Senior Fellow Aisha Turner joined Humanity in Action to continue her passion for fighting for civil rights and diversity. Humanity in Action gave Aisha the opportunity to stretch her understanding of social justice to an international level: to see the similarities and differences among various kinds of oppression, to look for solutions to the United States’ problems abroad and to begin developing a better sense of the country’s roles and responsibilities in global politics.
Before her time with Humanity in Action Aisha had started a career in journalism. However, she realized that when it came to international affairs, she had a knowledge gap compared to her peers. She respected that “Humanity in Action focused on a Western context and did not treat Europe or the US as ‘heroes.’”
Aisha saw her Fellowship as an opportunity to experience an intensive study that could serve as one step in closing the gap. Humanity in Action was a way for Aisha to explore and engage with the world in a way that she had never been able to before.
After Humanity in Action, Aisha was itching for a change. Unfortunately, her bank account wouldn’t allow her to just up and quit her job to travel the world like she wanted. But she did continue to learn and explore new ideas, which ultimately led to a promotion. She had been working as a production assistant at the PBS NewsHour at the time of her fellowship, and a few months after Humanity in Action, she became a producer. Aisha credits Humanity in Action with giving her better insight into the international stories it was so important for her to understand in her new role.
Eventually, Aisha left the NewsHour to go abroad for the Humanity in Action Pat Cox Fellowship in Brussels, Belgium. That led to an Erasmus Mundus Master’s in Global Studies, during which she studied in Leipzig, Addis Ababa and Vienna. Aisha toyed with pursuing a career in policy and with pursuing a PhD in Anthropology. Ultimately, she decided that she missed and wanted to return to journalism.
Thanks to a tip from a friend, Aisha moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work on a short-term radio project on the impact of gun violence on young people called Precious Lives. Aisha was there less than a year, but these experiences were the most formative of her career. Aisha exclaimed that:
“reporting in Milwaukee was hard but taught me what it means to show up in hard places, gain trust and serve a community.”
Aisha then took another detour from journalism and worked with the International Honors Program, a social justice-oriented study abroad program for college students. She traveled as a facilitator on the program, working with students as they went from New York to Nepal, Jordan and then Chile to study human rights.
“I am better able to draw on perspectives of liberation from around the world, and see my freedom as connected to everyone’s freedom in a way that wasn’t as clear before I joined Humanity in Action.”
Currently, Aisha is based in New York City, working as a radio producer with StoryCorps. StoryCorps is an oral history non-profit – they travel the country inviting people to record their stories and interview loved ones; they also archive the recordings at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps also has a partnership where they edit portions of those conversations as stories for NPR’s Morning Edition.
In some ways Aisha feels as though she has come full circle since Humanity in Action. She went from a focus on US-based issues to several years of focusing on international issues and now returning to the US-based work and focus. She is at a point in her career that, much like when she first applied to Humanity in Action, she is interested in uplifting communities of color in the United States, particularly black people. Aisha explains the difference is that my focus is far more informed by a wider perspective due to Humanity in Action.
“Humanity in Action set me on a path to explore the world in a way that was more expansive and at a greater depth than I would have been able to do without the program.”
Aisha has always stayed in touch with Humanity in Action. For the past six years and counting, she has been a member of the US-based Admissions Committee. Aisha was a speaker at the 2018 International Fall Conference on Social Justice in Healthcare and Public Health. The panel she sat on discussed “Responding to America’s Gun Violence Epidemic.” Furthermore, Aisha is a member of the Senior Fellow Leadership Council.
See more of Aisha’s work here.