by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
A class at Dickinson, coupled with an internship in a public defender’s office, led Jahmel Martin ’16 to view social-justice issues from new angles. Now, he’s preparing to take that line of inquiry to Copenhagen, Denmark, as a recipient of the 2015 Humanity in Action (HIA) fellowship.
Awarded to just 42 candidates this year—out of a pool of approximately 700 top undergraduates and recent grads from 11 countries—the HIA fellowship builds a platform for small teams of young scholar-activists to meet and examine the social and political roots of discrimination, with an eye toward identifying potential solutions to social injustice today. This year’s fellows will connect at a conference in Washington, D.C., before heading to one of five European cities—Paris, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Berlin or Copenhagen. For five weeks, they’ll live with a host family and attend daily lectures by renowned activists, journalists, policymakers and leaders in nonprofit, government and community organizations; the fellows will then attend an international conference and present what they’ve learned.
The goal is to strengthen individuals’ commitment to protect minorities by building networks of student-leaders and potential mentors, all interested in promoting and protecting human rights via various avenues. It’s an issue close to Martin’s heart, and one he has explored personally—as a student of color, a graduate of an urban, public school and the son of a once-incarcerated parent—as well as intellectually, as a Posse Foundation scholar at Dickinson who quickly distinguished himself among his peers.
Named one of two 2013 recipients of Dickinson's annual Schumann Prize—designating him as the top-performing male student in his class during his first year on campus—Martin was introduced to the academic study of social justice during a social-analysis class with Assistant Professor of Sociology Helene Lee. He went on to major in American studies, with plans to study human rights in a national context, and set his sights on the HIA fellowship during his sophomore year at the urging of a mentor.
When he didn’t make the cut on first try, Martin sought out advice from the Posse Foundation and from Dickinson’s Career Center, which led to a summer position as an investigative intern with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a fall internship through the Washington Center Summer Program, in the Rockville, Md., public defender’s office.
“Through both of these experiences, I was able to explore social issues that disproportionately affect minority groups in the U.S. and the government agencies constructed to combat certain issues such as employment discrimination and the abuse of the law against indigent populations without legal representation,” says Martin.
As he prepares for the HIA fellowship, Martin particularly looks forward to co-presenting his HIA team’s findings at the sixth-annual Humanity in Action International Conference in The Hague, a three-day event that will tackle the city's role as the world's epicenter of political, social, peacemaking and reconciliation engagement.
“I’m very honored by this opportunity,” says Martin. “This fellowship will connect me with the right people to find proper solutions and create more inclusive global communities.”
Published April 23, 2015