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Daily Inspiration: Meet Candace Carnicelli

Today we’d like to introduce you to Candace Carnicelli.

Hi Candace, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
In 1997, while volunteering for a project with Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence – a project that Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s 5th Grandson – initiated – called A Season for Nonviolence – a nonviolence campaign to take place during the 64 days between the memorial dates of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 30th – April 4th) – I heard the Rev. James Lawson, the nonviolence architect of the Civil Rights Movement and the lead minister at Holman Methodist Church – say: “This work of nonviolence is about attacking the wrong and not the wrong-doer.” I was intrigued. Attack the “wrong” – but not the “person” doing the wrong? How does that work? So much of our culture teaches us to “shame” – or “blame” people into submission. And that “submission” is identified in our culture as our having “power.” We experience this as children when we are shamed and blamed by adults and those who have “Power Over” us!   In turn, oftentimes, even while knowing better, we activate that supposed power in much that same way with others.  Rev. Lawson’s words ignited a Passion in me that has turned into a 24 year study and inquiry into the power and possibility of this thing called “Nonviolence.”  I am a passionate student and promoter of “Nonviolence.”  I continue to stand in awe of those who are willing to take its route. Nonviolence is not Pacifism, doing nothing. It is pro-active – it is a way of fighting back – in ways that do not cause harm – but rather bring sympathy and awareness to a cause.  It is a way that speaks to the issue – without shaming or blaming the Messenger.  It moves us out of the realm of reaction and into a place of choice. It calls forth what Gandhi coined as “Satyagraha” – SOUL FORCE!   Nonviolence is the English translation of the Hindu word: “Ahimsa!”.  It has its roots in the Hindu/Jain and Buddhist religious traditions and literally means “to do no harm.”  Ahimsa/Nonviolence is the power India accessed to end 197 years of oppressive British Rule and to begin healing their Nation. It was the power activated in South Africa at the end of apartheid to set a holistic framework/a path/a structure of healing for both the perpetrators and the victims who – after apartheid – would continue to live side by side in community. It is the power that was used to draw attention to the injustices Black People were experiencing in the U.S. South during the Civil Rights era. It is a Power that “Attacks the Wrong – Not the Wrongdoer.” It is a power that has Great Power! 

Growing up in an environment where there was a fair amount of conflict and in a culture that shamed and blamed – I was deeply drawn to Rev. Lawson’s words. They activated me.   Over the past 24 years, I have been absorbed in an inquiry of finding creative ways to communicate about Nonviolence. It is my Passion. As an Actress and Singer since my grade school days, and now as a Nonprofit Director, Producer, Educator, Mediator and Nonviolence Practitioner – I love the process of taking a piece of information and inquiring into how to turn that information into a teachable moment, something the Director of my one-woman show, “Becoming Peace: A One Woman Rhythmic Dramedy about Power, Culture, Violence and Nonviolence” – Jessica Lynn Johnson – appropriately defines as “Edu-tainment.”  So many amazing possibilities lie within the realm of Edu-tainment. Creativity is a powerful force.  

I became the Director of Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence in 2007 after being a volunteer with the organization since its inception in 1998.  The focus of the work of Common Peace is “nonviolence education” – based on the nonviolence principles and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many years after meeting Rev. James Lawson in Los Angeles – and after being mentored by him over a decade – I discovered that he was born in the same hometown as I – Uniontown, PA.  I truly believe that I came 3,000 miles to meet – be mentored and educated by him. And I am forever grateful. Through my mentorship with Rev. Lawson – I have had the opportunity to meet and speak – one on one – with some of the renowned Civil Rights Greats: Bernard Lafayette, C. T. Vivian, Diane Nash, and others.  I have had the opportunity to travel with Arun Gandhi to South Africa – and to retrace the steps of his Grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi over the 20+ years that the Mahatma practiced law in South Africa – and initiated and brought to the forefront the struggle of equal justice for Indians living in South Africa – before returning to his home country of India, and leading the nonviolent movement that eventually freed India from British Rule. I value my friendship with Arun and all that he has brought to my life through the Season for Nonviolence and his work.

For six (6) years, I had the honor of producing the “The Morning Review” on KPFK radio (90.7FM) – for Host, Eisha Mason, the previous director of Common Peace. Together, we had the privilege of interviewing – on-air – many nonviolence practitioners from around the world – who are true giants in the arenas of Peace, Nonviolence, Social Justice, Mediation, Restorative Justice – and more. There are so many positive stories – of individuals around the world – who are committed to making a difference – that never get told. We focused on bringing those stories to the forefront – giving them Voice. While I feel at times I fall short in fully activating nonviolent choices, I am clear on the intention I have set and I am committed to living in those spaces “in between” – in between what I see as right and wrong – in between what I know and don’t know  – in the messy places where I and others don’t have the answer – that require I listen more attentively – question more deeply – respond to more compassionately – that require that I be in the question – five (5) minutes longer than is comfortable for me. I believe that is where True Possibility – True Power lies.  That is the Power of Nonviolence activated.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As someone who grew up in a small coal mining town (Masontown, Pennsylvania) in the 1950s and 60s – and at a time and in an environment that – while loving – had its many moments of expressed violence – my main intention in life was to get away from that stress – to find a more peaceful way of living. As a child, I intuitively knew there was another way. In search of that Peace, I have participated in thousands of workshops and seminars over the years.  I’ve read hundreds of books and articles – engaged in thousands of conversations – journeyed through many different spiritual practices – each activity supplying a piece of Life’s puzzle – a puzzle I hope to complete – before leaving Life’s Stage.  Every step of the journey has brought its own challenges – each time period has exposed a part of me to myself that has been uncomfortable – that has afforded me the opportunity to dive deeper – to learn more about myself and explore greater depths of possibility for my life. I’m grateful for every step – as uncomfortable and as self-revealing as some of those moments have been. As a child I loved reading the Lives of the Saints of all religions.  Later, studying the lives of everyday courageous people everywhere who have come before me – especially those in the U.S. Civil Rights Era – some – who even as children – or colleges students – on the Samuel Petit Bridge and participating in the lunch counter sit-ins in the South – in an effort to end segregation – risked being killed by attack dogs, fire hoses, the KKK and other mean spirited individuals and mis-directed police – their Courage – their Willingness to stand Nonviolently in the face of potential serious risk and/or death – has been a Profound Source of Inspiration and Empowerment for me.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Most recently, as a lilft-off for the 24th Season for Nonviolence – I produced my one-woman show, “Becoming Peace: A One Woman Rhythmic Dramedy about Power, Culture, Violence and Nonviolence” as part of SOLOFEST 2021 @ the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.   A labor of love on my part – the show allowed me – over a three (3) year period – to engage in a deep creative process of inquiry, healing and transformation and gave me an excuse to bring together two (2) things I love most: nonviolence and performance.  The show is a teaching tool through which the audience is introduced to – and experiences – the power and possibility of nonviolence.  It is an incredible Gift to myself to perform – and I trust – to others who get to experience what the show offers. 

As Director of Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence I oversee a number of projects:  In our Teen Nonviolence Animation Camp participants are taught hand-drawn animation by a professional animator – and in teams – choose a principle of nonviolence – for example: “courage.”   The teams are coached in nonviolent communication and through a process of consensus choose a message – a theme – about that principle – and they are coached in storyboarding and animating their message.  The end result is a one-minute PSA (public service announcement) in animation format about that nonviolence principle.  The animation results are amazing even for those who have no supposed artistic abilities.  And the act of their being in a team and engaging in a theme about nonviolence reveals rare and unexpected jewels.  We are grateful to Sony Studios – they have been most supportive of the Common Peace Animation Camp – bringing the teens in for a special tour and educational experience.  Two (2) of the local Culver City teens who attended – Kendle White and Kayla Victor – and who acted as teaching assistants – are now pursuing art and animation related degrees @ local universities.  We are proud!

Common Peace also produces a Nonviolence Summer Day Camp in which young people and teens experience consensus learning, restorative justice, mindfulness techniques, meditation, yoga, music, art, performance – all classes themed within the context of “nonviolence” – skills that are directed at finding a way to attack the wrong and not the wrong-doer. In this way, participants are empowered to go out into the world – with a nonviolence skill set – tools they can use to break the cycle of shame and blame – and move them into a world of empowerment – both of themselves and of each other.              

The Season for Nonviolence (now celebrated internationally) began January 30, 2021 and continues during the 64 days between the death dates of Mahatma Gandhi (Jan. 30th) and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Apr. 4th).  This year is the 24th Season for Nonviolence.  For more information about the Season – its related 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence poster and curriculum, please email director@commonpeace.org

Our exquisite 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence Poster – four (4) color – two (2) sided – in English & Spanish – lists a principle of nonviolence for each of the 64 days of the Season for Nonviolence by category:  “Personal” – “Interpersonal” – and “Community”.  And it provides a quote to accompany and enhance each principle. Hundreds of teachers in Los Angeles and beyond have used our 64 Ways poster during the 64 days of the Season – and throughout the year – over many years – to initiate a conversation about and engage in a conversation with their students about the power and possibility of nonviolence. 

Our 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence Curriculum – authored by Eisha Mason and Peggy Dobreer is a powerful teaching tool for people of all ages.  I was privileged to be a contributor to and co-editor of the curriculum.  It takes each of the principles on the 64 Ways Poster – and expands each principle into a full curriculum for that day for an educator, homeschooling parent, teacher, etc.- suggesting art, music, literature projects and activities.  It is a beautiful and empowering book that Common Peace published in 2005 as an adjunct teaching tool to the 64 Ways poster.  

I am grateful for our Common Peace partnership with Race Relay – a theatrical presentation about race relations – and proud of the hundreds of individuals who have been participating in our Common Peace – Race Relay race relations dialogue circle – conducted monthly for the past six (6) years and which was birthed out of our Race Relay theatrical production @ the Mayme Clayton Library.  Together, we – who are white – and we who are people of color – have begun to unravel the intricacies of the fabric of race relations – of white privilege – of social inequality – and have inquired into a multitude of ways to empower each other and our communities in honoring the dignity and worth of all people. While I am not a person of color, I grew up in a small coal mining town in southwestern Pennsylvania – where the hateful presence of the Ku Klux Klan existed – and cross burnings happened on Canon Hill.  Even as a child I knew what they were doing was terribly wrong.

What sets Common Peace apart?   We are one of many hundreds of 501(c)(3) nonprofits in Los Angeles who are doing great work.  We all have different focuses in our work.  The work of Common Peace is “nonviolence.”  Beyond the unique differences in our specific work, I’m really not interested in having anything set myself or Common Peace apart from others or other organizations. I’m more interested in dissolving those lines of demarcation that separate us and in working together to create the Beloved Community that Dr. King visioned and spoke about – A World that Works for Everyone . . . with No One Left Out!

Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
SO VERY GRATEFUL to VOYAGE LA for yet another opportunity to share my Journey and to Introduce others to the Practice of Nonviolence – its Power and Possibility . . . and to introduce more people in Los Angeles to our 24th Season for Nonviolence which began Jan. 30th and continues until April 4th.  We invite you to “like” our Season for Nonviolence 2021 – LA Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/Season-for-Nonviolence-2021-Los-Angeles-101378278621283 – to follow along with our daily inspirational Season postings.  If you would like additional information regarding the Season, or any of our workshops, gatherings, or nonviolence educational resources, please email director@commonpeace.org.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?

  • Our Common Peace 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence Curriculum – $30/each; $20 discounted price for teachers; discounts for purchase of multiple copies
  • Our Common Peace 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence Poster – Four (4) colored – Two (2) sided – English/Spanish – $10 each
  • Common Peace – Race Relay Dialogue Circle – monthly Zoom race relations dialogue circle . . . Free – (Email director@commonpeace.org for info)
  • Two sided Educational Chart-Wheels that teach the History of the Civil Rights Movement and The Right to Vote . . . $7 each
  • A Force More Powerful . . . Documentary film – and/or book – can be obtained through numerous books stores and online – tells the stories of individual successful nonviolence movements around the world.
  • Nonviolence and Social Movements: The Teachings of Rev. James M. Lawson Jr – can be purchased through https://books.labor.ucla.edu/nonviolence – or online

Pricing:

  • My One Woman Show – “Becoming Peace: A One Woman Rhythmic Dramedy about Power, Culture, Violence and Nonviolence” – an edutainment piece that teaches the power and possibility of nonviolence.  Email: director@commonpeace.org for next performance or to schedule a performance for your school, organization, etc. Price varies depending on venue.
  • 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence Curriculum – $30/each; $20 discounted price for teachers; and discounts for purchase of multiple copies
  • 64 Ways to Practice Nonviolence Poster – Four (4) color – two (2) sided – English/Spanish – $10 each
  • Common Peace – Race Relay Dialogue Circle – monthly Zoom race relations dialogue circle . . . Free
  • Two-sided Educational Chart-Wheels that teach the History of the Civil Rights Movement and The Right to Vote . . . $7 each

Contact Info:


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