Global, BYkids, Donor Direct Action. An attorney by training from New York University School of Law, Lina has been involved in campaigns for several documentaries, including Oscar-winning Born into Brothels, Emmy-nominated The Devil Came on Horseback, Oscar-winning Inocente, and Sundance-award winning Who Is Dayani Cristal? Lina provides workshops, consultations, keynote addresses, panel discussions and speeches on the rise of storytelling, narrative platforms, and social innovation as tools for social change, including at Yale Law School, Lincoln Center, MIT Media Lab, TEDx, and the Tribeca Film Festival. The former Executive Director of Kids with Cameras, and the Association of Video and Filmmakers, Lina has taught design and social entrepreneurship at Parsons, The New School of Design, and is on faculty in the Masters of Fine Arts Program in Design and Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts.