We all know that life is a weird, wonderful, place that can sometimes feel more upside-down than right-side up. It can be coal mine to which it feels like we spend all day mining. But in every coal mine there’s a gem to be found. And in this weird, wonderful coal mine of life, there’s Jose R. Rosario.
I first heard about Jose when I attended the PeaceLove Storytellers event this past May. From the moment I heard him speak, I was eager to interview him for the blog. Partially, because we share a love poetry, and partially because he seemed like wonderful person with so much more story left to tell.
Jose R. Rosario is the Director of Disability Services at Rhode Island College, and has been a PeaceLove CREATOR for the past two years. Jose’s life mission is to create a reaffirming, welcoming space for those with mental illness and those who are neurodiverse. It’s a space to be vulnerable and supported as they go through a journey of self-discovery and healing. Jose was inspired to go into the mental health profession when he saw areas that lacked proper representation. As a gay, latino man with a disability, Jose looked at the mental health field and said, “There needs to be more people like me. We need more diverse ideas and people who are willing to challenge what’s been done.”
Jose’s office displays some of the artwork created in workshops. I sit by one of his favorites as he explains to me the process through which the painting is created. The workshop title is called Creative Calisthenics. During the workshop, a canvas is passed around as each person adds a layer of paint and words to it. The workshop focuses on the layers and complexities of interactions and how we impact each other, and how we can make something together. When finished, all a viewer will see is that top level of paint, but like every single one of us, there’s so much more underneath the surface. It is a long process to become who we are. We each have layers and layers of experiences that coat and shape us. The workshop serves as a beautiful metaphor for our souls and as a reminder of how much is within us, and our responsibility to treat each other with care.
(Above: Artwork from a Creative Calisthenics workshop)
One of Jose’s favorite workshops to do is called Transformation Collages. Participants draw on paper an image of something they feel is holding them back that they no longer need in their life. Participants then rip the paper up, and create something new and beautiful with it.
The idea of breaking yourself down, and building something new with those pieces is a concept to which Jose is frequently drawn. Jose runs a blog called The Phoenix Empowered. Recently, he has begun the process of turning The Phoenix Empowered into its own 501(c)(3), or non-profit organization, with an emphasis on advocacy.
“The name comes from the idea that we break down, and need to be broken down to our bare essentials, our ashes so to speak, in order to rise up. But we have this false idea that we can just rise. We need to be empowered to rise. We need support. We need to be told it’s okay, it’s normal. We need to be told our experiences and distinct identities matter. We need to create that space.”
About the same time Jose became a CREATOR, he began exploring his writing, and expanding past academic discourse to a more personal level. Jose was approached by a friend to be the tenth author in a poetry collection he was going to publish. This pushed Jose into finally beginning to share the poetry he had been writing. The book, Stars: A Collection of Poetry, covers what it’s like to find light in the dark. For those interested in Jose’s work, the collection is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Since it’s release in January 2018, Jose has been approached about putting out his own solo book.
It would be a shame for you to simply take my word for what an amazing, giving person Jose is. Watch Jose’s story at the 2018 Peace of Mind Storytellers event, and keep an eye out for his poetry book. Jose is one of the most passionate and driven people I have ever met. His energy is inspiring and uplifting, and I cannot wait to see how he changes the world.
Victoria Rose is a writer and musician from Providence, Rhode Island. firstname.lastname@example.org