I am an award winning producer, artist, and author who also happens to be a reformed extremist. My work and life purpose are born of an ongoing and profound need to atone for a grisly past, and make something of my time here that contributes to the greater good.
That past was made of a fractured identity and indignation with my upbringing in the south side of Chicago, where I eventually became head of the first neo-Nazi white power skinhead group in the United States. It began when I was fourteen: I was quickly indoctrinated with notions of white superiority and threats of annihilation to our race. I was kicked out of five different high schools, spoke at KKK rallies, and was the lead singer in the first American white power band to play in Europe. I was widely feared, intoxicated with power, and planted the seeds of hatred everywhere I went.
Yet somehow throughout all of this I harbored deep-seated doubts about what I was doing. I was constantly at odds with myself. My first epiphany came at a rally in Tennessee when protestors with peace signs began throwing fistfuls of concrete at us. It was a glaring dichotomy that struck a solid blow to the chest, knocking my convictions right out of me. For the first time I saw clearly the problem with my reality.
Not too long after, my first child was born and the chasm grew. What was okay for me was not okay for my son; it forced me to look at who I was. As owner of my own business, my desire to succeed challenged me to re-examine my notions about race. But it wasn’t until my wife left with our second son that I met with the full consequence of my choices. At 21 years old, I lost my business, my home, and my family. I hit rock bottom.
I am thankful for that now because it woke me up. I left the movement and began the painstaking process of rebuilding my life. All the small kindnesses shown me from strangers had taken root and I found the courage to live with integrity and love. I earned a degree in International Business and Relations from DePaul University, began my own global record label and artist development firm, and was appointed a member of the Chicago Grammy Rock Music Committee. In 2010 and 2011, I was nominated for three regional Emmy Awards for my role as Executive Producer of JBTV, one of America’s longest running, nationally broadcast music television programs. More recently I held post as Adjunct Professor at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, as well as the Community Partnerships Manager at Threadless, a company that combines a thriving online art community with a highly successful e-commerce business model. Additionally, I contributed to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen's New York Times Best Seller, The New Digital Age, and have just completed my autobiographical manuscript, Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead.
Most important of all, in 2010 I co-founded Life After Hate, a personal outreach organization dedicated to promoting peace, diversity, character development, and basic human goodness.
I am an explorer by nature; I love to learn new things and thrive on challenging myself with “positive disruptive thinking.” I value kindness, unselfishness, sincerity, and respect for all people regardless of race, gender, background, or sexual orientation. I believe small ideas can change the world and I hope to make an impact in this lifetime that my children will be proud of long after I am gone. Peace.
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Copyright 2013 Christian Picciolini. All rights reserved.