J Christopher Neal
J Christopher Neal is a very proud “native son” of Detroit Michigan. The son of artist and community activist -Harold L. Neal, a celebrated painter and educator, and Claire L. Neal, a classically trained vocalist- J Christopher identifies artistically as a painter, and began his formal art training at Mumford High School and at the College of Creative Studies Saturday Workshops in the late 70’s. He later went on to study Fine Art with a concentration in painting, African American Studies, and a minor in Women's Studies at Eastern Michigan University. After completing his undergraduate work, he enrolled in Howard University's Master of Fine Arts program.
J Christopher came to New York in 1998, landing in Harlem and eventually settling in the Peoples Republic of Brooklyn. His career path has consisted of a number of experiences professional and volunteer in content and curriculum design, arts education, youth leadership development, anti-racist/racial equity work; LGBTQ -specifically Bi+- organizing and activism, personal transformation, and community healing practice. J Christopher is an exhibiting visual artist and a nascent writer. However, he has additionally spent the last 15 years in youth development. Working with major New York cultural institutions, J Christopher as developed integrated arts curriculum for several NYC schools, and taught in classrooms across all five Boroughs and Connecticut. 4 of those years he spent as Senior Director of Youth Programs and Initiatives for Coro New York Leadership Center where he penned the Mayors of Office of Service and Volunteerism’s (NYC Service) plan for a city-wide youth leadership initiative, while overseeing 5 city-wide youth development programs and initiatives.
Leaving Coro in Spring 2017 J Christopher continued this work as a consultant with the NYC Department of Education and with the NYC Service, helping to establish and design facilitation workshops and content for 150 YLC in schools and city agencies across all five boroughs -with the goal of bringing participatory youth voice and equity to city agencies and government institutions whose policy and practices directly or indirectly impact the lives of NYC Youth. As a content developer and facilitator J Christopher had the honor of worked with a team of master educators on the NYC Department of Education, Office Equity and Access’s Urban Ambassador Program -a College and career readiness program designed specifically for black and brown boys.
As a Community Organizer and Activist, J Christopher is the founder of FluidBiDesign a support and advocacy community for sexually fluid people of African descent. As part of this endeavor, he created and co-facilitated MenKIND a restorative healing circle designed specifically to provide a safe space for Bi-identified, bisexual, pan-sexual, and bi-curious men of African descent to discuss and process their lived experiences. In 2015 J Christopher was selected as the first ever openly Fluid, Bi-identified, Grand Marshal in the 45-year history of the NYC Pride Celebration.
In spring 2016 J Christopher began working with Center for Racial Justice in Education (formerly known as Border Crossers) as a Racial Equity/Racial Justice/Anti-Racist educator. Working with education institutions and youth serving organizations facilitating anti-racism and Bias-awareness workshops focused on the history of racism and the construction of race and race. In this work J Christopher assist educators in locating, naming, and dismantling policies, practices, and ways of being that produce and reproduce race-based inequities -while inviting participants to engage in the transformative work of examining their own internalized biases and beliefs. Providing these institutions with tools of analysis through which to examine their culture, mission, values, and practices.
In 2018 he began working with The Human Root as an Equity Practitioner, doing similar work in implicit bias and anti-racism training but with an emphasis on critical pedagogy and healing practice that acknowledged the trauma and harm experienced by students, administration, and faculty of color as they negotiate institutions that are traditionally inequitable, and often racist sexist, and homophobic. Additionally, he volunteers as a coach with Momentum Education, where he was part of the social justice/equity team, helping the organization identify intentional equitable practices that will support a liberatory and inclusive space.
J Christopher most recent study has been in the area of trauma, specifically Persistent Traumatic Stress Environments (PTSEs). Looking at the work of Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, Stacy K. Haines, Dr. Shawn Ginwright and others, J Christopher is examining how racialized social, systemic, and environmental determinants engender traumatized stressed-out communities of color; effecting the brain chemistry of the human beings who negotiate these environments every day; inducing often necessary but equally trauma-informed “survival strategies” that impact education, opportunity, wellbeing and life expectancy. J Christopher is looking into ways Black, Indigenous, Communities of Color can begin to look at trauma as a collective experience, broaden their understanding of its origins and impact, and develop a “healing centered approach” to the practices engaged towards restoration, revitalization and repair.