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Rising Stars: Meet Charmaine Jennings

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charmaine Jennings. 

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
My art story is a journey in self-discovery and resilience. I truly love the African proverb which states, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” As a lifelong learner, I desire to learn from every situation-the examples and non-examples. My art combines storytelling, poetry and music that invites you to reflect on life lessons and compelling questions.

For example, who was given a choice where they were born or the name that you were called? I secretly began to reject my name because so many people struggled to pronounce it correctly and it wasn’t popular. I received constant stares and confusing looks by random adults wanting to identify me as a foreigner. This was especially hard as a child. However, by the age of sixteen, I slowly started to break up with my obsession to help others figure me out. No more people-pleasing through quiet and compliant behaviors. I needed more choice and voice. I desired to stop placing a higher value on people’s opinions and ideas about me in order to make them feel comfortable. Besides, I didn’t know that I was a walking-talking social contradiction that people needed to “figure out.” As evidenced by the questions I was regularly asked. Who are you and where are you from? Why do you choose to do things that are difficult? Why do you find value in the invaluable? Why are you sad when you have so much? Why are you happy when you have so little? The solution was simple. I needed to make my perspective the loudest, most valuable narrative in my ear. I needed to fill myself up with my own questions. Commit to finding out the answers for myself without making other people the excuse. I started writing about my life and important questions that really mattered. Each packaged in the form of a poem, song or story.

Although my teenage years are far behind me, great questions have a way of lingering. These questions are weaved throughout my art, career and passion work. I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida to Jamaican parents. Adopted at the age of seven by an African American couple (i.e. Benjamin and Julia) with two sons and a daughter who became my first friend. By sixteen, I was secretly battling depression. Yes. I was in fact happy when I had little and sad when I had much. I was extremely grateful for the family and things God blessed me with; however, I felt enormous pressure, anxiety and fear about losing everything. My emotions were a never-ending rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. One day my mother found my journal of written work. This quickly led to an intervention with her and my father. They affirmed my need to share my inner thoughts but corrected the misconceptions and unreasonable pressure that I placed on myself. They reassured me that I was loved and that their lives were much better with me than without. This opened us up to having more dialogues about their personal lives, struggles and the lessons they learned along the way.

Today, my poetry, songs and stories continue to explore my inner thoughts and experiences. I am thankful to share these tools and skill sets in my role as a veteran educator, life coach, and artisan of creativity. I am a wife enjoying 20+ years of marriage, but I am still growing. I am the proud mother of an eclectic, non-verbal daughter who is battling Autism. Yes, I am still a student. I am a mother of an older daughter who is an introvert, vegetarian, and first year college student. Yes, I am still learning and the journey continues. My artwork is the mirror of reflections, lessons learned and questions. My journey as a writer began as a way to find and empower my own voice. If I chose to respond to the question, “Who are you?” My answer is more polished now than ever. I reply that I am thankful, fearfully and wonderfully made, unapologetically diverse, a lifelong learner and chosen to help people and organizations establish success and significance. My art journey continues as I regularly infuse fine arts into my career, passion work and family life. I am excited to help others know their calling (i.e. passion and purpose) as well as how to handle life challenges in ways that foster positive change.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My journey in writing, performing and community service has been tough. Once upon a time I struggled with finding a healthy balance between career, family and my passion work. The work of serving and encouraging others is ongoing. There is always a need for great people or organizations to help. I had to learn that I wasn’t the chosen one assigned to support every opportunity or situation. I used to spend my time after school helping my students shine bright as they performed a song or new dance choreography. I created school events, clubs, fashion shows and coached competition teams. When my children were ready for their artful moments I was their biggest fan, financier and coach. I started and ran an event business part-time for 10 years. My former business specialized in helping couples manage, design and host unique and exquisite wedding moments and life milestones. All the while, writing and sharing my poetry less and only when I was frustrated. I had reduced my craft to a list of complaints without reflecting or taking ownership that I was in control of managing my time. As an unbalanced educator, wife, mother and artist, I began to provide uneven levels of support and encouragement. Largely to the same people whom I sought to effectively serve. After many mistakes and bold reminders from my home, work and community family and friends; I learned how to balance by adjusting my behaviors and surrounding myself with accountability partners. My writing and creative work returned back into a method of healing, reflection, and learning to ask the tough questions that would guide my next steps. These are the same skills that I currently use to support my clients, community and family.

We’d love to learn more about your work. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I am a poet, coach and educator. I specialize in creating arts-infused workshops, professional and community learning experiences for children, teens, and adults alike. I am a co-founding member of Black on Black Rhyme Tampa which was started on September 18, 2001. The show recently celebrated 20 years of cultivating spoken word poetry and creativity. Other speaking partnerships include but are not limited to: The Family Café (2016-2020) annual event sponsored by Florida’s governor. I utilized this opportunity to spread awareness about non-verbal Autism. I co-facilitate a poetry and open mic session called, Open Mic Gumbo with Walter “Wally B” Jennings for individuals with special needs. I co-created a session called, Pink Art Party with LaKeesha Hines that combined self-care coaching and fine arts to celebrate and help women caregivers connect, reflect and recharge.

I am most proud of a new project called Mouth Of The Mural, launched in January 2021 with poet Wally B. It is an ekphrastic poetry experience (i.e. visual art into words), which unites visual, literary and performance artists with business owners in an effort to celebrate community, connection, and conversation. The motto is, “If a picture is worth a thousand words…Let’s find them!” My unique skill is providing arts-infused, self-reflection coaching experiences for personal and relationship coaching, educational leadership and community initiatives.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
Support The Arts and Feed The Creatives! Contact me if you are a fellow creative who wants to explore a future collaboration or partnerships. Let’s connect if you are interested in booking me to perform, speak and/or facilitate an art-infused workshop, marriage/leadership coaching sessions and/or an education PD topic. Please visit my website, CharmaineCmaineJennings.com to schedule a phone call, submit your event details and/or to request a quote/proposal. You may also email me directly at Mrs.Charmaine.Jennings@gmail.com. Let’s connect and create!

Is there any pricing information that is relevant to our readers? If so, and if you would like us to share it, please include details (in bullet form) below.

Please visit my website CharmaineCmaineJennings.com to schedule a phone call, submit your event details and/or to request a proposal with specific pricing.

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