Outside Voices: Kharisma

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Outside Voices is an interview series in which Community-Word Project catches up with current and former students to see how their participation in CWP’s creative art programs impacted their learning and growth.

Gallery room with projection of a spoken word performance by high school student

Kharisma recently sat down with CWP Board Member Lori Bullock for our interview series: Outside Voices. Kharisma is a high school student at Bronx Envision Academy. Last year Kharisma’s writing was featured at our annual spring gala, Writing Our Future.

Interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Lori: How do you think about community now versus before you had Community-Word Project.

Kharisma: We can build a community even with people we don’t know. We all have a voice and a thought about the same things or different things that could be related. We could always relate. We could always speak our voices to each other, like, you know, “Community-Word.” Our words as a community, you know, like together, and how we all see from different or the same perspectives.

Community-Word really helped me. Like I always kind of like…I could think about it, but they really helped me understand. I wouldn’t have been able to say it the way I said it, I would have been stuttering and, you know…I’d say I’m thinking so many thoughts at once and then they overlap and that’s like a clear thing to me. We have our words as a community. They may be different, but there’s always some type of interrelation.

Lori: How do you see Community-Word Project helping you in your classes, especially your AP classes?

Kharisma: Before [CWP], I would have just dropped these classes, honestly. Like how I was saying, I didn’t want to be in front of the camera or just try to run out. But doing that thing made me realize: Just go through with it. You won’t know what could happen. You don’t know what great things can come out of it.

I never expected my face would have been on three big walls. Okay, if I know I don’t want to do it, I just try because you don’t know what great things could come out of it…So just do it. Yeah, I think, yeah! So, a lot of just do itjust let it go, helped me and my life, in general.

Lori: I would love to know what was your favorite part in learning things? Writing technique, exercises in the workshops that you participated in at Community Word Project?  

Kharisma: I love the way things connect. I love connection. I love how psychology connects to art. I love how art is like, not just art, but an expression in general. It can be writing or music, like how Community-Word Project does writing, music, poetry – all of that can be seen as expression. I love expression as a concept. I love the concept of connection. Everything comes together. There were individual [components], there’s the breathing exercise we did in the beginning, there was the reading, there were the prompts – but it connected to me being able to be this better person. I love how it connects to my life. I love the concept of how things connect; how I was saying earlier about the community, how their voices can connect to be this, like – I love how things fit together. There might be a jumble of stuff, but you can look through it, pick it out and connect it together.

Lori: So all of these artistic values that you’ve learned, why is that now are important to you and how you express yourself and how you got into the world?  

Kharisma: I’ve always loved every form of art. Like, I thought I wanted to be a dancer. Then I thought I wanted to play the flute I played. I thought I wanted to play piano. I thought I wanted to do this…but then I realized I really just wanted to express myself. Like, how I was in my show before. And now I’m out because, like, I’ve always wanted to do [this]. I’ve always wanted to put myself out there, but I always want–I always felt like I was annoying or I didn’t like, [that] people wouldn’t get it, but now I’m seeing how people would get it because of that community thing, how seeing like I never would expect to even say, [or] that they would never expect me to say that. Now, like I will–I understand. People will get it. People won’t get it. But there will always be some sort of like freeing [feeling] to me, like how I’m out there now. Like I’m not, I’m, expression in general. I love the expression.

Lori: What advice would you have for students to learn how to express themselves through Community-Word Project programs, through writing, through art?

Kharisma: Just do it, like there’s nothing to really lose. You may feel a certain sense of…but the embarrassment doesn’t even last. You’re going to forget that. You’ll remember it happened, obviously, but you’re going to forget the feeling  – but don’t forget the feeling – because you got to feel every feeling you feel, because every feeling is important to your personality as a person. But the way that it just all connects, even that helps you grow. [You’ve] got to remember that it may have been embarrassing, it may be negative right now. It’s not even really negative. It’s just – what’s that word? An experience. You’ve got to experience it. Experience yourself. Experience others. Let that expression flow, like it’s fun for you, it’s fun for other people to see. Like some people are just haters. But there’s always going to be something bad. So why not let that bad thing be a good thing? You’re going to be embarrassed at some point in your life. So at least let this embarrassment be something that helps you get further.