On the onset of the pandemic, BPI developed a newsletter that was sent to incarcerated students weekly to retain communication between students and the college. The newsletter contained news and updates from across BPI’s 7 in-prison campuses; the Bard Microcolleges in Holyoke, Brooklyn, and Harlem; the BardBac on Bard’s main Annandale campus; and from the larger Bard community along with writing prompts, math problems and reflections from alumni who have come home. Since returning to in-prison operations, the BPI newsletter has become a quarterly publication and cherished opportunity to connect our campuses and the larger BPI community. This alumni profile was published in the most recent issue of the BPI newsletter.
There were many things I was prepared for returning home from prison. There were things that I wasn’t prepared for, too. If you knew me when I was inside, I took advantage of being present as a participant and leader in the programs I was a part of. At Eastern, for example, I collaborated in coordinating many events in which I cooked, performed in, MC’d, and team built. Everything I said I was going to do out here, I was prepared for, because I had planned inside. For nearly 12 years, I planned for my freedom.
Most of what I wasn’t prepared for was the need for self-care: the need to know the difference between solitary and solitude. My need to lock-in is greater out here, so I’m always reaching out for experiences rather than substances to get me through the roller coaster rides. I went in when I was a young boy, and I returned home after 20 years during the pandemic. At some point when you return out here, you have to look at yourself and say that now you have shoulders for those who have led you here. While inside, I dreamed up this idea of working with children on the outside. I am blessed to have done it within two years of being home. I am the project manager for the YouthNPower: Transforming Care collective at the Children’s Defense Fund-NY. I get the opportunity to lead 14 former foster care children, who are now researchers and organizers.
I have so much pride and love for being a part of such wonderful people. I thank the folks at BPI who laid the ground for me to be in this position as they worked with me to perfect my cover letter and resume. Throughout my life, I noticed that when you put your best foot forward, you are more than just an expert. You are worthy and you are cared for in your profession. I am a witness of BPI classes translating into practical skill sets within the sector I’m working in. Those research classes allowed me to uplift participatory action research in the not-for-profit sector for a well respected national organization.
Through my work, I was one of eight people who traveled to the White House to represent foster care children in the country. I’ve been to Alex Haley farm in Clinton, Tennessee, to facilitate a youth-led, power building presentation. I’ve also enjoyed the fruits of the relationships I developed with volunteers in theater. For the entire month of June 2022, I performed as Salomon in a play called “Quince” at the Bushwick Starr Theater. I am scheduled to perform at the London Theater at The Shed in NYC. I returned home and straight up have begun two simultaneous careers. Family, we can do anything when you’re IN THERE and OUT HERE! LET’S GO!
– Jose A. Perez ’13
Poet. Actor. Foster Care Reform/Abolitionist Advocate. 37. Jose grew up as a systems-impacted person, growing up in foster homes, group homes, and other juvenile institutions. He found writing poetry and acting on stage would be the catalyst needed to not only survive in those institutions but to also thrive. Jose Perez is a 2013 BPI graduate. As an actor, he recently performed at the Bushwick Starr Theater in One Whale’s Tale’s production Quince. Jose has also been a servant leader as an alternatives to violence facilitator, and worked with gang-involved youth at the Center for Alternatives Sentencing and Employment Services as a community Benefits Project Supervisor. Jose currently works as the YouthNPower: Transforming Care Project Manager for the Children’s Defense Fund.
Find his published poetry here: https://www.htiopenplaza.org/content/marking-time