For nine years of his life, Christian Picciolini was part of the neo-Nazi movement. Now, the former extremist runs the Free Radicals Project where he helps individuals, families, and communities disengage from hate- and violence-based extremism. Christian was in Minnesota in late 2019 for a community listening session on hate crimes with local faith and political leaders, including Attorney General Keith Ellison. Before the event, Chanda, Keith, and Christian sat down to talk about the rise of hate and intolerance, how trauma can lead to hate, and how we can best prevent extremism.
Christian Picciolini is an award-winning television producer, a public speaker, author, peace advocate, and a former violent extremist. After leaving the hate movement he helped create during his youth in the 1980s and 90s, he began the painstaking process of making amends and rebuilding his life.
Christian went on to earn a degree in international relations from DePaul University and launched Goldmill Group, a counter-extremism consulting and digital media firm. He now leads the Free Radicals Project, a global extremism prevention and disengagement network. He has spoken all over the world, including on the TEDx stage, sharing his unique and extensive knowledge, teaching all who are willing to learn about building greater peace through empathy and compassion.
Christian’s involvement in, and exit from, the early American white-supremacist skinhead movement is chronicled in his memoir “White American Youth.” His disengagement work is spotlighted in his MSNBC documentary series Breaking Hate. In 2020, Christian released his book, “Breaking Hate: Confronting the New Culture of Extremism” with Hachette Books.
Keith Ellison is an American politician and lawyer serving as the 30th Attorney General of Minnesota. For twelve years, Keith represented Minnesotans in Congress, where he has championed consumer, worker, and civil rights protections to defend the rights of Minnesotans against the interests of the powerful. He passed laws to fight credit card abuse and to stand up for the rights of tenants and renters and founded the Congressional Antitrust Caucus and the Congressional Consumer Justice Caucus. Before being elected to Congress, Keith also served in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Before entering politics, Keith spent 16 years as an attorney specializing in civil rights and defense law, including five years as the Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center. As the leader of this public interest law firm, Keith oversaw a team of attorneys focused on delivering justice for Minnesotans who had nowhere else to turn.
Keith earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990. Keith is the proud father of four children – Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Amirah.