Nelson Mandela Foundation

Selected from across the United States and South Africa, the new Fellows join a transnational network of leaders working across issues and geography to end anti-Black racism and white supremacy.

NEW YORK, NY — In the wake of unfolding health and economic crises across the globe, and rising protests against the systemic failure to see, value and protect Black lives, the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE) selected 20 leading changemakers to join its fellowship programme aimed at strengthening and accelerating social change in the United States and South Africa.

This action continues AFRE’s work, since 2017, to capacitate the racial equity field through leadership development, network building, innovation, and narrative change. Today, that effort is emboldened by the addition of these 20 dynamic leaders whose work at the frontlines of social change in South Africa and the United States brings vital talent and vision to advance racial equity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare the unconscionable injustices against Black people and other communities of colour, from racial inequality to violence and exclusion,” said Kavitha Mediratta, Ph.D., executive director of the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity. “At a time of such extraordinary challenge, these courageous leaders are showing us new possibilities for how to eliminate anti-Black racism in the service of equity and justice. We’re proud to support them to build the strategies and solutions our countries need.”

Based at Columbia University in New York City and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa, the fellowship provides leaders in the field with a space to reflect and engage with new thinking, a transnational community, leadership coaching, and up to $20,000 in resources to support them and their efforts as they build innovative projects to address the root causes of racial inequality. Previous Atlantic Fellows have included prominent activists, lawyers, artists, scholars, advocates and other leaders – such as Betsy Hodges, 47th mayor of Minneapolis; Dorah Marema, director, GenderCC Southern Africa-Women for Climate Justice; Koketso Moeti, founding executive director,; and Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change – all accomplished in their work to end anti-Black racism and white supremacy in the United States and South Africa.

“Black people and people of colour continue to be targets for state-sanctioned violence, discrimination and disenfranchisement,” said Damon Hewitt, co-chair of AFRE’s board of directors and executive vice president at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “In building this powerful network of leaders working across identities, sectors and ideological perspectives, AFRE is engaging in the long-term, strategic work necessary for harnessing and mobilizing people power to enact real change.”

“As we witness and fight against COVID-19’s devastating effects on South Africa’s people, land and economy, it’s clear that we need leaders who are able to conceptualize, build and advocate for solutions that address and uproot systemic anti-Black racism,” said Sello Hatang, chief executive at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. “By supporting this new cohort of leaders, and growing its network of accomplished Atlantic Fellows, AFRE is strengthening the pipeline of advocates ready to engage in the fight for justice for decades to come.”

The 2020 Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity are: Kiran Kaur Bains, director of community impact at SA2020; Kevin Beckford, co-founder of The Hustlers Guild and advancement manager at Urban Assembly; Tembinkosi Bonakele, commissioner of the South African Competition Commission; Ambrose Carroll, pastor of The Church By The Side Of The Road; Staceyann Chin, poet, activist and entertainer; Jessica Feierman, senior managing director at Juvenile Law Center; Alexandra Fitzgerald, senior legal officer at the South African Human Rights Commission; Nyle Fort, minister, activist and scholar; Arissa Hall, co-founder and director of National Bail Out; Minhaj Jeenah, national coordinator for the Fight Inequality Alliance; Khwezi Mabasa, senior researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA); Pinky Mashiane, worker rights activist; Sibonelo Mchunu, public interest lawyer with the Cape Town Department of Economic Development; Jessica Mofield, executive director of the New York City Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence; Danai Mupotsa, senior lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand; Axolile Notywala, general secretary at the Social Justice Coalition; Zakiyah Shaakir-Ansari, advocacy director of the New York State Alliance for Quality Education; Khaya Sithole, accountant, academic, activist and independent analyst; Sydelle Willow Smith, co-founder of Sunshine Cinema; and Edgar Villanueva, author and senior vice president at the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

Additional statements of support:

Opal Tometi, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and co-chair of AFRE’s board of directors: “We are witnessing a moment of tremendous change, following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black people at the hands of white supremacist structures and individuals. Millions of people around the world are fed up with the status quo and are demanding change. These new Atlantic Fellows are well positioned in their communities and across the racial equity field to inject new thinking and energy into the global movement for change.”  

Christopher L. Brown, professor of history at Columbia University and leading scholar on the transatlantic slave trade: "By focusing on scholarship as well as advocacy, AFRE is creating a space where leaders can bring historic and present-day struggles for racial equity into conversation with each other and deepen their ability to grapple with complex, urgent questions at the heart of the fight for racial equity. Columbia University provides an exceptionally rich and rigorous environment for this type of exploration, and the university is enriched by having these leaders as part of its community.” Brown is a member of the AFRE Board.

Media Contacts:  Daryl Hannah | (US);   Kneo Mokgopa | (South Africa)