Team Member – Bari Hochwald-Cagnola

With her husband, Claudio

Executive Assistant to the Founder

Director of Resource Development Capital Area Community Renewal

When I was a student at Syracuse University we had a week of nuclear awareness events. There were lectures, there were discussions and films. I remember one night I watched ‘The War Game,’ a British drama-documentary filmed in 1965 dramatizing the effect of a nuclear explosion in Britain and the resulting end of their societal structure. The film was so powerfully done that it was hard to believe it wasn’t a documentary. That these things didn’t actually happen.

When I walked out of that building I literally thought the sky would light up at any moment. And, at 19, I wondered what I was doing at Syracuse University studying something so inane as acting.

When I called my mother in desperate tears and fear she said something that has stayed with me all my life. She recounted for me the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And the belief they truly had that, at any moment, the world they knew would end. She told me that what was most important at that time was for them to escape that world of fear, to be entertained, to be reminded of the value of life through film, theatre and art.

I am thinking about that now. I have thought about it many times throughout the last few decades. I am not 19 anymore. And the world has utterly changed in these years. No matter how many walls we build, or fences we construct we are now at a time where we can no longer believe in the safety of an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ We will only find our true comfort and our deliverance to a humane and peaceful planet through courageously exploring the challenging journey of embracing WE. To not only be reminded of the value of life but to experience it daily.

My work of the last fifteen plus years has focused on artists in partnership with their neighbors in order to embrace that WE. No longer to offer escape, but to offer a healthy pathway to community. No longer to only entertain but to encourage the spark of creative connectivity found in every human being on this planet.

Clearly the way we have been heading has not established a way of living together that assures peace. Our leaders – our governments – will do what they will do. But while their actions either are improving our hopes for survival or diminishing them, it is time for each of us to take up the call and expand our personal mission of responsibility to all humanity.

It is a brave act to look deeply at one another. To embrace each other through the fear of our differences, our histories, and to arrive at the moment where we see – and celebrate – our mutual beauty.

When I met Mack McCarter I knew immediately that I had found a like-minded soul, a friend, a mentor. I had been working alone for so long under the belief that there must be a better way to live together. Through my relationship with Mack I dug deep into the foundation of Community Renewal International. I traveled many times to Shreveport and I’ve focused my work in theatre and arts engagement with community and educating young artists to consciously support this relationship. I don’t see any other way to heal our societies and our world. We need systems, methods, and structures that are reliable, replicable, and deliverable in order to be effective warriors right now in this fight for equity and peace. The social technology of CRI opens a door for our communities, our nation and our world to engage in a better understanding of our human capacity.

It is a call to arms for the sake of humanity and the planet on which we depend. I’m all in.

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