Tuesday, April 23, 2024

 bill berry, jr.

Publisher and CEO, aaduna &
Member, Rockford Kingsley's Advisory Board
Cyd Charisse Fulton

"My words of wisdom are simple. My sons hear them from me from time to time. I also refer to them during days of struggle, achievement, heartache, joy, illness, celebration and self-doubt. “It is impossible to be on earth as nothing. Make sure you are something good and share with others".”



Visit aaduna's Web Site

and Read

Cyd Charisse Fulton's Poems 

Which Appeared In

 Premier/Winter 2011


Spring 2011 Issues







Interview With Cyd Charisse Fulton 
bill berry, jr.

Cyd Charisse Fulton is “fierce.”  If you do not know what I mean, you will not find the appropriate definition in your dictionary though I will admit that this woman is determined.  I hope that after reading her interview, you will know why I described her with that single word.  For now, you need to know that Cyd is a single 51 year-old mother who raised three sons aged 33, 29, and 28.  She works as a budget manager for a premier private university and in her spare time, enjoys old school music and movies, poetry, documentaries and books.  Residing in Jersey City, New Jersey, Ms. Fulton will read her poetry at Hudson County Community College in April as part of aaduna’s celebration of National Poetry Month.  



Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.  I know you have a lot going on at the moment and I wonder if when you were younger did you foresee your life the way it is now as you juggle work, getting your undergraduate degree, writing, performing (did I leave anything out?)  In addition, what was your childhood like?     


It is always a pleasure rapping with you because my comfort zone is never disrupted.  My vernacular does not bend and you accept our conversations as they are.  Fortunately, I am blessed to have a busy schedule.  I must note aaduna has afforded me many opportunities since being the first media outlet to publish my creations.  Because of my age, I used to say “I am late out of the gate,” but now I say, “I am early for my glory.”  As a teen mother, I knew I had to be on point because I feared being a negative statistic.  Although I have never been married, my sons have the same father and they are accomplished young men in their own right.  Long story short, I worked since the age of fourteen, graduated high school on time, maintained my first apartment at age eighteen, earned an Associate’s Degree not long after high school,  and still work for New York University for almost twenty-five years.  Proudly, I will officially be an NYU undergraduate in May 2012.   I say all of this because I juggled domestic life, education and employment most of my existence.  Maybe this tidbit of information will inspire both youth and elders to keep pushing. Prior to being a teenager, my childhood was basically normal.   

I remember, at age six or seven, I watched a show called SOUL on public television.  Black actors, musicians, dancers and writers performed weekly.  One night, poet Nikki Giovanni was featured.  It was the pride and determination in Ms. Giovanni’s presentation that encouraged me to be a poet.  I recall standing on the side of the tub to look in the mirror over the sink so I could practice reciting.  I moved to Connecticut to live with my Grandmother at the age of nine.  There I earned my first award for writing.  The Catholic School I went to celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr.  His birthday was not an official holiday, but New Haven honored him.  I created a poem where each line started with the letters of his name.   A nun informed me that I created an acrostic poem and it should be entered in the city-wide contest.  I won a first-place ribbon and my photograph appeared in the local New Haven paper.  To me, the prize was the fact that I actually created a written piece that was an authentic poem.  I had no idea what an acrostic poem was prior to my effort.  I returned to New York at thirteen and attended vocational high school.  I wrote a short story as a gift for my favorite instructor who was leaving the school at the end of the term.  Without my knowledge, she entered the story to a New York State-wide contest and I won.  Seems education and writing are my angels.   


There is so much to pursue with you: education and writing, perseverance and staying focused, as well as clarity of purpose.  Before getting to those issues, what was it like raising three boys especially as a teen mother with your firstborn?


I was pregnant during my senior year of high school so you can imagine the reactions I witnessed. My mother never made me feel bad, but she let me know I had to be a responsible woman. She advised, “If any adults say anything to you to hurt your feelings, come tell me and let me handle it.”  My mother made it clear that I was not to make a spectacle of nor upset myself. Although I lived in Brooklyn, I went to school in Manhattan.  The principal of the vocational high school I attended wanted me to transfer to a school for unwed mothers located in Brooklyn.  It was not necessary for me to change schools. I never missed classes or major exams and my SAT scores were excellent. The following day my mother had a few words with school officials.  Needless to say, I remained in school until two weeks before my due date.  I gave birth to my eldest son in May; returned to school within a week and graduated in June with my fellow classmates. My mother moved to Los Angeles when my son was two years old and I took over the lease of our two-bedroom apartment. Many people said I would exist in a rut because I had a child so young.  Not true.  I was able to go where I wanted to go and do things I wanted to do.  As a matter of fact, I had no business going anywhere my son could not accompany me.  My job at the Internal Revenue Service allowed me to take half-hour lunch breaks so I could leave early enough to pick up my son from daycare.  Five years later I stopped working to give full-time care to my second born.  It was a scary time because I feared being stuck on public assistance, watching soap operas and smoking weed all day.  To add to the panic, my third son was born just eleven months later.  My children and I walked across town to the doctor’s office to keep up with their immunizations and physicals.   It was too much of a hassle traveling by bus or train and taxis were too expensive.  There was a beautiful park and museum near the doctor’s office.  We would frequent both on weekends.  I would put the two youngest boys together inside the stroller and my oldest would stand on the bottom rail and hold on.  My body kept him balanced as I pushed.  Packed lunches saved money and we stayed out of the projects all day.  One-by-one, I potty trained and sent my youngest children to daycare at the age of two years and ten months.  As my children were being educated, I went to community college and earned an Associate’s Degree in Communications.  I began working for New York University as a secretary six months before I graduated from community college.  At that time, I moved my children to a newly built housing complex in Brooklyn where we thrived for many years. My oldest son graduated from a high school versed in law and the other two went to an academy.  Soon after, God blessed us with a house in Plainfield, New Jersey where we remained until all three of my sons moved out.  My 33 year-old son is single with no children and lives on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan where he works for a university medical center.  The 29 year-old graduated from college and works on locations shooting film and reality television.  My 28 year-old son lives with his wife and two boys in New Jersey.  He works in Manhattan for a major corporation.   I sold my house and continue to live in New Jersey.   


I suspect readers are beginning to understand what being “fierce” is all about.  You enabled me to see your innate ability to persevere, focus and maintain clarity of purpose.  How did your student days at Borough of Manhattan Community College compare to your baccalaureate studies at New York University?  When you started NYU, how old were you and did your age present any particular issues?  I suspect you were a part-time student.     


Associate degree studies at Borough of Manhattan Community College gave me the foundation to function during my baccalaureate education at New York University.  Although I did well in high school and on my SATs, I was required to take Physics and Geometry due to the results of my placement test upon entry to BMCC.  Also, a course in speech opened me up to stand before an audience with confidence and enunciate with clear diction.  My major was Corporate and Cable Communications.  For some reason, I was the only female in my Television Production courses.  Each session was five hours long, but I grew to love studio production work.  I was employed as a studio and field camera operator for Financial News Network in New York for several months.  I had to let the job go because the work schedule was sporadic and interfered with my full-time position at New York University. 

It was not possible for me to begin undergraduate studies right away because of my domestic obligations.  Also, I became complacent with earning a paycheck and gaining promotions every now and then.  In all honesty, I was fearful of applying to New York University because of my age and because I had not studied for years.  Therefore, my part-time studies at NYU began when I was 43 years old.    

For many years prior to my undergraduate studies, there was a burning desire in me to study creative writing.  During that period, my favorite novel was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison because truth spilled over the pages and I wiped it up with every turn.  Tobias Wolff’s memoir, This Boy’s Life shook my skeleton because it reminded me of my powerlessness when I lived in Connecticut with my grandmother.  Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton excited me with the use of dialect where necessary in the text.   I wrote a book, or what I thought was a manuscript for a book titled Dancing Without A Partner.  It was my attempt to chronicle the life of a teen-aged single mother.   I still have the material and once in a while I tweak it.  I read Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Nikki Giovanni, Wallace Stevens, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, and other poets and wrote their poems in longhand to get a feel for imagery and sensory construction in poems. Aspiring to be an author, with a book on the New York Times’ best seller list, I realized it was necessary to continue my education. 

During my undergraduate studies at New York University, there were many obstacles and bumpy roads.  Twice, I took a leave of absence.  It has been a long journey to complete my goal, but I did not give up.  Studying part-time made the ride seem endless. My sons graduated from high school and college while I continue to plug away at a Bachelor’s degree.  Looking back, I recognize that my age did not hinder me in any way.  It was my self-doubt and hesitation that stood wide legged with hands on hips. 

I will be graduating at the end of this semester.  My children are grown and although I lend a hand when needed, it is all about me now.  I give myself a high-five on that note.


Congratulations on your pending graduation and earning your degree!  As a student, you immersed yourself in the work of notable writers; penned a manuscript and studied poetry.  Were you writing poems during this period and how did you go about presenting your work to the public as a mature adult?  


Thank you.  I never stop reading and writing.  For me it is sort of like being an actress.  I get to pretend to be people as well as places and things.  Poetry is magic.  I get to express voices and truth.  I feel and hear myself evolving as a writer while I study and create personal work outside of University arms as well. 

During my University summer intensive poetry study, I worked and read with a major female poet whose work is phenomenal.  She influenced me to write from a place I usually shy away from.  My writing courses require students to partake in University readings.  While taking classes, I also participate in open mics in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Funny story … One Monday night, I decided to sign up for an open slam. Open slams grant you the opportunity to present spoken word strong enough to earn a spot on a slam team. It was hilarious because the regular slammers noticed I was not on the open mic line as was my usual.  They felt compelled to let me know I was making a mistake. Nonetheless, I signed up for the slam anyway.  I proceeded to the second round, but not to the finals.  It was still enchanting for me because I experienced competitive brotherhood and I familiarized myself with the art of spoken word poetry. 

Staying involved in writing circles keeps me informed and busy. I constantly participate in workshops and retreats outside of the University as well.  They afford me the opportunity to read my completed workshop creations at poetry events.  Fellow writers invite me to read at gatherings they sponsor or participate in.  Someone shares with me news of poetry events, submission calls and contests. 

aaduna has and continues to graciously support me by printing my work and including me in literary readings throughout New York and the tri-state area.   I am forever grateful for being a member of the aaduna family. 


And we are grateful for your presence.  So, after graduation, what are your plans … will you pursue a graduate degree; focus more on performance; shop that manuscript around… what’s up for the next several months?


I am researching graduate degree programs to help me decide when, where, to study and how to afford tuition.  At my age, I do not see myself sinking into a mud debt of student loans.  I will continue to focus on performance by participating in workshops, open mics, readings and literary retreats.  Also, I have a poetry manuscript to shop around.  At some point, I will complete a final version of my first attempt at a book of fiction.   

With all of that, I am most excited about fine tuning poems for an upcoming centennial acknowledgement event regarding Harriet Tubman’s death and her accomplishments scheduled for March 2013 in Auburn, NY.  It will be an historical event co-sponsored by aaduna and the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church.  I am just getting started.  Like Diana Ross sang, “I’m comin’ out!”


For joy…coming out is always a cause for celebration, and segments of the Auburn community have already put you on their calendar for 2013.  Unfortunately, we have to bring this interview to a close; but tell me, based on your interests and hobbies, what would an ideal weekend look like in very specific terms especially if I stranded you someplace without utilities. 


[Chuckle]  No utilities huh?  Okay so that rules out old school movies and no way to recharge iPods or phones to dream under chords from Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone or the band War.  Therefore, I would love to be stranded in Louisiana or Mississippi, in a spacious house surrounded by immense land. Its interior would be enchanted with chandeliers, a sprawling staircase, antique furniture, and a porch with columns.  I would choose to read from a stack of non-fiction books by candlelight and sip lemonade while a shy breeze nudges eye-lit curtains near the bed.  Early morning I’d walk to the bayou, drift on an old rowboat, shade myself with a large straw hat, and write.  Sheepishly, my eyes would glance at my reflection on the water.  During the afternoon, I would settle down with a lone picnic then read and continue to write my work on the porch.  On Sunday, I would walk a dirt road where dust kicks back to discover a steeple greeting me two miles before I arrive at steps leading to worship.  My purple veiled hat, indigo dress, flat heeled shoes and gloveless hands would be an indication to the congregation that I was from some city.  Uninhibited, I’d give God the glory and thank him for my blessings.    

Please extend my appreciation to the Auburn community for having faith in my abilities.  With love on my shoulders, I intend to bring fire and rain.  


Thank you for chatting with me.  It has been a delight.  Do you have any final words of wisdom for the Rockford Kingsley readership? 


It has been a blast.  As always, it is grand communicating with you.  My words of wisdom are simple.  My sons hear them from me from time to time.  I also refer to them during days of struggle, achievement, heartache, joy, illness, celebration and self-doubt.  “It is impossible to be on earth as nothing.   Make sure you are something good and share with others.”  Peace to the Rockford Kingsley group.  

Nuff sed. 

Copyright 2015 by Rockford Kingsley Ltd.