Hi crush monsters, this is Straddler On The Street, a feature where I celebrate all of you incredible Autostraddle readers by hunting you down, demanding you chat with me, and then writing about you on the Internet so we can all crush on you. Get excited, because butterflies in your stomach 24/7 is a fantastic way to live.
Header by Rory Midhani
Straddler On The Street: Charrise, 28
Charrise is the fourth Miami Straddler I’ve interviewed since starting this column, and all I’ve gotta say is the rest of you better step it up because Miami Straddlers are so impressive and awesome! I’m kidding, I love all of you equally, but honestly Charrise is so cool. Let us count the ways.
She’s from Virginia, spent eight years in Baltimore, currently attends law school in Miami, and will be moving to DC in July to start working in a large litigation law firm! While in Miami Charrise has made it a point to be very involved in the LGBT scene. She says she first got involved with the scene through volunteer work, and tries to stay very engaged. She’s worked with Pridelines, Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and Aqua Foundation for Women (and she’s now one of their scholarship recipients!). She’s also a member of The Fist, Miami’s real-life-3D-meet-up-group for girls who like girls, founded by Straddlers Caro and Veronika.
Charrise is the Straddler who organized the amazing Audre Lorde event we told you about last week, so you should already be very impressed. This interview will only impress you more. Also FYI, she’s single and she’s a Sagittarius. Just, ya know, in case you’re wondering.
What made you decide to pursue law?
I just always wanted to be a lawyer. I decided when I was like two that I wanted to be Clair Huxtable. But as I got older, I just realized that the law was inaccessible to so many people, so I wanted to learn the law and use what I learned to change communities and empower people.
Do you have plans about what kind of law you want to practice, or what you hope to do with your law degree in the future?
Yes, I have so many plans! I am starting in a large litigation law firm in DC this fall. I also just started an organization called The Fund for The High School Academy, Inc. with my best friend. We seek to develop a new school model to help revolutionize education in communities of color. Right now I also teach law through a program called Street Law and I plan to continue that in DC — it’s targeted generally towards kids in underserved schools and in prisons, but we also do some work with parents and adults.
Is there anywhere online people can check out The Fund yet, or is it still in early stages? Can Autostraddle readers get involved?
We just got incorporated and are beginning our website development so there isn’t anything up yet, but we want TONS of help so anyone and everyone who is interested should send me an email at charrise [at] thehighschoolacademy [dot] org. We will be having an incorporation and brand launch party this summer.
That sounds amazing. Have you always wanted to work with kids? Have you done a lot of work with them already?
I used to teach in a detention center for teenage boys and now I teach in a middle school all-girls enrichment program. I really love it. We focus on making the law understandable and serving as mentors.
Could you share one of your favorite encounters, or one of your most meaningful experiences, working with kids and teaching them about law?
Yes for sure! One of my favorite moments was last year when I was teaching at the juvenile center. We asked the kids to write a legislative bill that would help regulate bullying in schools. All the kids wrote bills, but one kid did not really participate. He came up to us after class a week later, and handed me like this three page written bill. It was so detailed and he was so nervous. I edited it for him and encouraged him to send it off to the state legislature. It was amazing because you wonder if you are getting through to them or if they even care sometimes. But here he was taking it all in and taking it very seriously. He turned out to be an amazing writer and ended up producing something that allowed him to be civically engaged even though he was locked up.
Well okay now I’m gonna cry — that is seriously powerful.
It really is so moving. I loved those kids so much. It’s sad that we turn away from these kids — they made mistakes, but it does not have to define them forever. So many of them are so smart. They just need to know that the oppurtunites are there for them, and that they have support.
That is really important work. Thank you for doing it — seriously. So it sounds like you do a LOT of stuff. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit how you structure your time?
Hahaha, structure? What is that?
I have no plan, no plan at all. My motto comes from Young Jeezy: I can sleep when I die.
Oy, I share a similar motto but I feel like I’m losing it a bit — I’m only 24 and I already feel like a wreck if I get too little sleep, which is so annoying because in high school I barely slept and I was fine!
I know! I was the same in high school! I totally feel it more now. I just nap when I can. And I go through periods when I am crazy busy and then it slows down.
I feel better knowing I’m not the only one who hasn’t figured out the key to structuring her life. What sort of things do you do to relax?
WINE! I love wine. I go to tastings as much as I can. And music. I constantly have jams playing and a glass of wine in my hand. I also enjoy movies. My first job ever was at a movie theater, and I have been in love ever since.
What are your top three favorite movies?
I have a hard time picking, but my top three are The Color Purple, Sophie’s Choice, and The Matrix.
Is this the part where I embarrass myself and admit I haven’t seen any of those? I am really bad about seeing movies.
Oh my god!
I know, I know, I’m the worst.
Movies are like documentations of human history and imagination. It’s a visual painting of who we are and who we want to be.
When you put it that way I feel like a delinquent for not seeing more movies! I’ll try to be better. Speaking of films, do you have any celeb crushes?
Hmmm, yes. I am in love with Tracee Ellis Ross and Rosario Dawson. I also have a thing for Zoe Saldana ever since she was in Center Stage, something about her just gets me. I know those are not the normal choices, haha.
I’ve seen Center Stage!
Yay! Total victory.
While we’re on the subject of favorites — what are some of your favorite books?
Autobiography of Malcolm X, The White Boy Shuffle, and Assata — I read very heavy stuff.
And what is your favorite food?
I love love love french fries and red velvet cheesecake.
Yum! Finally, do you have anything else you’d like to say to the Autostraddle community?
Don’t be afraid to say hi if you see me around!
If you would like to be featured as a future Straddler on the Street, please email vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com. Include a few photos, 3-5 sentences about yourself and put “Straddler Submission” in your subject line. Approximately a million people have submitted so far, so please be patient as Vanessa goes through her inbox — you’re all sexy with really smart brains, and don’t you forget it!
yay queer lawyers club! p.s. excellent movie pics! p.p.s. in advance, good luck on the bar :)
Thank you! I think I am going to need all the good vibes I can get. I’m taking the New York Bar!!!!
“It’s sad that we turn away from these kids — they made mistakes, but it does not have to define them forever”
You are a pretty wonderful human! I’m very happy that young people have a positive role model in you. I am also loving your movie pics, although I lacked the patience to get through The Matrix. So much love.
I can understand, I know the Matrix isn’t for everyone. So I’ll give you a pass. :) Just please tell me you love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?
I was unaware it was a movie, but I loved the book so there is a chance it will hold my complete attention.
Ok this is irrelevant to this piece but why is everything upside down and flashing rainbow colours??? Autostraddle what is going on???!
It’s an April Fools’ Day prank!
So cute! And so badass!
Oh, Charrise, you seem so great! The work you’re doing is so important and it’s incredible how much you’ve built. The Fund sounds phenomenal! Also, I have very, very similar feelings re: wine. So, yes, yes, yes.
Cosigned X a million
Thanks! Search for us on Facebook and like our page to stay up to date.
And Wine is always a win. Genetic wine by Stand Tall is all that it is cracked up to be, so check them out!
Another Tracee Ellis Ross lover, I see? Hell yeah.
I saw her once in Atlanta and I almost died on the spot!
Yup. It’s official. Straddlers are going to take over the world and make it better. Your work sounds amazing, Charrise!!
Great interview! Charrise, you are so impressive and lovely.
Thank you Ellen. That’s very sweet.
Wow. Totally cursing the fact I live in a podunky North Florida town instead of Miami. Would love to meet some of these crush-able ladies down yonder. Charrise, you sound like an amazing person with such sparkling intelligence and genuine caring. You are going to change the world, I just know it. Plus, wine, guitar and good movies, all with a gorgeous smile and faboo glasses? Yes, please.
Okay, I live in the Bay Area because I have been told that’s where all of the cuties are. What is going ON, Miami??
yes queer lawyers!
we need more of you
/ lesbian lawyer and lover