Current Artist in Residence, POET-IN-RESIDENCE

Jose grew up in New York City in foster homes, group homes, juvenile institutions, then adult prison as a teenager. Jose entered prison at the age of 16 and returned back to society 3 years ago as a 35 year old man. While incarcerated, Pérez earned an AA from Bard College, a BS from Nyack College through HudsonLink, and capped his academic career with a Masters in Professional Studies (MPS) from the New York Theological Seminary. 

Along with his formal education, Jose established himself as an emerging leader within prison walls, teaching and facilitating college preparatory classes, alternatives to violence workshops, and poetry workshops under the Harvest Moon Collective with Beat poet Janine Pommy Vega. As a poet Jose has written with and has hosted works by poets like Naomi Shihab Nye and Amiri Baraka within prison walls. He also acted in 12+ productions under Art Tree and the Rehabilitation Through the Arts theater groups. 

For Pérez, poetry and theater became synonymous with freedom and the catalysts of change he needed to survive 20 years of prison time.

Jose is currently the Project Manager at the Children’s Defense Fund-NY, using his lived experience in both the child welfare and youth justice systems to center the voices of young people. Jose leverages his past traumas within these systems to advocate and promote housing & economic mobility, and self-determination for system-involved youth. At CDF-NY, he leads an intergenerational collective of lived-expert youth action organizers and researchers managing the direct cash payments of one thousand dollars to 100 emerging adults who aged-out of the foster care system in New York City. 

Jose’s voice is especially relied upon as a subject matter expert on panels across the United States of America that includes the New York State Capitol in Albany, Howard University, Columbia University’s Psychiatric Institute, the New York Judicial Institute, and the White House. 

He is a member of Project UNITE, a partnership of YouthNPower at CDF-NY and the Youth Advisory Board of the Coalition for Homeless Youth, an organizing project that brings together young people with lived experience in both child welfare and runaway and homeless youth systems to advance a policy vision for change and accountability.

Jose also sits on the District Attorney of New York City’s Reentry Council Board. 

Jose enjoys this work as a servant leader in his community and also as a spoken word artist and an actor. He recently performed at the Bushwick Starr Theater as Solomon in Quince (One Whale’s Tale Productions, 2022), Tony in Chäk at The Shed in NYC, Knowledge in When This is Over for the Workshop Theater, and now in his most recent role as “Jose” in a play called “Private Party” produced and developed by the One Whales Tale Theater company at the Public Theater in NYC.