Culture Undiscovered: RISE and the Art of Living

On Sunday, I talked about ASU organization The Underground Foundation. One of the things that TUF does is help local charities and non-profits through fundraisers, the latest one being RISE (Revolution Inspired by Self Evolution). RISE is the name given to Zachary Chipps’ and Thomas Brown’s seven-month, cross-country bike ride dedicated to raising suicide awareness. Hopefully, Zachary says, they’ll be able to “bring the topic of suicide to the fore, ridding the topic of its cultural taboos.” Thomas and Zachary will be leading town hall meetings across the country with Survivors of Suicide groups, as well as meeting with “art and bicycle communities, LGBTQ support groups, Veterans’ Affairs organizations, and high school and college groups involved in community building.”

RISE’s Zachary and Thomas begin their journey May 1. Photo courtesy of risephoenixtour.blogspot.com.

Both men have dedicated everything to this ride — upon leaving they will quit their jobs and focus solely on their mission to “inspire the transformation in one’s life by creative self-expression, through devoted self-reflection.” While this motto is, at first glance, difficult to apply to daily life, Zachary unpacks it for me: “Thomas and I both want to share this idea to inspire real change, healing, and growth with those searching for these things. We want people to understand that ‘the healing power of art’ is not directly defined by drawing, taking pictures, making music, painting, etc., but is instead an amalgamation of the choices that we as individuals make on a daily basis.”

So, how did all of this get started? In June 2010, Thomas and Zachary were friends who had both lost an older brother to suicide and were ready to do something for them. This something took shape and became RISE, the fulfillment of a promise that Zachary made to himself “to do something with my life to honor my brother.” When I ask him about the disconnect that usually occurs between passion and action, Zachary immediately says that RISE’s beginning was possible because of his relationship with Thomas. Thomas feels much the same way; upon meeting Zachary, he says, “for the first time in over a decade I had the opportunity to have a conversation with another individual who lost their sibling to suicide. I cannot begin to express what this meant to me.”

Together, they’ve been able to move forward, healing both themselves and others, and taking their lives in completely unexpected directions. This is also what they hope to bring to the Survivors of Suicide community: the knowledge that life’s progression is an essential part of the healing process. Zachary and Thomas plan to do this, in part, through the documentary of their journey that they hope to film and share with others. They can’t do this without donations from people who support their cause, they set up their website and where anyone can make a donation. RISE T-shirts are available for $20, and statebicycle.com is selling RISE’s bike-chain necklaces for $10 each. Below is a video they made:

You can also support RISE by going to their next fundraiser this Saturday in Old Town Scottsdale, hosted by ClooCroo. RISE’s final event before their May 1 departure will be a suicide awareness forum (organized by TUF) featuring ASU professors, professionals in the fields of psychology and suicide, and RISE’s Thomas and Zachary on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. TUF, by the way, has made a great impression: “They have completely impressed me with their level of passion and commitment to their community,” Zachary says. “If these human beings, acting in their current role as students, are our future, then we are in for some amazing times ahead!”

Email me at jlpruett@asu.edu.