My Shades of Noir Experience: Charisse Chikwiri


I began working at Shades of Noir in June 2016, I joined the team during my first year of university after having heard about our organisation through an event that took place at my college. This was the Race, Religion & Free Speech event that covered ‘representation in the media’, the perfect topic for a female first year Journalism student of colour (a black woman entering the journalism industry).

To give a little context to this piece; this first year of University (my 18th year of life) was the year that I really became “woke” and was able to go through a process of questioning, challenging, unlearning and relearning freely.

I say freely because, growing up in a not strict but, protective, African, Christian and semi-traditional household – there are certain things you have to adhere to under your parent’s roof even if you don’t necessarily agree with them.

Moving out of my family home in Reading, and coming to live in London by myself gave me the freedom to really explore and consolidate my sense of self. I had always been passionate about the arts and so from the age of 16, as soon as my mother was comfortable enough for me to travel to the city alone, I would commute to London for events, to meet and interview people, to participate in summer schools etc.

Fast forward to September 2016, I moved to the city. Ready to light all the sparks that had been ready to be set free from within me, and then watch them soar.

I had always been passionate about music, fashion, culture and social justice – the pretty side of these things (the side that lacked depth) and never considered myself unable to do anything I set my mind to. I was in some ways naïve to the injustices that I may face, despite my parents always educating me of them and despite the fact that I haven’t lived an easy nor comfortable life (this is of course subjective). In fact, during my time working with Shades I learnt that for years I have been dealing with a lot of emotional trauma, with little awareness of it.

Anyway, keen to get stuck in and given the opportunity to a be a Content Developer at Shades of Noir I applied with high hopes. Since my role began, my life has changed in so many ways. To use written word to articulate what Shades of Noir has done for me, is not an easy task, especially if this is to be done concisely.

Shades of Noir has been an eye opener, a rope thrown to pull me out of a dark pit, a mentor, a support system, a motivator, a training course, a ladder, an opportunity to grow as a writer and as a human, an opportunity to widen my network.

Shades of Noir has taught me so much about life, it has equipped me to further spread my wings. It has helped me gain the knowledge needed to patch up old wounds and to prepare for any others to come.

I had never thought I would become so invested and driven by social justice in the way that I am today. That I would be able to inspire and push others, as they do the same for me.

Shades of noir has taken me to places I had never pictured myself being in. Standing up and talking in front of decision makers, having them listen and playing an active role in pushing for real change.

It feels as though Shades of Noir knew I needed it, like it had been waiting for me and I didn’t even know. I’d be in very different place right now had I not found this team of some of the most amazing people I have ever met.

My Shades of Noir experience has been incredible, overwhelming and exciting. The craziest thing is, this is only the beginning…