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Humanity in Action
Fall Benefit
Cultural Services of the
French Embassy
October 13, 2011

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographed by
Keith Lewis

Opposite Photo:
James Bennet


Humanity in Action hosted their annual Fall Benefit Dinner at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy on October 13, 2011. The guests arrived and were served cocktails and conversation on the ground floor. After the cocktail hour, the guests were summoned "by the bell" to the upper floor for dinner. As we climbed the marble stairway, Ms. Goldstein warmly greeted each guest personally, welcoming them to the dinner. Humanity in Action was founded by the tireless work of Ms. Goldstein (the Executive Director of the organization) to combat the oppression of minorities by creating a network of young informed activists. I only met Ms. Goldstein on this one occasion, but if there is an award for National Treasure, she would be in the running.

Honorees Adam Hochschild, James Bennet and
John Rossant with HIA Executive Director Judith Goldstein

When Humanity in Action first began, the goal of the organization was to send fellows to talk to the remaining resistance fighters in Denmark (Denmark famously managed to save its Jewish citizens from the Nazis) to learn from these activists how they were able to prevent the murder of the Danish Jews when so many countries stood idly by as the Nazis rounded up their neighbors.

The Danish resisitance fighter are now gone and Humanity in Action's fellows travel the world, "promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship—in their own communities and around the world."

Honorees at the Annual Benefit were author Adam Hochschild, James Bennet (the fourteenth editor of The Atlantic) and John Rossant, Executive Chairman of Geneva-based PublicisLive. During dinner, the honorees spoke to the group about the necessity of constant vigilance and the importance of speaking out about injustice and oppression because the oppression of minorities can raise its ugly head in a hurry, leaving a slow moving world incapable or unwilling of launching a rapid response.

Fellows from Humanity in Action were seated at various tables throughout the dining room so they could share their experiences with their fellow guests. After the dinner, I asked if a few of the fellows would please send a photograph and and a paragraph about their experience with Humanity in Action.

Here are their stories:

Christina Antonakos-Wallace

Christina Antonakos-Wallace: My involvement in Humanity in Action began in July 2006, with the New York summer program. Surrounded by a group of brilliant and dedicated peers, we spent four weeks deeply examining the difficult questions of how to create a more just and equitable society. It was a unique opportunity to engage questions in a multi-national group of young people committed to rigorously and creatively thinking about, and working towards, social justice. Through the program I found a network of young people in different fields, but sharing a determination to work for a better world in a reflective and considered way. Following the summer program, I was able to intern with Berlin’s UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) facilitated and supported by HIA. As BA/BFA undergraduate, my thesis work had been to explore, through film and theoretical work, the concept of assimilation, focusing on the perspectives of children of immigrants in New York. Prior to participating in HIA, I had been considering undertaking a larger, bi-national film project that could look at these issues comparatively with a major European City. When I arrived in Berlin, I realized it was the perfect place. However, it was through my HIA fellowship that I had the support to begin to undertake the project in Germany – connecting with not only peers but an extensive network of NGO’s in Berlin. In 2007, I began working on a feature-length documentary and education project, entitled with WINGS and ROOTS. The project seeks to reframe the immigrant integration debates in the USA and Germany through the voices of children of immigrants in Berlin and New York. The feature film is nearly complete, but we are already actively screening two short films which are of the project, conducting workshops, and are developing a participatory website. Most recently, we won the EuroMedia Awards for Culture of Diversity, and the Changemaker Award in the Media that Matters festival. HIA has been incredibly supportive of the project as it continues to grow, and I am honored to be part of the network.

Ebone Bishop: I was a Humanity in Action Fellow in the 2004 Amsterdam program. My Interest in HIA was two fold: first, as a Politics major with an emphasis on international relations, I was attracted to the transatlantic exchange and learning aspect of the program. Specifically, I was drawn to the opportunity to study and dialogue with nine other American Fellows and ten Dutch counterparts on pressing sociopolitical issues in The Netherlands and to compare these issue to my own experiences and insights within the American context.

HIA places heavy emphasis on active citizenship, human rights and minority rights. As such, HIA urges fellows to challenge their presumptions and core understandings around these complex matters. For me, HIA reaffirmed and clarified tow invaluable lessons I had earlier struggled to articulate. First, to see myself as a global citizen tasked with the responsibility of challenging violations of human rights in ways that coincide with my personal and professional interests, and second, that the knowledge and access to information that I have demands that I not be a bystander to injustices that transpire around me. I believe HIA’s mission is critically important and I remain active in HIA as a Senior Fellow and member of the American-Planning Board.

Here is a quote from the Humanity in Action website about the goals of the organization "Humanity in Action is an international educational organization. HIA educates, inspires and connects a global network of students, young professionals and established leaders committed to.

Last year Humanity in Action published a study last year with NYU/Stern about the impact of the HIA fellowship on our alumni. Click here for the online version.












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