The CCFP, an entertainment industry nonprofit, hosted its third annual Ambassadors of Peace Awards at the Beverly Hills home of Dr. Jamshid Maddahi and Angela Maddahi. A high profile audience of music and entertainment industry executives gathered to celebrate Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr.; multi-award winning songwriter Diane Warren; Afo Verde, president and CEO of Sony Music for the Latin region; Columbia Records, Senior Vice President of A&R Ben Maddahi; Austin Rosen, founder and CEO of Electric Feel; and Traci Szymanski, President of Co-Star Entertainment.
The winners were a mix of industry veterans and rising stars, each with a different background and a different journey in their profession. CCFP recognized a common theme among the six winners: the desire to use their platforms to make a difference.
It fits with CCFP’s mission, according to the nonprofit’s administrators, whether it takes the form of Warren recording a song in Italian, building coexistence by coordinating a song sung by Jews and Arabs in Israel, or Szymanski actively encouraging artists to visit Israel in the face of pressure to boycott the country.
“Each winner was somehow chosen in a different way for how they used their careers and platforms to build bridges between people,” said CCFP director Ari Ingel. “It’s our job to influence influencers and at an in-person event like this, we can discuss these things openly and really show how the entertainment community can use their voice to effect positive change.”
Founded in 2012 with a handful of advisory board members, CCFP has grown steadily over the decade since and now includes an advisory board of more than 100 entertainment executives. The association is also seeking to expand its borders by opening an office in Spain.
Following an outbreak of violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the spring, the organization actively combated anti-Semitism and misinformation, including some that was spread by people within the entertainment industry. Through the deployment of a digital task force, CCFP has helped remove more than 1,400 instances of hate speech or anti-Semitism on platforms including SoundCloud, Spotify and YouTube, according to CCFP co-founder David Renzer.
In their acceptance speeches, many of the Embassy for Peace honorees have announced their commitment to continuing the mission of the nonprofit organization. Electric Feel’s Rosin noted that his company will establish a studio in Tel Aviv and that he is anticipating his first visit to Israel.
“Growing up in New York and having a strong connection to Israel while working closely with many peers in the universal language of music is what brings people together,” Rosen said. “With this honor, I aim to continue moving forward to bridge the gap and encourage my clients to embrace the same values for their individual journeys.”
Ben Maddahi, president of Unrestricted record label and executive at Columbia, said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict earlier this year made him feel “like the whole world has turned on me” and knew that it was imperative to fight misinformation.
“Many people involved with CCFP personally called these celebrities and influencers to let them know what was going on and to make sure they understood the ramifications of their messages,” Maddahi said. “For some, these messages were just words, but for us, it’s about survival. Division only serves the agenda of those who profit from anarchy and chaos.
Mason was introduced by hitmaker James (“Jimmy Jam”) Harris III, himself a former president of the Recording Academy. Jimmy Jam, who was mentored by Mason’s father, emphasized the power of music, which he called “the divine art”.
“If you think of any song you’ve ever heard, it’s like time travel. It takes you to that place and you remember the smells and the temperature and all the different things that happened,” Jimmy Jam said. “Now in the world of Zoom, looking at this screen is like a quilt and you see different races, different ages, different genders, different religions all on one screen. The common thread running through this quilt is music.
For his part, Mason also recognized the common bond in music as well as its power to bring people together.
“We know that music brings people together. It unifies and it unites,” Mason said. “When two people realize that they might be more alike than different, that’s when understanding happens. Understanding someone else’s perspective or understanding their life experiences or understanding their fears… it is the foundation of peace.
Eva Henson‘s career as a writer, editor, and blogger spans journalism and nonprofit communications. His work has appeared in publications such as Orange Coast Magazine, TV Guide, LA Parent, International Bowling Industry, American Theater and the Los Angeles Daily News.
Featured photo (left to right): Austin Rosen, Afo Verde, James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III, Diane Warren, Harvey Mason Jr., Ben Maddahi, David Renzer. All photo credits to Dustin Rowling.