How do we counter extremism in the midst of a polarizing election cycle? Where do we find our common ground, and our humanity despite our differences?
Ken Nwadike, Jr and Jeff Schoep have been on both sides of extreme events, on the frontlines.
Now both are working for Love and Unity. Together and on their own.
“Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Violence erupted in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, after hundreds of white nationalists and their supporters clashed with counter-protesters. At one point in the afternoon, a vehicle drove into a crowd of counter-protesters before speeding away, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, and leaving more than a dozen others injured.Diving out of the way of the deadly vehicle was peace activist Ken Nwadike, Jr., known online as the Free Hugs Guy. On the other side, the leader of the largest neo-Nazi organization in America, Jeff Schoep, marched for white supremacy. Since that time, Ken has lectured across the nation and worked to bring humans together for conversations of love and change. Jeff Schoep has renounced the organization he once led, and now works tirelessly to fight hate and create understanding as a consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Organization.In this important lecture and conversation, Ken and Jeff come together to discuss the events of that day, what led them to that moment, and the paths we can all take to End Hate and prevent future tragedies.
5% percent of program fees will be donated to the Heather Heyer Foundation, created to honor her memory. A scholarship program was created for individuals active in creating positive social change.
Ken E. Nwadike, Jr., is a peace activist, motivational speaker, and video journalist known as the Free Hugs Guy online. Nwadike Jr is the founder of the Free Hugs Project, which produces motivational videos to spread love, inspire change, and raise awareness of social issues. His ‘Free Hugs’ videos have reached hundreds of millions of views on Facebook and YouTube.
Once a homeless athlete himself, Ken is a leader who exemplifies resiliency and the power to pivot, creating a PPE company during the pandemic to protect his loved ones and those at risk who could not find them.
In 2014, Nwadike launched the Free Hugs Project to spread love in response to the bombing of the Boston Marathon. The Free Hugs Project gained popularity in 2016, as Nwadike made major news headlines for his peace-keeping efforts and de-escalating violence during protests, riots, and political rallies. Nwadike was featured in Google’s 2016 Year in Search video as a highlight of some of the year’s most defining moments. Nwadike has made many appearances on news programs and radio broadcasts worldwide, including CNN, USA Today, Good Morning Britain, and BBC News. Ken has spoken at hundreds of Colleges and Universities and is a favorite at high-schools and corporations.
Jeff Schoep is the former National Leader of the largest neo-Nazi organization in America, and a man who sat down with two victims of hate groups and racism, both assaulted and injured in childhood – and walked away from extremism forever as a result. Extremist leaders don’t talk – except when they are promoting propaganda, giving ultimatums or taking credit for attacks. It is incredibly rare for an extremist leader to exit and be willing to take up the task of counter-extremism, much less a leader of 25 years. In short, there is no such leader available to tell the public what is actually going on in these groups, how they are founded, structured and maintained, and how they disintegrate – except for Jeff Schoep.
After leaving the National Socialist Movement in 2019, he publicly denounced his former ideology and went through the grueling process of recovering his humanity, his compassion and himself.
Jeff Schoep transitioned from mastering propaganda that promoted hatred and fear to total dedication to the truth. Now a counter-extremism trainer, advisor, and presenter, Jeff Schoep tirelessly holds talks, lectures and workshops from his unique vantage point. He once was infamous – today, he is deadly serious about combating extremism.
“For every former I help exit, there are potentially thousands of people who won’t become their victims.” – Jeff Schoep