Joseph Munisteri from unlockcreativity.org is an advocate of mental health, a consumer, a poet, an author, as well as an artist. He has invited people from the mental health communities to INBEON Con. INBEON is a company he works with that has a convention coming up this Saturday (8/25/18) in Long Island, New York. INBEON Con is a comic-con, if you will, but mostly for creatives (artists, writers, cosplayers, etc). Head over to INBEONCon.com for more information on this big event at Hofstra University.
So Joseph tell us a little bit about your outreach?
Why I invite people from the mental health, developmental disabilities, as well as other communities, is because: As an advocate and a person with a cross-systems disability, I have learned how hard it can be to find support. It's why I started thinking outside the box to create new support. I believe that the best supports are the natural ones, like fostering friendships and collaborations within the community. It's so important, and often gets overlooked. An example of this would be if someone from one of these communities decided they want to pursue art as a career, they often get shamed and told they need to find a job, even though there is funding in place to support such goals. I went through this first hand as I began my journey to go public as an artist, I had a counselor who was supporting me and we applied for the funding and then, what often happens in the field of social work happened, they got a higher paying job, and I got a new counselor, the new counselor did not see eye to eye with me and didn't see how I could make a profit or a career in art, even after I gave examples and even showed financial examples of how it can work. As a result, I lost that opportunity and wasn't given a proper chance, and had to find a way to self-fund my projects. I did this by making connections within my community. These stories have been what I've seen all my life, and I want to change it, it's especially hard for someone with a cross-systems disability, that's a person with more than one type of disability such as a developmental disability and a mental health disability or alcoholism or drug addiction etc. The systems are set up to help people with just one classification of disability, not multiple, so as a result they get bounced around. The same can be said about people with disabilities and the job supports they get. It's just that, its "Job" support, not Career support. We are setting people up for failure by doing this. The average person who gets a minimum wage job, they don't stay there their whole life, it's just a placeholder position while they are studying or learning and focusing on their career goals. If they went through vocational training just to be set up with a minimum wage position, they wouldn't be very happy. If that's the case why is it so acceptable to support the disability communities in this way? I am a firm believer in trying to follow your dreams, even if you fail in doing so, you can say you tried and you can learn from it. We need to give everyone that opportunity! That's why I have invited these populations to INBEON Con. My process behind it, is like I mentioned earlier, collaborations between the community, I teamed up with INBEON Studios and told them how I felt, and shown how passionately I felt about it, and they listened, as a result, they donated some tickets for me to give away! The most amazing part about this whole thing is that most of the people from these communities that will be attending, you wouldn't even know that they had a disability, that's because at INBEON Con it's a community that focuses on helping each other and nurturing each other's strengths, creating partnerships within the community. This is how they will be given that chance to succeed! And I can't wait till INBEON con, I have some HUGE announcements to make. A little tease is that this is just the first step and part of a very long and really amazing journey I am choosing to take. Over the past year and a half, I have been experimenting with new forms of art and creativity and making a lot of amazing new collaborations. INBEON con and the follow up after the con is where I get to really put those to the test and show the world what is possible! I have some plans to change the way we perceive these populations, and I can't wait to take them to the next level. But first I have to show the people who don't believe, that it is possible! And the people who don't believe, I mean anyone who has been told they couldn't do art or couldn't pursue their dreams. As well as create some samples to create partnerships where I can actually secure better funding, as currently, I am 100% self-funded. I've been taught unfortunately that in order to do that and be given a chance, we have to have a product or sample to demo first. Which is honestly contradictory to a system of support, but I have samples to show now, and with that, I can share my knowledge with others and inspire them(and perhaps maybe even one day fund them) to follow and pursue their dream projects. To get the tickets out into the world I've been contacting some of the local libraries, some of the various agencies that work with these populations, as well as giving them out to the people directly! I've also sent out some emails via some very large network list serves as well as shout outside through social media! I really can't wait to blow the universe away at this year’s event and roll with the punches after the con to take my game up to the next level!
What those who refused to support me don't know about me is that I've learned to channel my energy into proving them wrong! I hope to share that with others and help others in the community prove to the haters that they were wrong. It’s been so amazing this past year seeing some of the people who did not support me, in the beginning, have a change of heart, and seeing new support for my projects come from directions and people I would never have imagined! I look forward to seeing everyone at the con!
How has your outreach to the mental health community affected your personal life?
I would have to say that it’s more the flipside, how has my personal life affected my outreach to the mental health community. But it does go both ways. My personal life has had its own problems with dealing with mental health, and when I reached out for help initially I got stuck in between the cracks and bounced around in between systems due to a cross-systems disability. I consider myself lucky though because I managed to have a great set of mentors and parents who taught me early on to advocate for myself and others, as well as some pretty amazing yet still overlooked coping techniques, such as the peer support movement. Of which I see a lot of the same roots in my outreach at comic conventions. Ironically I also do the flipside and take my comic and pop culture ideas and bring them to the mental health and disability conferences. So it really goes both ways, and it ends up inspiring others and giving them hope, just as my mentors gave me the wonderful gift of hope when I needed it.
Why do you think INBEON Con is a good place to invite the mental health community?
I think INBEON Con is a great place to invite the mental health community. Art and mental health have always gone hand in hand, even dating back to the renaissance times and various times in history, historically many artists faced and dealt with mental health and drug addiction issues and used their art to help them cope. I also see a lot of the same patterns at INBEON con as in the peer support movement. Which are peers helping peers, artists helping artists. We are all giant family at the end of the day, I have yet to experience a convention which more so demonstrates that than INBEON con. I've seen it grow and I've seen it go from a tiny con to something that invades NY Comic con and Boston Comic-con! And the coolest part is having been able to join them on that journey. So I think if there is any comic convention for the mental health community to check out, INBEON con is definitely on that list towards the very top!
What is your process for selecting events to attend to promote your work?
My process of selecting events to promote my work is a bit more complicated. Like I will promote my work anywhere I go technically, but I also choose to be more specific and table at quite a few events, as well as throw a few events of my own, such as the launch party for my book "Butterflies in Space" which was so much fun. But I also am one of the founding members of Youth Power! And we do a lot of events for cross-systems disabilities with youth and I love all the love I get at those events, as well as how I am able to inspire hope in those who need it, on the end of the spectrum I choose my comic convention events based on a mix of my budget which isn't very big, but its self-funded, as well as if I already planned to attend the convention. Although I recently took a nice break from comic conventions, so it’s gonna be really nice to return, and return with an amazing setup, and be welcomed with open arms by the community. I have been doing a lot more mental health conferences recently. I tend to do a lot of speaking and workshops at those events. They always bring a great time!
Do you want to highlight the mental health community at the event?
I absolutely plan to highlight the mental health community, as well as a few other communities. I am a firm believer in inclusion. When I say highlight, I mean use my time at the convention to bring awareness to mental health, as well as addiction and developmental disabilities and the other systems. I definitely won't out anybody, but if I see someone struggling, I won't hesitate to ask them if they are ok, and let them know that at my table, we able inclusion and about making sure everyone feels safe, included and welcome! Did I mention that my table will be a bit more interactive? And I get the feeling it's gonna be one of the highlights of the show this year, I'm pretty sure there will be a lot of people swinging by my booth, including artists(*hint, everyone is an artist, they just don't know it yet!). I should also note that I will be using the funds made at my table to self-fund a trip up to Buffalo to check out and visit some of the youth groups up there, and speak and inspire them, as well as learn from them and their pasts and history, especially on the difficulties they encountered while starting up their youth groups. And then bring that knowledge back down to Long Island and start my own youth groups here, youth groups on long island have this terrible history of being very short lived due to agencies involvement. You really can't run a youth group and have a 50 something year old moderating it and expect it to be a success. You have to embrace youth culture and give trust to the young people, trust that they will do things right, just in a new and more youthful manner. That's the thing about youth culture as well. It's always changing. But it's so important to keep up with it, if you want to make you feel comfortable and have them engage with you and your team, you have to do it on their terms, not yours. And you have to be willing to also learn from them while you're teaching them. Which is something that often gets forgotten in education, that teaching is actually a 2-way street.
What do you have coming up?
I mean, there is INBEON Con. Hint, hint wink, wink
But in all seriousness, after INBEON con, you’re going to see me invade NY Comic Con with the Cosplay and Disabilities pane for the 3rd year in a row! And each year it gets bigger and better! I have some really awesome plans for this year at NYCC. And I couldn't ask for better timing in getting my acceptance email about my panel! You may also see me doing some workshops in the local communities in long island very soon(Hint, hint, wink, wink) as well as expect a lot more involvement online, that means my website, www.unlockcreativity.org as well as my YouTube channel and my Instagram. And of course, Asia mentioned before that trip up to Buffalo. Of which I also have some special things planned that will come out of that trip in addition to the hopeful creation of a youth or peer group. One might say, it's a community merger. And of course, I'll also continue to be at the local poetry readings on long island. I may also branch out some of my poetry into parts of NYC. And back in April, I did participate in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) and successfully complete a themed 30-day writing challenge. It was part of a contest, which I apparently was a finalist, so those will be published into a chapbook. So I'm sure there may be a book launch party in the near future.
Thanks Joseph for all your work and this great interview. Please seek Joseph out at unlockcreativity.org and of course check out InbeonCon.com for this weekend’s event at Long Island, New York’s Hofstra University!