Scenes From the City: Charmaine Moore Kitsinis
“We were meant to know one another” – is often the phrase my inner voice feels confident screaming when I meet a woman with a heart that could be divided by ten million and still shine as bright. Upon meeting Charmaine outside of our day job stocking lettuce at Trader Joe’s, my inner voice was amplified for every Panera-goer to hear.
Charmaine’s brightness is the kind of brightness that makes you realize the delight of living simply because she exists in the world. She exists and so the world is a place I want to live in. I am proud to have Charmaine by my side as I mark a year of meeting women that shape this city.
The winter light is perfectly caressing her brown skin that folds around a smile warmer than the sun. Her eyes are just as warm as her smile; keeping contact with mine even when I look down to write and give my cheeks a break from the infectious laughter.
I knew Charmaine was a gem I had to dust off with questions. Charmaine is a woman I look to as a model of complete confidence and support for happiness. Often I feel like I dig tunnels underground to crawl under boundaries and get close to someone. Charmaine caught me in the midst of my digging and with trust, met me halfway. Her trust was something I wanted to water and let grow.
Music kept her company and influenced her to put herself in places with unsuspecting people who ultimately helped her reach her goals.
Charmaine is in a constant state of growth; something I find to be extremely rare. Her ability to both accept and challenge change is effortless. I met her in a time of transformation and now get to see her through another change as she takes on an additional role of leadership at the University of Miami Hamilton as a Trio student services counselor.
Also helping marginalized women find their voice through MUSE choir, Charmaine stands tall with a voice anyone is graced to hear; a voice that has been tuned to the life she built by way of sincere curiosity and passion. Cincinnati has shaped her childhood and adult life through challenges and joy.
When her neighborhood in Walnut Hills was too rough for outside play, Charmaine occupied her time with a clarinet and any book she could get her hands on. She muses over the house she grew up in for a short time in Northside. The house was full of strong women who influenced her culture with every kind of music accompanied by their voices, always singing, no matter the song. Jazz, reggae, soul: those were her jams. Her mother helped establish a home open to anyone in trouble and in need of warmth.
I mention that her mother must be an amazing woman and Charmaine agreed with the same comforting smile I was beginning to know. She says her mom gives her the strength to find joy. On a field trip to the School for Creative and Performing Arts with her French bilingual school, Charmaine found her calling in music. Charmaine, supported by her mother, was ignited and stayed hours after school to practice.
When she landed in music, she could see the ripples it made in her life and she followed them. She mentions she was a ‘weird kid’ and I am glad I am not alone in that. Her differences allowed her to see past her own experiences and pursue a clarinet scholarship at OSU with an emphasis in Jazz studies and performance. After graduation, she began to use her talents in Baltimore to teach but found a flawed system. In the fall of 2011, she realized she could bring everything she had learned with her home to Cincinnati.
She is protecting her joy and helping others find theirs by simply existing.
I see Cincinnati as a place that can welcome you with open arms, or first, slap you in the face and then offer the open arms. I explain that to Charmaine and she shares that Cincinnati has shown an ugly side to her as well. I imagine her smile while destroying the road less traveled and giggle to myself. Music kept her company and influenced her to put herself in places with unsuspecting people who ultimately helped her reach her goals. Overqualified as hell, she punched data for a volunteer coordinator and worked at the Cincinnati Opera box office and was recognized as a woman worth noticing.
She was eventually promoted at the opera and made her way up to director of education. Charmaine used her new leadership position to educate children on diversity through slaves’ stories they performed and shared with the city. After she felt her work was done at the opera, she took on her dream job and found it to be nothing like she expected. I decide that when we shoot so far for something worth achieving, we realize that everything leading up to the expectations was the achievement part of it all.
After moving on from what she thought would be a dream job, Charmaine decided to take time to let the spark settle and find herself again. She says there is damage in her, but I am happy about it. All of us, every part, is what makes us who we are, so I say “yes” to the damage. She may still carry some of the damage but it has helped her inspire conversation about how art has helped her continue on.
She tells me it is a crime to ignore anyone’s experience – a valuable lesson I have learned this year – and she actively participates to make experience known. Charmaine is dedicated to unconventional storytelling and helping us see beyond our experience. She is protecting her joy and helping others find theirs by simply existing.
Have a woman in mind that Abby should chat with? Email her at email@example.com. In the meantime, check out past Scenes from the City columns and stay tuned for more of the city's hidden gems on the first Saturday of every month.