Humanity in Action is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2022 Humanity in Action Racial Equity Grant! (Senior) Fellows Adi Mittal, Kris Coffield, Melchor Hall, Virginia Spinks and Surayya Walters will receive grants to create new initiatives or further their existing projects in the upcoming year that focus on advancing racial justice in the United States.
As we continue to emerge from the global health crisis and face new security and economic challenges, the following Senior Fellows and projects were selected to further medical equity, fight for racial justice legislation, envision a shared liberation, improve food access, and expand the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. The Racial Equity Grant is made possible through the generous support of the William H. Donner Foundation.
Meet the 2022 Racial Equity Grantees
Aditya (Adi) Mittal is a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh interested in medical technology and innovation to improve health equity in surgical specialties. Adi has researched at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute as part of the HIP internship program and at the Vascular Medicine Institute at the University of Pittsburgh.
Currently, Adi is studying cerebral aneurysms. He has published 25 scientific papers, and aims to pursue a neurosurgical residency position and continue his work towards better health equity through medical innovation and technology.
About Adi’s Project
Cerebral aneurysms are a dilation in the wall of a blood vessel and can rupture causing a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). It is well known that African American and Hispanic women have nearly a two-times higher risk of having an aneurysm compared to Caucasians. Additionally, the rate of aneurysmal rupture and SAH disproportionately affects Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and women. The SAH mortality rate among African Americans is 2.2 times that of Caucasians and higher in women compared to men in all races. These differences have been attributed to lack of access to early diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosis of aneurysms is usually an invasive and expensive procedure that requires taking time off work and transportation to a properly equipped hospital. To improve access to aneurysm screening, our group is developing the first simple blood test to detect cerebral aneurysm formation and progression.
The Cerebral Aneurysm Test 7 (CAT-7) is a blood test that measures seven cytokines and is able to detect aneurysm formation, provide risk stratification and provide a probability of rupture metric. Further development of this test will result in a point of care test where high-risk patients (African American and Hispanic women) can be routinely screened at their local primary care provider using a simple low-cost CAT-7 test.
Kris Coffield is the Executive Director of Imua Alliance, a nonprofit victim service provider for survivors of human trafficking located in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He has spearheaded the recovery process for over 200 survivors of sexual exploitation, while working to enact public policy measures that strengthen the islands’ anti-trafficking continuum of care.
Kris is also the Chief of Staff for Rep. Jeanné Kapela at the Hawai’i State House of Representatives, where he is responsible for managing a public policy agenda that focuses on environmental preservation, climate resilience, economic justice, and human rights. He is interested in advancing a legislative agenda that overcomes the trauma of colonialism and capitalist systems of subjugation.
A 2021-2022 Landecker Democracy Fellow, he is currently working to understand the digital reproduction of inequality and authoritarianism. He is hoping to develop communal interventions that respond to the antidemocratic proliferation of structural discrimination in cyberspace.
About Kris’ Project
Initially developed during the Landecker Democracy Fellowship, Platforming Peace is focused on reclaiming the digital public sphere as a safe space for democratic deliberation. Today, global democracy is endangered by a xenophobic authoritarianism that seeks to suppress the freedom of marginalized people. Ahistorical claims to power are having devastating consequences in the United States and throughout the world, where the resurgence of structural discrimination and racial violence are being used to disregard the basic rights of immigrants and refugees, repeal legal protections for racial and gender minorities, and disenfranchise people of color.
In response, his project will create an anti-racist social media toolkit to empower digital citizens to respond to online incidents of racial hatred and coordinate networked communities of care. Additionally, Platforming Peace will launch an advocacy campaign to support racial justice legislation, including the advancement of decolonial media literacy programs and the establishment of a reparations fund for minority survivors of sexual exploitation.
Finally, in the coming year, Platforming Peace’s participants will further strengthen intersectional conversations about the connections between colonialism, extractive capitalism, and racial inequality by convening a virtual racial justice conference that highlights strategies for global collaboration in the fight against systemic discrimination.
K. Melchor Quick Hall, PhD is a popular educator, writer, and researcher. Melchor is the author of Naming a Transnational Black Feminist Framework: Writing in Darkness, and co-editor, with Gwyn Kirk, of Mapping Gendered Ecologies: Engaging with and Beyond Ecowomanism and Ecofeminism. She is both a Resident Scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) and the Executive Director of the African American Education & Research Organization (AAERO) @ Melchor-Quick Meeting House (MQMH), founded by her mother and first teacher, Paula Quick Hall.
At Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat and Conference Center, Melchor co-leads a writing workshop for people of color, a reparations workshop for US-based, white inheritors of wealth, and an artist-led freedom visioning workshop for individuals interested in our shared liberation.
About Melchor’s Project
The “Aiming for Freedom” project is a Black feminist artist-led visioning of shared liberation, co-developed with visual artists Darrell Ann Gane-McCalla, Marla Lenore McLeod, and Destiny Palmer. Commissioned works-in-progress from all three artists will be shown at Brandeis University’s Kniznick Gallery in February 2023, before being integrated into a weeklong workshop at Pendle Hill Quaker Study, Retreat, and Conference Center in August 2023.
The arts-based workshop will invite a multiracial group of participants to participate in envisioning our shared freedom. Participants will have the opportunity to donate (images of) their artwork to the traveling “Aiming for Freedom” exhibit.
Virginia Spinks is a writer, public-oriented scholar, dance artist, and food enthusiast working for collective liberation in the South. An Atlanta native, she is most passionate about making her communities more just and equitable. She currently serves on the Steering Committee of Unearthing Farm and Market, a nonprofit farm and equitable food access initiative in East Atlanta, which she helped found by co-authoring a USDA-NRCS funding proposal. She is also a Master’s in Public Policy candidate at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (AYSPS), concentrating in social policy. Her research focuses on the influence of public narratives and systems of white supremacy on the policy process, in addition to examining policy analysis and implementation with a racial equity lens. In her spare time, she recharges through connection with people over food and in the outdoors.
About Virginia’s Project
Unearthing Farm and Market (UEFM) is a nonprofit farm and market serving the Edgewood and Kirkwood communities in Atlanta, founded through seed funding obtained through the USDA. UEFM runs a “no one turned away for lack of funds” farmstand a few days a week, accepts SNAP/EBT, and offers discounts and free food to anyone who might need it; no proof of need necessary. UEFM is horizontally managed, pays the small team livable (and equal) wages, strives to make this space accessible, safe, and un-intimidating. This is a community farm, and they want to do right by the land through their stewardship and by the community through their labor.
UEFM is entering its third year and establishing its own fiscal sponsorship (due to value misalignment with our founding fiscal entity). They are conducting a racial equity audit with community partner and food systems leader, Sagdrina Jalal, to help them establish a baseline using the Anti-Racist Farmer’s Market Toolkit to help them develop concrete steps on getting closer to their original anti-racist and equity goals.
Surayya Walters is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, journalist, and researcher. She is a recent graduate of The University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, Surayya was the co-chair of the Wharton, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Group (WEDIG); and a columnist for The Daily Pennsylvanian. She graduated with honors and awards for leadership and service. She completed an honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Adam Grant through The Wharton Research Scholars program. She credits her time at Penn for birthing her innate desire to make a difference.
She is passionate about entrepreneurship, education, and advocacy – and hopes to blend these domains throughout her career. Her writing is featured in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Wharton Magazine, Penn Political Review, Feature Female, and Penn Today. Thanks to Humanity in Action’s Racial Equity Grant, Surayya will incorporate iDEIntity into a 501c(3) that works to integrate DEI into startups and small businesses.
About Surayya’s Project
iDEIntity is a nonprofit startup designed to connect Gen Z employees of small businesses and their managers and leaders for fun and interactive activities, strategic planning, and collaboration to improve awareness of DEI in their organizations. They blend self care and fun with activism, helping small organizations to accomplish DEI in a manner that works for them. At iDEIntity, everyone is a #changemaker.
Congratulations to Adi, Kris, Melchor, Virginia and Surayya! We look forward to updating you on the impact of their work over the next year!