CCFP, an entertainment industry nonprofit, held its third annual Ambassadors of Peace Awards at the Beverly Hills home of Dr. Jamshid Maddahi and Angela Maddahi. A high-powered audience of music and entertainment industry executives gathered to celebrate Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr.; multiple award-winning songwriter Diane Warren; Sony Music’s Latin region Chairman/CEO Afo Verde; Columbia Records Senior Vice President of A&R Ben Maddahi; Electric Feel Founder and CEO Austin Rosen; and Traci Szymanski, president of Co-Star Entertainment.
The honorees were a mix of industry veterans and rising stars, each of whom had a different background and a different journey into their professions. CCFP recognized a common theme in the six honorees: a desire to use their platforms to make a difference.
That aligns 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 Jewish and Arab people in Israel, or Szymanski actively encouraging entertainers to visit Israel in the face of pressure to boycott the country.
“Each honoree was sort of chosen in a different way for how they have used their career and their platforms to build bridges between people,” said CCFP Director Ari Ingel. “It’s our job to influence the 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 voices to affect positive change.”
Founded in 2012 with a handful of advisory board members, CCFP has been steadily growing over the ensuing decade and now includes an advisory board of more than 100 entertainment executives. The nonprofit is also looking to expand its borders by opening an office in Spain.
Following a surge in violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the spring, the organization has been active combating anti-Semitism and misinformation, including some that was spread by people within the entertainment industry. Through deployment of a digital task force, CCFP has helped remove more than 1,400 instances of hate speech or anti-Semitism on such platforms as SoundCloud, Spotify, and YouTube, according to CCFP Co-Founder David Renzer.
In their acceptance speeches, many of the Ambassador for Peace honorees announced their commitment to furthering the nonprofit’s mission. Electric Feel’s Rosin noted that his company will be establishing 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 also working closely with many peers in the universal language of music is what brings people together,” said Rosen. “With this honor, I aim to continue to push forward in closing the divide and encouraging my clients to embrace the same values for their individual journeys.”
Ben Maddahi, president of record company Unrestricted as well as an executive at Columbia, said that the Israeli-Palestine conflict earlier this year left him feeling “like the whole world had turned on me” and knew that it was imperative to combat misinformation.
“Many of the people involved with CCFP made personal calls to these celebrities and influential figures to educate them on what’s happening and to make sure they understood the ramifications of their posts,” said Maddahi. “To some, these posts were mere words, but for us it’s about survival. Divisiveness only serves the agenda of those who stand to benefit from anarchy and chaos.”
Mason was introduced by hitmaker James (“Jimmy Jam”) Harris III, himself a former chairman of the Recording Academy. Jimmy Jam, who was mentored by Mason’s father, stressed the power of music, which he called “the divine art.”
“If you think about 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,” said Jimmy Jam. “Now in the Zoom world, looking at that screen, it’s like a quilt and you see different races, different ages, different sexes, different religions all in one screen. The thread that holds that quilt together 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,” said Mason. “When any two people realize that they might be more alike than different, that’s when understanding happens. Understanding someone else’s point of view or understanding their life experiences or understanding their fears … that’s the foundation for peace.”
Evan Henerson’s career as a writer, editor and blogger spans journalism and nonprofit communications. His work has appeared in such publications as Orange Coast Magazine, TV Guide, L.A. Parent, International Bowling Industry, American Theatre 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.